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Robert Woods Bliss to Royall Tyler, September 8, 1938

Dumbarton Oaks


Washington D.C.

September 8: 1938

Dear Royall,

Here we are back again at Dumbarton Oaks and among my mail I find a letter from HirschJacob Hirsch (1874–1955), a German-Swiss numismatist, archaeologist, and antiquities dealer. in which he writes:—

“Venice, August 28th

“I am writing to let you know that I have an auction sale at Lucerne, October 10th,Ars Classica Auction 18 (Vicomte de Sartiges Collection), Hôtel Schweizerhof, Lucerne, Switzerland, October 10, 1938. and am sending you

“the catalogue in a week or so, for there is one remarkable large Gold Medallion on HonoriusThis gold medallion of Honorius has not been identified. in this

“collection, struck at Ravenna, which might interest you. I am also sending you a plaster cast of the coin

“through my Paris office. When I saw Mr. Tyler in Paris he was so kind to give me good news of you, and

“he thought I should let you know of this very important Medallion, of which only one other specimen is

“known at the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris. The collection of Roman coins belonged to the late

“Vicomte Louis Sartiges,Vicomte Louis de Sartiges (1859–1924), a French politician, diplomat, and collector. which I am sure you know, when he was in the French diplomatic service.

The plaster cast of the coin has arrived but not the catalogue. You referred to the Gold Medallion of Honorius in one of your letters and said that you had suggested to Hirsch that he call it to our attention. Do you think we ought to add it to the Collection, and if so could you have someone bid on it up to a price which you think reasonable.

Although the Medallion seems to be a remarkably fine one, judging from the vase [sic], we do not feel disposed to pay a big sum for it. On account of the cost that the new buildingIn 1938, Mildred and Robert Woods Bliss engaged the architect Thomas T. Waterman to design the two-pavilion museum wing at Dumbarton Oaks; the wing was completed in 1940. is going to run to, we shall have to be particularly conservative this year in making purchases and for that reason I do not want to purchase the Medallion unless it can be had at a more or less bargain price. About the Roman coins formerly belonging to Louis Sartiges, I do not know about them and until the catalogue arrives it is impossible to know whether they include anything that would be of interest to us.

We are keenly looking forward to the arrival of Bill. Either Mildred or I, or perhaps both of us, are planning to go to Boston so as to be there when he lands and do what we can in starting him off. He has written that he thinks it best to take a furnished apartment to begin with but Mildred and I feel that it may be well for him, in the beginning, to go into a private family (there is a possibility that the Langdon WarnersLangdon Warner (1881–1955), an American archaeologist and art historian who specialized in East Asian art. He was a professor at Harvard University and curator of Oriental art at Harvard’s Fogg Museum. His wife was Lorraine Roosevelt Warner (b. ca. 1887). would be willing to take him in) which would relieve him of all the cares and tribulations of housekeeping alone, and would give him the opportunity of looking about and making a decision as to what would be best for him and Betsy.

My own feeling is that there might be a favorable opportunity in Cambridge to find a small furnished house (or perhaps an unfurnished one) which would be much more simpatico and which could be had possibly for as little or even less than an apartment. Though the care of a house involves more detail and certain expense, living conditions in Cambridge are such that he might find an ideal abode in the form of a house rather than an apartment. I have written him to the steamer to this effect.

Mildred wrote you, I think, before leaving the ranch covering the matters brought up in your last letters to us, so I shall not expatiate!

With affectionate messages,


P. S.

Loewi wrote me a short time ago that he had some Byzantine enamels. I requested him to send photographs to you, to which he replied that he did not think it would do any good to send you photographs: “As this kind of enamels photograph so very badly and Professor Sachs also advised me not to send photographs as they give a wrong impression of these very important pieces.” It might be worth while to have a look at them if you can induce Loewi to let you see them, but I have a hunch that they are not for us. Loewi also says that he is probably coming to America in the late autumn and will bring the enamels to show us.

He also sent me photographs of two sculpturesIn correspondence from Adolfo Loewi to Paul J. Sachs, dated July 1, 1938, these sculptures are described as “two marble bas-reliefs, from an ambone of the Sorrentine Peninsula, with dragons and fishes.” On the back of the photograph of one of the sculptures, the dimensions are given as 3’-7 1/2” wide x 1’-8” high. Byzantine Collection, Adolfo Lowei correspondence file. similar to the two sea monsters that we bought in RomeEx.Coll.BZ.1936.5354. “Pair of ‘Jonah’ reliefs from a pulpit, representing marine monster against background of ripples and fishes, marble.” These sculptures were acquired through Adolfo Loewi, Rome, from Galerie Cassirer on May 25, 1936. Dumbarton Oaks gave these sculptures to the Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University, on August 16, 1965. two years ago and which you saw when you were here. In the photographs of the ones he sent the animals are complete. These I turned down, telling him that I did not feel disposed to purchase two more so similar to the ones we already had. He has replied as follows:– “I am a bit disappointed that you did not consider the purchase of the two dragons of which Professor Sachs wrote you. I had spoken to the Professor about the fact that you had the two others, but he thought it specially interesting that your collection should contain two examples of periods so far apart, and which would show so well the development of the art in Amalfi-Sorrento (Cimitile) to the end of the Byzantine period three hundred years later (Minturno Gaeta).” I do not know just what he means by all this for his two beasts, judging from the photographs, are very much of the same period of our two.


Royall Tyler, Esq.

League of Nations,


Associated Artworks: Ex.Coll.BZ.1936.53; Ex.Coll.BZ.1936.54