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Robert Woods Bliss to Royall Tyler, May 22, 1937

May 22, 1937

Royall Tyler, Esquire

Finance Ministry

Budapest, Hungary

Dear Royall:

If you had received all the letters I have written you in my mind I should not now be so lamentably in arrears about writing you. This winter has been a very hectic one in every respect for us both, and I have never seemed to have a free hour in which I could write to you. Scarcely a week has passed in which I have not had to go to New York for a day or two and in addition visits to Boston and Cambridge have had to be made four or five times. One of then included a three day stay at Worcester for the opening of the exhibition,The Dark Ages: Loan Exhibition of Pagan and Christian Art in the Latin West and Byzantine East, February 20–March 21, 1937 (Worcester, Mass., 1937). of which I sent you a catalogue, attending four lectures daily during the three days, which were well done as well as interesting and instructive. The show itself was a great success, my only regret being that it stimulated interest in Byzantine objects which may possibly put more amateurs in that field, which has, up to now, been fairly free of competition.

First of all, let me say that we are over-joyed that Bill has got a job in London. I quite appreciate what you wrote me regarding your not wanting to have him enter the Morgan firm.Morgan, 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. We thought at one time of writing to you to ask what you would think of “appointing” Bill as a roving agent for Dumbarton Oaks, but in view of his seeking a permanent banking job it seemed best not to put up such a proposition.

We are keen to see little RoyallRoyall Tyler (b. 1936), the first child of Bettine Tyler and William Royall Tyler, was born in London. After earning a BA in Far Eastern Languages from Harvard University and a PhD in Japanese literature from Columbia University, he became a scholar and translator of Japanese literature. He presently lives in Australia in New South Wales. but goodness knows when that will be possible. We are now hoping to get abroad in October with the idea of visiting Greece, Constantinople and Egyp[t], but we have as yet no definite plans. Would there be any chance of your joining us for a part or all of the trip? There is nothing that would give us more infinite pleasure and satisfaction.

Did Hayford give you any intimations of his “great step?”The marriage of Hayford Peirce to Polly Brown. We were completely surprised on receiving day before yesterday his wedding announcement. I suppose that until his fatherMellen Chamberlain Peirce (1847–1936), was born in Bangor, Maine, and lived there almost all of his life. Early in his life, he was in the wholesale hardware and grocery business. In 1882, he married Anna Hayford (1856–1928), the daughter of William B. and Laura Hayford. After Hayford’s death in 1887, he managed the timberlands and business property of the Hayford estate. He was also a director and officer of the Dirigo Ice Company of Bangor. Mellen and Anna Peirce had three children: Ada Peirce McCormick (1888–1974), a social activist and philanthropist; Hayford; and Waldo Peirce (1884–1970), a painter. died he felt that he could not tie himself up for keeps. I hope that we may have a chance of meeting “Polly” before long.

You may have heard from Stora that we acquired the Nuremberg ivory,BZ.1937.7. which is a very good one. The jaspe sanguin cameoThis cameo of Saint John Chrysostom has not been identified. In a letter to Robert Woods Bliss, dated December 26, 1936, Maurice Stora described the cameo as “I camée jaspe sanguine, XIIe siècle, dont on demande 25,000 francs français.” (Blood jasper cameo of the 12th century, for which 25,000 French francs is asked.) Byzantine Collection dealer files, M. & R. Stora correspondence. he did not send for our inspection.

You will be interested to know that there is now in the Dumbarton Oaks collection the smaller of the two Melk alters [sic].BZ.1937.16. This we acquired through Arnold Seligman. We have also acquired from MalIon the marble Byzantine headBZ.1937.13. illustrated in the Burlington of June, 1935,Georges Duthuit, “A Masterpiece of Byzantine Sculpture,” The Burlington Magazine for Connoisseurs 66, no. 387 (June 1935): figs. A and B. in connection with an article by Georges Duthuit. It is a very fine object and adds much distinction to our things.

I am not going to attempt to answer your letters chronologically, besides, the main features of them have been covered by our telegraphic communications. But, I do want you to know how keenly appreciative Mildred and I are of all the trouble you continue to take in helping us add to the collection.

We are delighted that you have acquired Stephen.BZ.1937.19. Thank you a thousand times. We are keenly looking forward to the arrival of LuccaBZ.1937.18. and hope that GothaSee 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. may also fall into the bag. Referring to Stephen again, do you want me to send you a check so that you may have something on hand, for I feel that paying for him must have depleted whatever balance you had.

The photograph of the fragments of wooden Coptic panelsThese fragments of wooden Coptic panels have not been identified. are interesting and of good style. We both feel, however, that we must resist too much digression at the present time from the more important objects, to which I shall refer in a moment. If we are to acquire these important objects, we cannot continue to expend minor sums here and there for lesser ones, so I think for the moment we shall have to discard the idea of negotiating for the panels. In this respect this applies also to the Byzantine bronze birdThis little Byzantine bronze bird has not been identified. submitted to you by Kelebdjian, unless you think it is a particularly important and fine object which we ought to have, in which case I authorize you to get it for us at the lowest price possible. In this respect will you please inform Kelebdjian, in response to the inquiry contained in his letter to you, that I am not desirous of acquiring the two Han bronze rechauds.These two Han bronze burners have not been identified. Bill was kind enough to look at these for us and write me very completely about them and I shall shortly acknowledge his letter.This letter has not been located.

As for the bas relief,Stags and vase relief, probably marble. See Gerd-H. Zuchold, Der “Klosterhof” des Prinzen Karl von Preussen im Park von Schloss Glienicke in Berlin (Berlin: Gebr. Mann Verlag, 1993), 1:pl. 122 and 2:148, no. 130. of which you sent me a photograph and V’s letter in yours of April 24th, I do not find the object very appealing. However, I think that we had better wait until the owner puts a price on it.

After all, the things that we are mainly interested in are the bas reliefsBZ.1937.23 and BZ.1938.62. over which we have had so long a cable description and which you have been so good as to write me about frequently. It was not until the receipt of your letter with the photographs that we could form any definite idea of what they were like.

Your more recent letters on the subject are very helpful and illuminating, and we have read with much interest the account of your visit from Fiedler and the translation of his letter to V.

There is much to explain in trying to make you understand our delay in making any offer for the Emperor relief,BZ.1937.23. which is the one which interests us most of the three and which we consider is the best one for us to acquire, if possible.

The inevitable increase in taxation in this country is a matter which we must take daily into account. And, not only taxation, but possible legislation which may result at any time in necessary curtailment of industrial dividends. The original price suggested for the Emperor is entirely out of all proportion to the value of the object and far beyond our means. We agree with you that the only thing to do is to make an offer and I hope within a few days that Mildred and I will be left alone for an hour when we can talk over the matter thoroughly and reach a figure which is an adequate one for us to pay.

The prince evidently has an exaggerated Idea of the value of this object. I also feel that the prices suggested for the two ivoriesSee letters of March 1, 1937, and April 6, 1937. are much too high but until we have some decision on the Emperor relief I think it is best not to make an offer for the ivories.

Thanks to your sending us the photograph and to comparing it with the reproduction of a somewhat similar one in VeniceRoundel with Emperor Alexios I (?), Byzantine (?), twelfth century, marble, immured in the Campiello de Ca’ Angaran, Venice. See Matteo Bezzi, Iconologia della sacralità del potere: Il tondo di Angaran e l’etimasia (Spoleto: Fondazione Centro Italiano di Studi sull’Alto Medioevo, 2007). I am sure it is an object which we ought to have. It would be unfortunate if the prince offered it to a dealer. It is equally useful, perhaps, that the prince should think the client of Fiedler has a bona fide interest in his things and is willlng to pay a reasonable price for the Emperor. That is what leads us to make an offer.

Goodness knows what may happen to us at the end of twelve months and it is just as well that we should acquire now, while we can, all these objects which V is proposing, but he should be made to understand, and through him the Prince, that prices are far below what they were some years ago and that objets d’art do not fetch the sums that an owner is always hoping he can get for his pieces.


Associated Places: Budapest (Hungary)