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Royall Tyler to Mildred Barnes Bliss, February 17, 1928

Ministry of Finance,

Dearest Mildred,

I have just had a letter from Hayford, written the day before he sailed. He has been working like a little terrier at the StroganoffCount Grigorij Sergeevich Stroganoff (1829–1910), a connoisseur and collector of paintings and objects of many cultures. Stroganoff had homes in Rome, Paris, and Saint Petersburg. mystery, and has unravelled a good deal of it. He now believes the IsbirianThe Parisian dealer Isbirian has not been identified. In the letter of November 3, 1928, his address is given as 31, rue Saint-Lazare, Paris, and his telephone number as Trudaine 71.01. dish to be a fake—a very accomplished fake. I’m dying to see it and shall do so as soon as I can go to Paris.

The result of Hayford’s digging is as follows. When old Strog.Count Grigorij Sergeevich Stroganoff (1829–1910), a connoisseur and collector of paintings and objects of many cultures. Stroganoff had homes in Rome, Paris, and Saint Petersburg. died or perhaps before, he gave the dish to the Hermitage.State Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg. This is more or less correct. The Stroganoff plate has been in the Hermitage since 1911, the year after the count died. See A. V. Bank, Byzantine Art in the Collections of Soviet Museums (Leningrad: Aurora Art Publishers, 1977), 2283, pl. 78. The dish they received there, on examination, turned out not to be silver through and through—in fact a fake. It transpired that the dish (the original) had been lent by Strog., for purposes of study, to Botkin,Either Dmitry Petrovich Botkin (1829–1889) or, more likely, Mikhail Petrovich Botkin (1839–1914), who were Russian collectors. See Rosalind Polly Gray, “Muscovite Patrons of European Painting: The Collections of Vasily Kokorev, Dmitry Botkin, and Sergei Tretyakov,” Journal of the History of Collections 10, no. 2 (January 1998): 191–92; and Mikhail Petrovich Botkin, Collection M. P. Botkine (Saint Petersburg: R. Tolyke and A. Vulbor, 1911). His collection included a large number of forged Byzantine enamels, some of which are presently in American museums, including the Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection. See David Buckton, “Bogus Byzantine Enamels in Baltimore and Washington, D.C.,” The Journal of the Walters Art Gallery 46 (1988): 11–24. and Botkin appears to have had a galvano made of it, and ‘inadvertently’ to have sent back the imitation and kept the original, which was solid silver.

What has become of the original is still a mystery. The galvano seems to have been very cunningly maquillé“Fabricated.” and caked and rebaked, and to be the object Isbirian is now trying to sell. This would explain why Isbirian has never pronounced the word ‘Stroganoff.’ He must know the origin of his dish—which is good enough to have taken in BabelonJean Babelon (1889–1978), a French librarian, historian, and numismatist at the Cabinet des Médailles, Paris, where he became deputy curator in 1924 and then director in 1937 and 1961. and d’Espezel,Pierre d’Espezel (1893–1959), a French numismatist and an attaché at the Cabinet des Médailles, Paris. and which it will be interesting to see if he succeeds in selling.

I hope to be in Paris for a few days in March or April.

HeinBéla Desco Hein (1883–1931), a Hungarian collector and dealer. Born in Kremnica, Slovakia, Hein arrived in Paris in 1910 and opened a gallery specializing in tribal and European works of art in 1923. Hein is especially known for his collection of African art. (r. des Sts Pères) has sold his entire collection of Mexican jade. And today I read in the ‘Times’ that the British Museum has just bought an important collection of Mexican jade ornaments. I wonder?The British Museum did not acquire masks from Béla Hein in 1928.

I have a list of things to see in Paris, many of which sound promising.

I do wish I might have a few hours with you and tell you a few little stories. Life is wonderful. The ‘Times’ has been good of late. Did you read the Massey-Dawson case,The “Massey-Dawson case” is unidentified. and that of the London Vicar who carried on for years as an abortionist under the name of Dr. Hannah Moore?,The London vicar known as Dr. Hannah Moore is unidentified. And the Steglitzer Studententragödie?The “Steglitz student tragedy” was the 1927 true story of two idealistic German friends who made a pact to commit suicide when they were no longer able to feel love and to kill those who robbed them of it. Busy days.

Much love to you both

Yrs ever
R. T.

Associated People: Hayford Peirce
Associated Places: Budapest (Hungary)