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Royall Tyler to Robert Woods Bliss, December 13, 1937 [3]

Finance Ministry


13th December 1937.

Dear Robert,

Your letter of November 26th just turned up this morning, about half an hour after the marriage beltBZ.1937.33. arrived from Bustros.Elias (Elie) Bustros, an antiquities dealer in Beirut, Lebanon. I could not forbear cabling you at once about the belt:See telegram of December 13, 1937 [2]. it is a marvel, and I think you will be enchanted with it. God alone knows what it would fetch in a public sale. Anyway I think the price at which you are getting it from Bustros is extremely moderate.

It was only this morning that I was able to identify No 545Fragment of a sarcophagus with a beardless Christ, fourth–fifth century, Brummer Collection, New York. See Charles Diehl, Jean Ebersolt, and Royall Tyler, Exposition internationale d’art byzantin, 28 mai–9 juillet 1931 (Paris: Musée des arts décoratifs, 1931), 154, no. 545. of the Byzantine Art Exhibition. I cabled you at once that I do not advise you to buy it.See telegram of December 13, 1937 [1]. Of course I do not know what Brummer is asking for it, but in any case my recollection of the object is not a very favourable one, and I know that you want to keep the quality of your collection on a high level, and quite rightly.

By the way, I took from Bustros, as well as the marriage belt,BZ.1937.33. a little gold nielloed buckle,BZ.1937.34. at the price of French Francs 2000, which I think you will like. It is a very perfect example of a technique that is not common. I think it is of about the IVe century.

I note what you say about the Gundoberga ring.BZ.1937.28.

I shall look forward to seeing a photograph of the bronze statuetteBZ.1937.31. from Constantinople.

I am very sorry indeed about the reasonThe expected death of Lucie Howe Draper Schelling, wife of Ernest Henry Schelling (1876–1939), an American pianist, composer, and conductor. which may bring you or Mildred over here shortly, though I greatly rejoice in the prospect of seeing you.

I have notice from Morgan GrenfellMorgan, Grenfell & Co., an investment bank in London. In 1904, Edward Grenfell was made a partner in the firm, which was formerly known as J. P. Morgan & Co. and which, in 1909, became Morgan, Grenfell and Company. The bank played an important role in the reconstruction of European countries in the 1920s. that they have received the remittance of £655 to which you refer.

I am glad to hear that the St. StephenBZ.1937.19. invoice has been received, at last.

I am writing to OlschkiLeo Samuel Olschki (1861–1940), a Jewish Pole born in the Polish territory of East Prussia who founded a printing house and dealt in rare books in Florence. The firm opened a branch in Rome in 1914. telling him that his MSSee letter of November 10, 1937. is not wanted, but encouraging him to send me photographs of anything really first rate that may turn up.

I noted that HirschJacob Hirsch (1874–1955), a German-Swiss numismatist, archaeologist, and antiquities dealer. bought No 460BZ.1947.15. in the Guilhou sale.Catalogue of the Superb Collection of Rings Formed by the Late Monseiur E. Guilhou, of Paris, Comprising Rings of the Classical Period, Including Egyptian, Phoenician, Greek, Etruscan and Roman Rings, Rings of the Dark Ages, the Middle Ages, the Renaissance and Modern Times . . . Which will be Sold by Auction . . . on Tuesday, the 9th of November 1937, and Three Following Days (London: Sotheby and Co, 1937). See also Seymour de Ricci, Catalogue of a Collection of Ancient Rings Formed by the Late E. Guilhou (Paris, 1912). It is not at all unlikely that he will offer it to you, but I hope that you will refuse to take it at any such price as what he gave for it. To my mind, it is a preposterous figure.

I have received from BurgDr. Hermann Burg, a dealer in London at 32 St. James Street. the enclosed photograph of a Regensburg textileSee Otto von Falke, Kunstgeschichte der Seidenweberei (Berlin: Wasmuth, 1936), 2:no. 310, opp. p. 42. which Bill admired very much. In technique, it is obviously of the same sort as the one, also in silk and linen threaded with gold, with two affronted birds in medaillons, specimens of which exist in many collections. The textile is a very fine one of its sort, but I do not advise you to buy it. It is not really in your line, and I hope that there will be opportunities for employing the sum which it would be necessary to give for it on things of much more importance to you.

We did not succeed in reaching an agreement, the other day in Geneva, on all the points which I wanted to get cleared up. We did achieve a good deal, however, and I hope that the rest may be disposed of at a further meeting which is to be held at the end of this week in Paris. I will let you know as soon as anything definitive has been done.

I saw F. in Switzerland. He had spent several weeks on his last trip. The results may be summarized as follows:

Gotha.See letters of April 8, 1937 [2]; April 9, 1937 [1]; April 9, 1937 [2]; April 16, 1937 [1]; April 16, 1937 [2]; May 22, 1937; June 3, 1937; June 16, 1937; June 26, 1937; July 6, 1937; July 25, 1937; August 21, 1937; September 4, 1937; October 25, 1937 [1]; November 23, 1937; December 13, 1937 [3]; February 28, 1938; March 31, 1938; July 10, 1938; July 29, 1938; August 10, 1938; August 16, 1938 [2]; December 20, 1938; and January 3, 1939. The question of ownership as between the DukeCarl Eduard Georg Albert Leopold, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (1884–1954), the fourth and last reigning duke. and the State is not yet decided, and until it is, nothing can be done. F. thinks that if it is decided in favour of the State it will be possible to acquire the diptych leaf. Unfortunately, other people have been inquiring about it, and it has been put in a more prominent case in the Museum than the one which formerly held it. F. will keep in touch and will take steps as soon as opportunity offers. The situation is the same as regards the Echternach Gospels,The Codex Aureus of Echternach, an eleventh-century illuminated gospel book, formerly in the Abbey of Echternach, Luxembourg, before it was acquired by Ernest II, Duke of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg in 1801. Today it is in the Germanisches Natonalmuseum, Nuremberg, Hs. 156142. of which I am sending you four more photographs. As I have already written, I am not at all keen on your getting this book, but as it is an extremely important thing I feel I must keep you informed where it is concerned.

Dresden. As regards the two ivories, one the diptych leafSee letters of March 1, 1937; April 6, 1937; April 9, 1937 [2]; June 3, 1937; July 25, 1937; August 18, 1937; August 21, 1937; September 4, 1937; September 11, 1937; and December 20, 1937. the other leaf of which is in Hannover, and the other two standing Saints,See letters of July 25, 1937; August 18, 1937; September 4, 1937; September 11, 1937; September 13, 1937; October 11, 1937 [2]; and April 15, 1938. references to the reproduction of both of which in GoldschmidtAdolph Goldschmidt and Kurt Weitzmann, Die byzantinischen Elfenbeinskulpturen des X.–XIII. Jahrhunderts, vol. 2, Reliefs (Berlin: Bruno Cassirer, 1934), 39, no. 45, pl. 19. I have already sent you, F. says that he thinks the thing could be done at once if a sufficient offer is made. Both these ivories are of the very highest order, and there are very few things which I should so much like to see you acquire. I am afraid that a considerable price would have to be offered for them. I am also afraid that unless we act quickly someone else may get them. I would suggest that you let me authorize F. to go up to $25.000 for the two, it being of course understood that he will try to get them for less. If you are willing to do so please cable me to that effect.

The Prince L. Madonna relief.BZ.1938.62. The family is apparently on the point of getting the relief back into its possession, and once it has done so will want to sell. Do you want to make an offer for it? I imagine that the family will try to get a big price, but I don’t think it has to be as much as was paid for the round Emperor.BZ.1937.23. On the other hand, I fear that if Brummer got wind of the thing it might go to him. Please think this over and let me know your wishes.

Hannover. The information I gave you recently on the diptych leaf there is unfortunately confirmed; it belongs to an old foundation at Luneburg, which has not the slightest intention of selling. The only consolation is that the Dresden leafSee letters of March 1, 1937; April 6, 1937; April 9, 1937 [2]; June 3, 1937; July 25, 1937; August 18, 1937; August 21, 1937; September 4, 1937; September 11, 1937; and December 20, 1937. is much the finer of the two.

Hippiatrica MSHippiatrica, Byzantine, mid-tenth century, Staatsbibliothek, Berlin, Codex Phillips 1538. in the Berlin State Library. Nothing doing here.

Archaic Sculpture.These sculptures, which are described as reliefs in the letter of April 6, 1937, have not been identified. F. thinks that he is shortly going to get photographs. He wil let me have them as soon as they materialize.

Yrs with love & Xmas greetings

R. T.

Associated Things: Byzantine Exhibition of 1931