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Royall Tyler to Mildred Barnes Bliss, March 7, 1931 [1]


Dearest Mildred,

I have not been able to see the GrecoSee also letters of February 5, 1931, and February 6, 1931. yet. I would have managed to run down to Madrid to see it, if only for one day, but the picture has been taken out of the hands of Sánchez,Apolinar Sánchez Villalba (died 1958), a Spanish dealer of art and antiquities in Madrid. The following anecdote was published in La vanguardia española (February 1, 1966): “cómo Apolinar Sánchez, madrilèno, adquirió en el pueblo de Gálvez un espléndido Greco por la suma de 17.5000 ptas.” “how Apolinar Sánchez, from Madrid, acquired in the village of Gálvez a splendid Greco for the sum of 17,500 pesetas.” who had it when Bill saw it, and locked up by the owners in a Bank. For the moment, the owners, who are away from Madrid, in the South somewhere, refuse to give Sánchez leave to take the picture out of the Bank, so that it may be seen by me. Sánchez tells Bill that he has an undertaking in writing from the owners not to sell the picture at all through anyone else. I have instructed Bill to keep at work on Sánchez, and to tell him that the owners will be crazy if they do not allow me to see the picture immediately. Bill is explaining to Sánchez who you are, and that if you were to buy the picture neither he nor the owners would have to pay any commission. I think it is wise to make this clear, because owners are naturally apt to be reluctant to sell through intermediaries who are out for commissions and who may try to hold them up for a big rake-off at the last moment. I am longing to see the picture myself, and hope very much that Bill will succeed in arranging for me to see it before Easter, because just after Easter I shall probably have to start on a long journey to Berlin—Warsaw—Bucarest —Athens—Budapest—Vienna and back here, being absent from Paris until the end of April or early in May. By that time, the loans to the Byzantine Exhibition will start coming in, and it will be doubly difficult for me to get away. However, if there were a chance of seeing the picture, I would make a desperate effort to get down to Madrid. Prospects for the Byzantine show have continued to improve. Now we have received the magnificent news that the Italian Government is prepared to cooperate on a big scale. This is of course the result of the Anglo-Franco-Italian Naval Agreement,On March 4, 1931, France and Italy signed a naval agreement limiting the number and size as well as the military capability of their military ships. England joined the naval disarmament, and a final agreement of the three nations was drafted the week of March 19. but a great deal of work on our behalf has been done by friends in Rome, particularly Salvago Raggi,Giuseppe Salvago Raggi (1866–1946), an Italian diplomat. He had been Italian ambassador in Paris in 1916–1917. who has taken a great deal of trouble about it. The Duke of ApuliaPrince Amedeo of Savoy-Aosta (1898–1942), a cousin of the king of Italy, Victor Emmanuel III. He was also known by the courtesy title Duke of Apulia. has also been most kind and useful. Hungary is sending us everything we have asked for, including the Crown of Constantine Monomachos,Crown of Constantine Monomachos, gold and cloisonné enamel, ca. 1042–1050, Magyar Nemzeti Muzeum, Budapest. which has never been outside Hungary since it arrived in that country in 1072 or 1073 (this is of course not the Holy Crown of Hungary,The Holy Crown of Hungary, also known as the crown of Saint Stephen, Hungarian Parliament Building, Budapest. which we would never have had the folly to ask for). As it is, I had to mobilize Admiral HorthyMiklós Horthy de Nagybánya (1868–1957), the regent of the kingdom of Hungary between 1920 and 1944. and Count BethlenCount István Bethlen de Bethlen (1874–1946), a Hungarian aristocrat and statesman who served as prime minister of Hungary from 1921 to 1931. to get it, and it is typical of Hungary that the National Council of Museums voted on the Government’s instructions, to lend the Crown, and that thereupon a member of the Council wrote to me a heart-rending personal letter begging me to desist from asking for it. I have not desisted.

The Spaniards are sending us the Disc of Theodosius,Missorium of Theodosius I, 388 CE, silver, Real Academia de la Historia, Madrid. "Disc" is the literal translation of the French “disque,” as it is termed in Exposition internationale d’art byzantin, 28 mai–9 juillet 1931 (Paris: Musée des arts décoratifs, 1931), 116, no. 341. the Apion diptyque [sic]Consular Diptych of Apion, 539 CE, ivory, Cathedral Treasury, Oviedo. See Exposition internationale d’art byzantin, 28 mai–9 juillet 1931 (Paris: Musée des arts décoratifs, 1931), 67, no. 46. from Oviedo, the great steatiteTwelve Feasts Icon, steatite, Cathedral Treasury, Toledo. See Exposition internationale d’art byzantin, 28 mai–9 juillet 1931 (Paris: Musée des arts décoratifs, 1931), 86, no. 157; and Ioli Kalavrezou-Maxeiner, Byzantine Icons in Steatite (Vienna: Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 1985), 143–50, no. 52. from the Treasure of Toledo Cathedral and other objects. The Germans are collaborating fully.

We do not yet know what the Russians are going to do, but we have high hopes, as they are selling objects from their national collections on a large scale, and may be expected to be glad of an opportunity for advertising their wares. All the other countries we have approached are consenting, except England. As you know, the British Museum is precluded by Law; not so the Victoria and Albert. Eric is being very mulish; the most he will do is to refrain from recommending that our request be turned down flat i.e. he will perhaps recommend that we be given the plaque from the Monomachos’ s CrownPlaque with a Dancing Girl, Byzantine, mid-eleventh century, gold and cloisonné enamel; acquired in 1921 by the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, M.325-1921. See H.P. Mitchell, “A Dancing-Girl in Byzantine Enamel,” The Burlington Magazine for Connoisseurs 40, no. 227 (February 1922): 64–69. which his museum possesses, and the Nicephoros Phocas roundel from Heiligen KreuzMedallion of Emperor Nikephoros Botaneiates, ca. 1078–1081, serpentine, formerly at Heiligenkreuz, Austria; acquired in 1927 by the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, A1:1,2-1927. See M. H. Longhurst, “A Byzantine Disc for South Kensington,” The Burlington Magazine for Connoisseurs 50, no. 287 (February 1927): 107–08; and Helen C. Evans and William D. Wixom, eds., The Glory of Byzantium: Art and Culture of the Middle Byzantine Era, AD 843–1261 (New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1997), 176–77. See Exposition internationale d’art byzantin, 28 mai–9 juillet 1931 (Paris: Musée des arts décoratifs, 1931), 80, no. 121. which I bought for the museum—and did not even charge them my travelling expenses incurred on that errand. Eric has in the past asked for, and obtained, loans from the Louvre and the Arts Décoratifs; he does not mind taking up the attitude that French museums may go on lending to him, but he wlll not lend to them.

The fun, however, is not over yet. I know Hugh Dalton,Edward Hugh John Neale Dalton (1887–1962), a British Labour politician, was a member of Parliament and undersecretary of state for Foreign Affairs between 1929 and 1931. the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs in the Labour Government, and, after I had satisfied myself that Eric would not see reason, I wrote to Hugh Dalton explaining the circumstances, and suggesting to him that Eric’s attitude was likely to cause serious resentment in France, especially just at the moment where plans are being made in London for a big International Exhibition of French Art to be held at Burlington House next January and February.Exhibition of French Art, Burlington House, London, 1932. I sent a copy of the letter to Eric. By return of poste, I got an answer from Hugh Dalton ending up with ‘Maclagan must be a silly old stick. I shall certainly try to persuade Sir Charles TrevelyanSir Charles Philips Trevelyan (1870–1958), a British Labour politician who served as president of the board of education between 1929 and 1931. (President of Board of Education) to tread on his tail’. A couple of days later, Sir Charles Trevelyan resigned, I have written again to Hugh Dalton and hope that he will use his influence with Lees-Smith,Hastings Bertrand Lees–Smith (1878–1941), a British Labour politician who was briefly in the cabinet as president of the board of education in 1931. Trevelyan’s successor. Trevelyan, as a matter of fact, is an old friend of Eric’s which I do not think Lees-Smith is, so perhaps the chances of Eric’s tail being stepped on will not suffer by the change.

As you see, the show is likely to be a good one. My only regret, and that is a bitter one, is that you will not be here to see it, unless you are coming in July, which the last news you gave me of your plans make me fear is not the case. If there is any happy change, please let me know at once. I have letters from Ellis RussellEllis Russell, Robert Woods Bliss’s secretary in New York City. and the Fogg Museum people about your tapestry, and Duthuit, of the Louvre, the Secretary of the Exhibition, is in correspondence with the Fogg people.

We are hoping very much to get from Sweden the Linköping Mitre,Mitre from Linköping Cathedral, ca. 1460, enamels, seed-pearls, embroidery, and gems, Statens Historiske Museet, Stockholm, inv. no. 3920:1. See Paul Hetherington, “The Enamels on a Mitre from Linköping Cathedral, and Art in Thirteenth-Century Constantinople,” in Enamels, Crowns, Relics, and Icons: Studies on Luxury Arts in Byzantium (Farnham: Ashgate, 2008), 1–16. This mitre was not exhibited in the Byzantine Exhbition of 1931. with its enamels in the Byzantine technique. If you feel able to put in a word in our favour, please do so as soon as possible.

I spent a week in London and had a good look at the Persian Exhibition.International Exhibition of Persian Art, Royal Academy of Arts, Burlington House, London, January 7–February 28, 1931. See Persian Art: An Illustrated Souvenir of the Exhibition of Persian Art at Burlington House, London, 1931 (London: Hudson and Kearns, 1931), It was a fine show, but not quite as good as I had expected. The pottery might have been much better, had the organizers asked for Kelekian’s collection, at present deposited at the Victoria and Albert, which Kelekian would have been glad to lend. Instead of this, there were a great many rather inferior pieces belonging to Messrs. Parish WatsonParish-Watson and Co., New York, a dealer of art and antiquities. and their clients. One was thus forcibly reminded of the fact that the animateur of the ExhibitionI.e., Arthur Upham Pope. is a business associate of certain dealers, an observation which one could not help making in other connections beside that of the pottery.

The two great sections were the carpets and the Sassanian silver from Russia, the latter of which I had seen in Munich in 1910.Meisterwerke muhammedanischer Kunst, held in Munich in 1910, was one of the first comprehensive exhibitions on Islamic Art in Europe. Among the carpets, the Sanguszko stood out as by far the finest. The Vienna people only lent one or two secondary things—except for the superb FigdorAlbert Figdor (1843–1927), a Viennese banker and collector. fragmentGarden carpet, silk and gold and silver threads, Persian, second half of the sixteenth century. See Max J. Friedländer, Die Sammlung Dr. Albert Figdor, Wien (Berlin: Cassirer, 1930), no. 202, pls. 51 and 52. The carpet is now in the Österreichisches Museum für Angewandte Kunst, Vienna. See Friedrich Paul Theodor Sarre and Hermann Renkwald, Alt-orientalische Teppiche, vol. 2 (Vienna: Schroll, 1929), pl. 12.—the best rug there next to the Sanguszko.

Much love

R. T.

Associated Places: Madrid (Spain)
Associated Things: Byzantine Exhibition of 1931
Associated Artworks: BZ.1929.1; HC.P.1936.18.(O)