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Royall Tyler to Mildred Barnes Bliss, February 9, 1929

Ministry of Finance,

I’ve had the enclosed from Mallon, dearest Mildred, together with the photos.Byzantine pottery. See also letters of February 5, 1929; February 12, 1929 [1]; February 16, 1929; February 28, 1929 [2]; March 11, 1929; March 27, 1929; and December 26, 1929. I’ve answered him that I can’t give you any opinion till I’ve seen the things myself, which can’t be for another 3 weeks.

Now, Elisina who has just arrived here tells me that: (a) Mallon told her about the Louvre’s impatience to buy the collection, (b) that Mallon told the Louvre people that you had seen them in Cairo and taken an option (silly, as Koechlin knows you’ve not been in Cairo), (c) that she, Elisina, saw Koechlin and told him that, though she hadn’t been able to communicate with you, she felt sure you would wish, before coming to any decision, to know how the Louvre really felt about the things.

Koechlin told Elisina that the Louvre couldn’t dream of paying £3,500 for the lot, and that they would be glad to buy the two they like best—(the Man, and the cock) if they could get them at a fair price. No sign of great impatience about the whole thing.

It looks to me as if Mallon were trying to buffalo you into buying the lot for £3,500, and as if you wouldn’t run any great risk of losing them if decision were put off—at least—till I am in Paris, and indeed until you are there, if you are still coming in March, which I pray God you are.

The thing wouldn’t be worth worrying about if the dishes weren’t so interesting and (I think from photos. plus what Elisina says) fine. They throw a lot of light on a hitherto unexplained problem: the origin of the similar ceramic style in Persia. These dishes show designs closely allied to various Byz. things of the VIIIth–IXth. On the other hand, there is nothing either to date the Persian examples earlier, or to show that they are allied with any movement visible in other Persian arts. Even Koechlin, who is of course an Orientalist in archaeol-politics, said to Elisina that these dishes went far to convince him that the corresponding style in Persia was derived from Byz. models.

Koechlin justly observed that the Byz. cities are beginning to be excavated, and that a lot more similar things might be found. However, these dishes come from Saloniki. Now, I’ve been twice to Saloniki in the last two years, and I’ve seen cases full of the Byz. pottery that has been found there, and very little of it is of any interest—so little that I had begun to think the Byzantines never did anything remarkable in this field—after the late-classical and Coptic stuff in Egypt. It appears likely that the excavated stuff at Saloniki was trié sur le volet,“Handpicked.” that a dealer got the remarkable pieces (now with Mallon) and that the trash stayed in the museum. But the mass of pottery they’ve found there doesn’t encourage one to hope that the percentage of fine stuff will be high.

So there you are. It seems there are three courses open 1) you take the lot, at whatever price you can get Mallon to accept; 2) you take none, 3) you do a deal with the Louvre, letting them have two pieces.

When I’ve seen the stuff I’ll perhaps be able to make a suggestion.See letter of February 28, 1929 [2].

Please let me know as soon as your plans materialize. I’m here till Feb. 26, then Paris for 3–4 days, then London (Hambro’s Bank, 41 Bishopsgate E.C.2).

Elisina sends you fond messages. Bless you dearest Mildred.

R. T.

Associated Places: Budapest (Hungary)