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Royall Tyler to Robert Woods Bliss, April 15, 1939

Sainte-Claire Le Chateau

Hyères (Var)


Dear Robert.

I have just had yours of 31 March. Many thanks.

You’ve no doubt had mineLetter of March 30, 1939 [2]. from Geneva telling you how delighted I was when I get your wire announcing that you had secured the LandauNicolas Landau (1887–1979), an antiquities dealer known as “Le prince des antiquaires.” Born in Varsovia, he studied law in Paris before becoming an antiquities dealer in New York and then in Paris, where he had a business on the rue de Duras. object.BZ.1939.8. That was one of the rare occasions where everything conspires to help the righteous. ¡Viva Marquet de Vasselot! His intervention was providential, miraculous.Marquet de Vasselot had doubted the authenticity of the Landau ivory (BZ.1939.8). Even ¡vivan Jojo and Rorimer!James J. Rorimer (1905–1966), an American art historian and Curator of Medieval Art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. for their contribution which enabled me to pull a long face to Landau & tell him that the Byz. origin of the ivory was rejected by very prominent authorities in the U.S.A. What a pleasure it will be to send an off-print of the paper for D.O. to Marquet (and to Jojo & Rorimer)!Hayford Peirce and Royall Tyler, “An Ivory of the Xth Century,” in Three Byzantine Works of Art, Dumbarton Oaks Papers 2 (1941), 11, 13–18. I can’t resist the temptation to do a paper on it—but I’m sure you’ll understand that I feel it must be with Hayford’s collaboration. I’ll write to him as soon as I can on the subject.

I note your reply to KummelOtto Kümmel (1874–1952), a German art historian and director of the Berlin State Museums between 1934 and 1945. (is it really Kummel? Never heard of him). I think it is quite right—and all that the most scrupulous courtesy warrants. If there’s any more brass from the quarter, I’m glad you have the swift kick ready. FritzRoyall Tyler’s slang for “Germans.” was sure to get on to the fact that you had those objects,BZ.1937.23 and BZ.1938.62. and Ross’sMarvin Chauncey Ross (1904–1977), an American art historian who studied at Harvard University (1928–1930), the Centro de Estudios Históricos in Madrid (1930), and New York University (1933–1934 and 1937). He was curator of medieval art at the Brooklyn Museum (1934) and curator of decorative arts at the Walters Art Gallery (now Walters Art Museum) beginning in 1937. unguarded remark can only have advanced the day a bit.

I’m delighted that you don’t want any EnnionEnnion, a maker of mold-blown glass during the first half of the first century CE probably in Sidon in Phoenicia (modern Lebanon). glassSee letter of March 31, 1939. for D.O., at any price. Damn old Kalek’s cheek! I’d cold-shoulder him and the Ptolemaic or post-Ptol. pottery as well. $10,000 is too much, in my opinion, and if he accepted, at this stage, it would do him good to be told that you had reconsidered the offer.

He has sent me a photo. of a little silk square weaving,BZ.1939.32. VI–VII cent. (which he calls Sassanian) representing two antelopes with their fawns, which I like very much indeed, & I’m sure you would—they’d go well with your marble antelope. But I think $1,000 ought to be the very outside price, and even that is much. He hasn’t given me any indication of how much he’s asking.

The textile, however, I must admit, is ein Unikum, bitte schön;“Unique, if you please.” seriously, I’ve never seen even a scrap of a similar piece. Perhaps Kelek. may feel like letting you have it at a reasonable price as bait to induce you to consider something big.

I admire Loewi’s optimism. May the God of Israël hear him! And I hope Venice won’t be bombed in the meantime.

I note F. has not sent, or you have not received, those receipts. I’ll tackle him again on the subject.

I’ve very glad indeed that you spurned those awful mosaic headsThirteenth-century mosaic fragments of Pope Innocent III, from the apse of the first basilica of Saint Peter in Rome, and Pope Gregory IX, from the facade of the first basilica of Saint Peter in Rome. The mosaics are now in the Museo di Roma, Rome. put up by Sestieri.Ettore Sestieri, an art historian, dealer, and the director of the Galleria Barberini in Rome. I’d gladly have given ten bucks to be the fly on the wall when you handed to René SeligmannRené Seligmann (d. 1940), the nephew of Jacques Seligmann who managed the New York office of Jacques Seligmann and Co., Inc. the news that you had already seen the things. We’ll end by putting the fear of God into some of these boys.

It’s too good to be true, the identification of Mr. Tuma as the authority on the breeding of cockroaches.Dr. Vladimir Tuma discovered that cockroaches conduct what appears to be classes for their young. That’s the best piece of research I’ve had the opportunity of taking off my hat to since Hayford spotted the CDM Romanus as Rom. II (and not IV).Royall Tyler and Hayford Peirce were the first to redate the Christ Crowning Romanos and Eudoxia ivory, ca. 945–949, in the Département des Monnaies, Médailles et Antiques, Bibliothèque Nationale de France. They dated the ivory to the reign of Romanos II (938–963) and his wife Eudokia (d. 949) and not to the reign of Romanos IV (1068–1071). They delivered this opinion in a talk, “Two Landmarks in Tenth Century Byzantine Art,” at the Deuxième Congès International des Études Byzantines in Belgrade on April 14, 1927. The lecture was published as “Deux monuments dans l’art byzantin du Xe siècle,” Aréthuse 16 (July 1927): 1–8.

I’m still not certain of being able to bring out our Vols. I, II & III,L’art byzantin. on the lines I mentioned to you. I’m in agreement with Hypérion,Hypérion, a French book publisher. but Hyp. & the Lib. de FranceLibrairie de France, the French publishing house. The stock of the Librairie de France was acquired in 1937 by the Librairie Gründ; the two sons, Michel and Jacques, of its founding editor, Ernest Gründ (1870–1930), ran the business in 1937. are still Kuhhandel“Horse trading.”—and I don’t dare try to expedite matters lest the two of them combine a raid on the hapless authors. Of course, the international situation doesn’t exactly encourage hardy initiative in the publishing branch, just at present. We’ll see. I note the correct reference for your objects.

Many thanks for expressing the position about Antioch and/or Salamis digs. I’m sure you’ll do well to make use of Doro. Very glad to hear that he is getting on well at Princeton.

It is not certain that I may not be coming over to your side shortly. Various reasons, too lengthy & complicated for explanation here, have kept me from making the trip so far, but quite recently the prospects have changed again. I’ll let you know immediately, of course, if there is a decision soon. Anyway, I’ll try not to make it in July-Sept. as you’re going to be at Sta Barbara then, you’ll doubtless see the Pre-Columb. show at Frisco.The Golden Gate Exposition of 1939–1940 in San Francisco included exhibitions of the art of the South Pacific, the North Pacific Coast, and Pre-Columbian Mexico and Peru. The thought of it makes me itch to go there, but I fear it is not for me.

I’ll try & get a written release from F. as to date of publication on round EmpBZ.1937.23. & Mad.BZ.1938.62. I think perhaps one had better lead off with Landau.BZ.1939.8, sold by Nicolas Landau (1887–1979), an antiquities dealer known as “Le prince des antiquaires.” Born in Varsovia, Landau studied law in Paris before becoming an antiquities dealer in New York and then in Paris, where he had a business on the rue de Duras. But I’ll approach Hayford on the Emp. & Mad. Paper as well.Royall Tyler and Hayford Peirce would publish the emperor roundel sculpture (BZ.1937.23) in “A Marble Emperor-Roundel of the XIIth Century” in Three Byzantine Works of Art, Dumbarton Oaks Papers 2 (1941): 1, 3–9. Indeed I have (I think) done so already. There’s a vital document we still lack for Mad: i.e. a good photo. of the best of the whole series preserved in San Marco, which relief is all covered with silver hearts (ex-votos), so as to be practically invisible.Probably “Madonna della Grazia,” at the Porta di San Pietro entrance to the Church of Saint Mark, Venice. According to Charles Davis, in Byzantine Relief Icons in Venice and Along the Adriatic Coast: Orants and Other Images of the Mother of God (Munich: fondamentaARTE, 2006), 18, a photograph published in 1888 shows the Virgin’s hands hung with paternostri and a line of hooks forming an arc around her shoulders—all of which must have been hung with devotional objects and ex-votos. MarangoniLuigi Marangoni (1872–1950), an Italian architect and the proto (custodian) of the Basilica of San Marco in Venice. See Otto Demus, The Church of San Marco in Venice: History, Architecture, Sculpture (Washington, D.C.: Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, 1960), 198. says he hopes to get the Patriarch’s leave to have the hearts removed while the relief is dusted and photographed. But as you know, such things don’t move very fast, & if one insisted too much one might just get the door slammed for good & all.

I’m greatly relieved to hear that Mildred has downed the bronchial cold—the grippe germ. Give her my find love, please.

I beg you to return the Elephant TamerBZ.1927.1. paperHayford Peirce and Royall Tyler, “Elephant Tamer Silk, VIIIth Century,” in Three Byzantine Works of Art, Dumbarton Oaks Papers 2 (1941): 19–26. photos as soon as you can (but of course not sooner). Those photos form part of our working apparatus, and we are cramped by having to do so without them for a prolonged period. Perhaps you could have the clichés“Duplicates.” made, & return the photos., before you have definitely decided who is to publish the paper?

The ZahnRobert Zahn (1870–1945), a German classical archaeologist and the director of the Antikensammlung, Berlin. He was a specialist in ancient ceramics, glass, and jewelry. matter.See postscript to the letter of March 31, 1939. Yes, it is delicate. I agree it would be an important acquisition (or rather, I assume it would be, for I don’t know the actual things). I think you are right not to utilize V. for the purpose. He’s too indiscreet—to mention one reason where there may be several. I’ll consider the matter carefully, & may be able to work out a plan. Would you, le cas échéant,“If appropriate.” like me to go to Berlin at your expense for the purpose? I might, if the lid doesn’t blow off, be able to do so before very long—tho’ I can’t now tell exactly when. As Zahn is so sensitive, one wants to feel one’s way in a manner that would be difficult otherwise than by personal contact.

I’ve had evidence of Zahn’s sensitiveness, in that some years ago, when he had bought some fake “Scythian” and “Avar” things from a dangerous malefactor in Bpest (who had also unloaded some, in spite of my warnings, on the Brit. Mus), and the Nat. Mus. of Hungar was anxious to put the malefactor out of business by getting Zahn (& the B.M.) to prosecute, Zahn refused to do so, though he finally recognized that he had been cheated, for fear of the publicity. And of course the B.M. followed his example. And there was no prosecution.

I’ve been here for a few days with Elisina, who is making slow but very steady & solid progress,Elisina Tyler had suffered “apolplexy,” probably a stroke, in May 1938. See also letters of June 28, 1938; July 2, 1938; July 10, 1938; July 13, 1938; and July 29, 1938. and I return to Geneva tomorrow night. Elisina sends both of you much love.

What can I say about the internat. situation? It certainly looks much nearer a crash than it has been since the last world war. I may be mad, however, but I’m still inclined to think the crash may not take place. A quick decision, in the event of war, isn’t likely, and without a quick decision the totalitarian states are almost certain to be beaten. I don’t think the German soldier wants to risk it (twice in 25 years—des Guten zu viel“Too much of a good thing.”), nor the Italian. How the crisis is going to develop, Heaven knows: perhaps in some way that may astounish us all. My impression, after 15 days in Italy & many talks with a great variety of wops, is that the moral [sic] there is very low, & would collapse with the first reverse.

Much love to both of you.


R. T.

P.S. I’m rather confirmed in my (relative) optimism by Musso’sBenito Mussolini (1883–1945), an Italian politician, leader of the National Fascist Party, and ruler of Italy from 1922 until 1943. In 1926, Mussolini seized total power as dictator and ruled as Il Duce (“the leader”) between 1930 and 1943. Good Friday burglary.Mussolini invaded Albania on Good Friday (April 7) 1939. To make such a triumph out of the bumping-off of poor Zog,Zog I, king of the Albanians (1895–1961), the leader of Albania from 1925 to 1939, first as president (1925–1928) and then as king (1928–1939). Zog went into exile at the time of Mussolini’s invasion. who had been at Italy’s mercy from the beginning of his reign, suggests that Musso is not hopeful of being able to offer his public opinion the French spoils he has talked so much about.

Of course, the Yugo position is very dangerous. The Yugs apparently don’t dare to take a Brit. guarantee.In 1927, in response to growing Italian expansionism, the royal government of Yugoslavia signed an agreement of friendship and cooperation with Britain and France. But in the later 1930s, Germany’s willingness to enter into barter agreements with economically-strapped Yugoslavia weakened this relationship with Germany’s enemies. But they may give FritzRoyall Tyler’s slang for “Germans.” & TonyRoyall Tyler’s slang for “Italians.” a lot of trouble yet. And so may the Hunks,“Hungarians.” even. I think the Western Powers’ prospects are better now, with Poland committed (as far as Poland ever is committed) to their side, than they would have been last Sept. with the very uncertain prospects where Cz. Sl.Czechoslovakia. was concerned and a strong likelihood that Poland would be in on the side opposing Cz. Sl.

I think Gt. B. & France made a big mistake by not letting Hungary have the whole of SlovakiaFollowing the First World War, in the 1920 Treaty of Trianon, the Allied states ceded northern Hungary to the newly established Czechoslovakia. This arrangement left a sizable Hungarian population residing in the territory of Slovakia and a smaller Slovak minority in Hungary.—as it was obvious that anything withheld from Hungary would go to Fritz. But even now, I don’t regard Hungary as having gone over to Fritz. What a mess Gt. B. & Fr. have made of central & S.E. Europe! But what their policy failed to do, fear of Fritz may yet bring about.


P.P.S. Just had the President’s message.On April 15, 1939, President Roosevelt gave a press conference in which he read dispatches, sent the night before, that appealed to Hitler and Mussolini for peace. It’s superb. The deepest sigh of relief I’ve heard since April 6, 1917.On April 6, 1917, the United States formally declared war against Germany and entered the First World War.

Associated Things: L'art byzantin