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Royall Tyler to Mildred Barnes Bliss, June 10, 1932


You remember the Czernin Vermeer,Johannes Vermeer’s The Art of Painting, 1666, was acquired by Count Johann Rudolf Czernin (1757–1845) in 1813, when it was attributed to Pieter De Hooch. The painting became the property of Count Franz Czernin (1857–1932) and, upon his death, of Eugen Czernin (1892–1955) and Jaromir Czernin (1908–1966). When the estate was dissolved in 1933, Jaromir Czernin attempted to sell the painting, despite the fact that a sale contradicted the stipulations of the 1923 Austrian law for the protection of monuments. Andrew W. Mellon reportedly offered one million dollars for the painting in 1935. The later history and subsequent legal activities of the painting prior to its acquisition by the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, in 1955, are discussed in Arthur K. Wheelock Jr., with Mari Griffith, “The Painting’s Afterlife,” in Johannes Vermeer: The Art of Painting (Washington, D.C.: National Gallery of Art, 2000) (exhibition brochure). dearest Mildred. A man I know who is a close friend of Mr. MellonAndrew W. Mellon (1855–1937), an American banker, industrialist, philanthropist, and art collector who served as secretary of the Treasury between 1921 and 1932. He began collecting old master paintings and sculptures during the First World War, and in the late 1920s he decided secretly to establish a national gallery for the United States. To this end, he established the A. W. Mellon Educational and Charitable Trust, which was to be the legal owner of art works intended for the gallery in 1930. and often acts for him in such matters, spoke to me the other day about it and asked whether I’d care to help arrange something—as he thought M. would still be anxious to get it at not more than $400,000. I said I didn’t know the family and doubted if I could do anything.

As a matter of fact Elisina does know the family, and one might do something. I wouldn’t care to, on M’s behalf, if you were interested. Perhaps you’d let me know? It doesn’t make much difference, does it, from your point of view, whether the USA gets the picture via Mellon or via yourselves, as it would doubtless, if M. bought it, very shortly become public property?

As for me, I’m only interested because it amuses me to have a finger in such pies. I wouldn’t want to make any money out of it, even if I did arrange it for M.

I wonder if the BA“Buenos Aires.” papers do us the compliment [of] recording our successive slips down the inclined plane? The Bpest papers, this morning, say that Exchange restrictions in Argentina have failed to help,On October 10, 1931, the provisional government of the Argentine Republic took official control of international monetary exchange in order to attempt to stem a considerable flight of capital that resulted from Argentina’s abandonment of the gold standard on December 29, 1929. See Guillermo E. Leguizamon, “An Argentine View of the Problem of Exchange Restrictions,” International Affairs (Royal Institute of International Affairs 1931–1939) 12, no. 4 (July 1933): 504–17. and that a moratorium is shortly to be expected. It’s all going pretty fast now. What is ahead the Lord alone knows. Here, most of the people I see think there’s going to be a slide, either rapid or by stages, which will result in power passing to the hands of the agrarians who have a much advertised programme of foreign debt repudiation, state control of the banks, creation of abundant means of payment to help the farmer (i.e. inflation). On the other hand the present Prime MinisterGyula Count Károlyi de Nagykároly (1871–1947), a conservative Hungarian politician who served as prime minister from 1931 to 1932. In order to stem Hungary’s protracted agrarian and credit crisis, Károlyi reduced the state expenses by reducing state employees’ salaries, social programs, and pensions. The ultimate failure of these policies forced Károlyi’s resignation in September 1932. is showing a good deal of fight and is perhaps beginning to make his personality teIl. I confess, to being quite unable to see how things are going to develop.

The foreign creditors, especially in the USA, appear to be unwilling to talk with this country about scaling down of debt. Well, as Arthur Salter said, the alternative is between a scaling down and repudiation, and the foreign creditors have the choice. They can’t go on refusing to discuss for ever—if they do much longer they’ll opt for repudiation, in effect.

Elisina is at Constantinople. She had 3 weeks in Greece, and employed them to the fullest advantage, saw everything in the Peloponnesus, saw Delphi and St. Luke,Hosios Loukas, a Middle Byzantine monastery founded in Phocis in the tenth century and now near the town of Distomo in Boetia, Greece. The monastery is famous for its mosaics. and Saloniki, and then went by sea to CP. She is returning via Bulgaria, to see the Sophia MuseumHagia Sophia (Sancta Sophia), a former Orthodox patriarchal basilica, built in the sixth century, in Istanbul (Constantinople). When the Ottoman Turks conquered Constantinople in 1453, Sultan Mehmed II ordered the building converted into a mosque and the figural mosaics plastered over. and perhaps some things in the provinces, and means then to take a boat and return by the Danube to Bpest, so as to inspect the flood and mountain-guarded Northern Frontier of the Empire.

I’m expecting hourly to get my Vol. I;L’art byzantin. why are they so long about binding?

Hayford is sailing from N.Y. on the Europa, July 1st, and we hope to put in some intensive work on Vol. II.Hayford Peirce and Royall Tyler, L’art byzantin, vol. 2 (Paris: Librarie de France, 1934). One would feel silly if one got expecting things to blow up, and if enough time to get some work done passed without the explosion happening.

Much love to you both, dearest Mildred

R. T.

I really don’t know what my programme for this summer is: if developments here permit, I’d like to spend mid-July—mid-Aug. at Antigny, but I hardly dare whisper it, even to myself.

Associated Things: L'art byzantin