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Royall Tyler to Robert Woods Bliss, March 22, 1935

Finance Ministry


22nd March 1935.

Dear Robert,

Many thanks for your postcard from Guatemala City.In February and March 1935, Robert Woods Bliss traveled through the highlands and tropics of Mexico, Guatemala, and Honduras to see the ancient cities of the Maya. His traveling companion, Frederic C. Walcott, was at the time a trustee of the Carnegie Institution for Science of Washington and arranged the trip, which included visits to the archaeological sites under excavation by the Carnegie Institution for Science. For an outline and images of this trip, see (accessed September 9, 2015). Mildred Barnes Bliss was not able to take this trip due to the illness and death of her mother, Anna Barnes Bliss, who died on February 22, 1935. Just before it reached me, I heard Mildred’s mother had died, so I expect that you will by now be back in Washington.

In case some of the letters I sent you missed you on your journeys, I am enclosing herewith a copy of one I wrote you on February 21st with my remarks on the TrivulzioLuigi Alberico Trivulzio (1868–1938), Prince of Musocco and Marchese of Sesto Ulteriano. Trivulzio was responsible for the sale of much of his family’s art collection. Annunciation.Annunciation, late seventh–early eighth century (?), ivory, Civiche Raccolte d’Arte Applicata, Castello Sforzesco, Milan, inv. A.14. It was acquired from the Trivulzio Collection in 1935. The ivory has been variously dated. See Kurt Weitzmann, ed., Age of Spirituality: Late Antique and Early Christian Art, Third to Seventh Century (New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1979), 198–99, no. 448; and Serena Ensoli and Eugenio La Rocca, Aurea Roma: Dalla città pagana alla città cristiana (Rome: L’Erma di Bretschneider, 2000), 590, no. 284. See also Byzantium and Islam: Age of Transition Seventh–Ninth Century, edited by Helen C. Evans with Brandie Ratliff (New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2012), 46–47, no. 24H. I understand that Sangiorgi sent you a photograph of this ivory. If by any chance the photograph has failed to reach you, you might find a reproduction of it in Goldschmidt and Weitzmann’s Vol.IIThis ivory was not published in Adolph Goldschmidt and Kurt Weitzmann, Die byzantinischen Elfenbeinskulpturen des X.–XIII. Jahrhunderts, vol. 2, Reliefs (Berlin: Bruno Cassirer, 1934). which has recently appeared, and in which, by the way, the authors entirely adopt our dating of the Romanos ivory, and revise their own dating accordingly, making very handsome acknowledgement to us.Adolph Goldschmidt and Kurt Weitzmann, Die byzantinischen Elfenbeinskulpturen des X.–XIII. Jahrhunderts, vol. 2, Reliefs (Berlin: Bruno Cassirer, 1934), 15 and 35, no. 34, pl. 14. You will have heard front Sangiorgi that he is asking 300.000 Lire for this ivory. I imagine that he would be open to an offer. However, Trivulzio is a very uncertain factor. One can never tell what he is going to do. There is still a market for such things: I have just learned that Robert von HirschRobert Max Hirsch (after 1913 von Hirsch) (1883–1977), a Jewish German industrialist, collector, and patron. of BaselIn 1933, Robert von Hirsch emigrated to Basel, where his company was opening a branch. In order to secure the right to export his art collection from Frankfurt to Basel, he gave his Lucas Cranach painting, Judgment of Paris, to Hermann Goering. In 1939, von Hirsch was also able to assist the art historian Adolph Goldschmidt in fleeing to Basel. See Masterpieces from the Robert von Hirsch Sale at Sotheby’s: With an Article on the Branchini Madonna by Sir John Pope-Hennessy (London: Sotheby Parke Bernet, 1978), 5. has just bought Trivulzio’s great Christ in Majesty ivory.Christ Enthroned, Byzantine, second half of the tenth century, ivory, private collection, Switzerland. See Anthony Cutler, The Hand of the Master, Craftsmanship, Ivory, and Society in Byzantium (Ninth–Eleventh Centuries) (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1994), 45, ills. 46 and 47.

I have now received from Sangiorgi a cast and an impression of the jewelPendant and Reliquary, ca. 398–407, agate, gold, emeralds, and rubies, Musée du Louvre, Paris, acc. no. OA 9523. On one side, the names of Maria, her parents, and husband are arranged to form the chi-rho (the first two Greek letters of the name of Christ). This side reads (clockwise around a central cross): HONORI, MARIA (forming the curve of the rho), SERHNA, STELICHO. On the other side, the names of Stelicho, his wife, and children are also arranged to form the chi-rho. This side reads (clockwise around a central cross): STELICHO, SERENA (forming the curve of the rho), EUCHERI, THERMANTIA. On both sides, the horizontal bar of the cross reads: VIVATIS “May they live.” Between the two pieces of agate is earth, most likely from the Holy Land. The pendant, which had been in the Trivulzio Collection, was acquired by a member of the Montesquiou-Fezensac family, and was an anonymous gift to the Musée du Louvre on behalf of the Société des Amis du Louvre in 1951. See Kurt Weitzmann, ed., Age of Spirituality: Late Antique and Early Christian Art, Third to Seventh Century (New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1979), 306, no. 279. of which I wrote in my letter of the 21st. I am sending them to you. According to Sangiorgi the mount of this object is in gold, emeralds and rubies, the engraved stone I suppose being a carnelian. You may be able to read the inscription on the carnelian with a glass, but in any case I am sending you an enlarged copy of it. The names are of enormous interest: on one side there are the names of the emperor HonoriusHonorius (Flavius Honorius Augustus) (384–423), Western Roman emperor between 395 and 423. and the empress Maria,Maria (d. 407), the first empress consort of Honorius, the Western Roman emperor between 395 and 423, and the daughter of Stilicho and Serena. crossed with those of StilichoFlavius Stilicho (ca. 359–408), a high-ranking general (magister militum) and regent for the underage Honorius, who was married to Serena, the niece of Emperor Theodosius. They had three children: a son, Eucherius, and two daughters, Maria and Thermantia, both of whom married Honorius. and Serena,Serena was a noblewoman and niece of the Emperor Theodosius, who in 384 arranged her marriage to Stilicho, then a rising military office. and on the ether side those of Stilicho and Serena crossed with two others, presumably those of their children.Eucherius (d. 408) and Aemilia Materna Thermantia (d. 415), the second empress consort of Honorius. You will perhaps have noticed in our Vol.1L’art byzantin. Plate 52, the reproduction of a diptychDiptych of Stilicho, Serena, and Their Son Eucherius, early fifth century, ivory, Basilica di San Giovanni Battista, Monza. in the cathedral of Monza which probably represents Stilicho and Serena. The child standing next to Serena is probably the Eucherius mentioned on the gem. Stilicho was the commander in chief of the Imperial armies in the West, virtually the master of the Empire, but unable to don the purple because he was a Barbarian. He was assassinated in the year 408.

Sangiorgi says that the owner of this jewel asks 40.000 Lire for it, and adds that he, Sangiorgi, does not wish to buy it at this price, and therefore informs me about it. He would no doubt be taking a rake-off, and I think one might also bargain here. The object is of really quite extraordinary importance, historically, and sounds very lovely.

Much love to you both


R. T.

I’ve given a letter of introduction, to Mildred, to SicilianosDemetrios Sicilianos (b. 1880), Greek minister to Hungary (1933–1935) and to the United States (1935–1940). (Sisí dans l’intimité)“Sisí among his intimates.” who is shortly (in May) going to Washington as Greek Minister. He’s a cheerful little soul, who loves talking about art. He’s given lectures here, & will no doubt yield gracefully if he gets a chance over there.

Drawing for letter of March 22, 1935

[Section of the jewel:The following is a detail of the addition to the letter in which Royall Tyler illustrates the lettering on the jewel.

Stilicho, Commander in Chief of Imperial Armies, and wife Serena, son Eucherius and daughter Thermantia. Stilicho was murdered in 408.

Honorius, Emperior of the West († 423) and Maria. Stilicho (Stelicho) and his wife Serena (use of Greek H for E)]

Associated People: Anna Barnes Bliss; Giorgio Sangiorgi
Associated Places: Budapest (Hungary)
Associated Things: L'art byzantin