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Royall Tyler to Mildred Barnes Bliss, May 23, 1931


Dearest Mildred—Many thanks for your letter of the 1 May, enclosing a cheque for $1000, and several photos, etc. Also for the Frs. 120,000 for the Degas, which I have this moment received. The figure is Frs. 120,840—I went to Frs 106 000 (+ 14% dues), and not to Frs. 105 000 as I said in my cable. But don’t send me further remittance on that account, as I have money of yours in hand.For details of the financial relationship between Royall Tyler and the Blisses, see “Art Collection” in Argentina, Budapest, and Paris (1928–1933): An Introduction. Several people were on the Degas up to Frs. 100,000, and above that I had against me Countess Murat,Caroline-Pauline-Thérèse, Comtesse Joachim Murat (1870–1940). who afterwards told Metman that she greatly regretted not having gone a bit farther—while I, of course, was quite at the end of my tether, and in fact pulled the stake right out of the ground. I hope I didn’t go farther than you would have wished.

I’m most grateful for your analysis of my position where China is concerned;See letter of April 11, 1931. I’m sure you’re right about it, and I’ve put it out of my mind. Anyway, the situation there seems to be breaking up again, and perhaps nothing will come of it, after all, where the LeagueThe League of Nations, an international organization in Geneva whose principal missions were to maintain world peace, settle international disputes through negotiation and arbitration, and create stability within financial markets. is concerned.

I’m miserable at the thought that you won’t see the Byz. Show; it is going to be glorious. Practically everything has come now, except the Spanish things, and they are promised and announced. I’m sorry to say that the U.S. loan is, apart from your magnificent things, wretched. Mr. Morgan’sJohn Pierpont Morgan (1837–1913), an American financier, banker, and art collector. things were refused at the last minute, and the stuffThe objects chosen by the Americans have not been identified. the American Ctee. headed by Prof. Urge T. Morey,Charles Rufus Morey (1877–1955), an American art historian, scholar of Early Christian art, and longtime professor at Princeton University. selected, is such rubbish that we are hesitating about exposing it, which makes one feel rather sick considering the huge sums for which the muck is insured. Every time one touches the American archaeological world, at least in the Byz. and Medieval fields, one is amazed by the utter inexperience of the students as far as actual objects are concerned. They mull a lot over photostats, and iconographical identifications and determination of local schools by often irrelevant canons—but they have no conception whatever of the essential things about a work of art—namely style and artistic merit, and as they apparently never look at—let alone handle—a real object, they have no chance of acquiring a sense of these things.

Kingsley PorterArthur Kingsley Porter (1883–1933), an American medieval art historian at Harvard University. sent me one of his prize students the other day, who is going to produce a book on Byzantine enamels.Possibly Marvin C. Ross (1904–1977). He studied at Harvard University, New York University, the University of Berlin, and the Centro de Etudios Historicos in Madrid. He was briefly a curator at the Brooklyn Museum, then curator of medieval art at the Walters Art Gallery (1934–1952), chief curator at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (1952–1955), and curator at Hillwood, the private home and art collection of Marjorie Merriweather Post, in Washington, D.C. At the end of his life, he said to Robert S. Nelson that his goal had always been to write a history of Byzantine enamels. He has never been to Venice, never seen the Gospel covers there, or the pala d’oro, never seen Limburg, Budapest etc. Oh no, he knew all those things from reproductions, so it wasn’t necessary for him to see them. The deadness of them where real works of art are concerned goes far to explain the small repute in which they are held in USA: ‘only a Professor’—and the pitiful attempts at brightening up the subject that are made when the Press deigns to notice it: ‘Lily Ho was passing an Oriental Art Shop in Los Angeles, etc’.The meaning of this reference is unknown. Jesus Christ!

Forgive me, dearest Mildred, but I’ve been working day and night at the Show, as well as my business, and my nerves are getting ragged, and every time I pass by the Case at the Arts Décs, containing the rubbish those poor boobs have made us pay carriage and insurance on, my blood boils.

The Arts Décs, people—Metman, Alfassa, Guérin: the Louvre people: Duthuit (Sec. of the Show) and Salles have been admirable, and we’ve never had any trouble at all, which is marvellous when one thinks of the fever and confusion in-tailed by the improvising and leaving-to-the-last-minute inevitable in France.

How I wish you were here! I can hardly bear the thought that you won’t see it all.

Italy has sent us the Rossano Codex!Exposition internationale d’art byzantin, 28 mai–9 juillet 1931 (Paris: Musée des arts décoratifs, 1931), 171, 644. As well as lots of marvels from Monza, Venice, Milan, Rome, Naples, Palermo.

Blessings on you, dearest Mildred, love to Robert.

R. T.

Associated Things: Byzantine Exhibition of 1931
Associated Artworks: Ex.Coll.HC.P.1931.02.(E)