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Royall Tyler to Robert Woods Bliss, July 5, 1937

Finance Ministry


5th July 1937.

Dear Robert,

I have just received your letter of June 22nd. I am looking forward to the photographs which you are sending me.

I well remember the mortarIn a listing of objects dated May 16, 1927, this is described as “mortier bronze achéménide ou Sasanide, 150,000 [francs].” In an invoice of June 1, 1927, it is described as “Mortier bronze décoré en relief de personnages royaux, de Kérubims alternant avec deux têtes de beliers. Sur le bord evasé, une frise décorée de cartouches incrustés d’or et d’argent et qui portent sur chaque face deux griffons, deux disques accostés de poissons et une inscription en cuneiforms vieux persans.” Byzantine Collection, Vignier correspondence file. which you bought from Vignier years ago. I am afraid I can think of no way of disposing of it.

I will turn it over in my mind, and if I can excogitate anything, I will let you know.

I am glad to tell you that you must have dreamt about my writing to you that I disposed of my chalice.BZ.1955.18.

I have never taken any steps towards doing so, and you may be sure that I would not do so without letting you know.*

I have just written to Bill giving him all the particulars you specify as required for the consular invoice on Stephen,BZ.1937.19. and asking him to obtain the invoice and send it to you.

I imagine that the charge on LuccaBZ.1937.18. was mainly for insurance. I note how our friend in Rome is to proceed in future in case he has to send anything to you.

The Byzantine ivory Virgin and ChildVirgin and Child (Hodegetria), ivory, formerly in the Stroganoff Collection, Rome. See Adolph Goldschmidt and Kurt Weitzmann, Die byzantinischen Elfenbeinskulpturen des X.–XIII. Jahrhunderts 2. Reliefs (Berlin: Bruno Cassirer, 1934), 64, pl. 51. offered to you by BykPaul M. Byk (1887–1946), an employee of Arnold Seligmann, Rey & Co., New York. is certainly the same one which was offered to our Roman friend. I am glad you agree that the quality is below your standard.

I made a mistake when I said that the companion pieceRaising of Lazarus, ivory, Bode Museum, Berlin, inv. no. 578. See Adolph Goldschmidt and Kurt Weitzmann, Die byzantinischen Elfenbeinskulpturen des X.–XIII. Jahrhunderts 2. Reliefs (Berlin: Bruno Cassirer, 1934), 28, no. 14, pl. 4. to your doubting Thomas was in Nürnberg.See letter of June 3, 1937. It is certainly the one from Berlin.

I have told our Roman friend to keep an eye out for it, but the man who has it, BorelyBorely has not been identified. In his letter of June 3, 1937, Royall Tyler gives his name as Borelli. I think, is asking 70.000 Lire, which is too much.

I was delighted to know how well the roundelBZ.1933.5. from San Giorgi had behaved under the lamp.

I think I told you that all the BotkinMikhail Petrovich Botkin (1839–1914), a Russian collector. See Rosalind Polly Gray, “Muscovite Patrons of European Painting: The collections of Vasily Kokorev, Dmitry Botkin and Sergei Tretyakov,” Journal of the History of Collections 10, no. 2 (January, 1998), 191–92, and Collection M. P. Botkine (St. Petersburg: R. Tolyke and A. Vulbor, 1911). His collection included a large number of Byzantine enamels, many of which were forged. See also “The Botkin Collection and the Naïvete of the Educated Consumer,” Before the Blisses: Nineteenth-Century Connoisseurship of the Byzantine Minor Arts, Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, accessed September 9, 2015. The Boston enamel referred to by Royall Tyler is probably a medallion of St. Nicholas, gold cloisonné enamel, Russian imitation of Byzantine, ca. late 19th century–1911, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, no. 28.243. See Hans Swarzenski and Nancy Netzer, Medieval Objects in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston: Enamels and Glass (Boston: Museum of Fine Arts, 1986), 148-49, no. A1 (technical note by Pamela England). pieces we had at the show in Paris, as well as some other fake enamels, all phosphoresced in the flesh tints and whites under the lamp.

I hope you have had no trouble about getting the chalcedony cameoBZ.1937.20. through the customs, and that you liked it.

I have heard no more about the Emperor reliefBZ.1937.23. since I wrote to you last, except a line from our Roman friend saying that Fiedler is on the job. I am rather nervous lest there has been some hitch, as this is a very important piece, and one which, as several people in the Kaiser Friedrich Museum must know, repeated efforts were made years ago to secure for that museum.

The news of Edith are rather better–decidedly better in fact. They have been able to take her downstairs for a few hours, which change cheers her up. But she is not out of the wood yet, and as you say, it does not look too good.

Bill has at last got his labour permit and has started work in London. He says the whole tempo of work there is very dignified and leisurly compared with what it is in the head office in New York. As you may imagine, I am glad to hear this.


R. T.

*Spaced like this, my letter looks like a poem in free verse.

Give my best love to Mildred, please, and say that even a little line would be a comfort.

Associated Places: Budapest (Hungary)
Associated Things: Byzantine Exhibition of 1931