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Robert Woods Bliss to Royall Tyler, December 24, 1938 [2]

December 24: 1938

Dear Royall,

You will be, I know, as surprised as we were when you read the enclosed (copy) letter which I received from Herr KummelOtto Kümmel (1874–1952), a German art historian and director of the Berlin State Museums between 1934 and 1945. yesterday. A charming Christmas present! I shall do nothing in the matter until hearing from you in answer to the cable I sent you last night embodying the salient points raised in his letter.

A letter from Kummel as Director General of the National Museums is one, naturally, that has to be given weight and careful consideration. It seems to me, however, very strange that Prince Leopold would have taken out of the country and sold objects to which he did not have a just title and I know that you will be as surprised as we are that the Director General considers that this has been done. In fact, I have never heard of a minor Prince of PrussiaFriedrich Karl (1919–2006). and, of course, I do not know what his rights are in this matter.

As you also know, the objects were bought through a third person, without any direct negotiation or communication whatever with Prince Leopold; they were offered to us and we bought them in all good faith. We liked the objects and have become very fond of them; they add much to the dignity and importance of the Dumbarton Oaks Collection, and therefore we would be very reluctant to part with them. However, I know that you will approfondir“Go deeper into.” the situation and let me know what my rights are.

Needless to say, we desire to avoid any controversy with the government or officials of the Reich and we should deplore any publicity being given to this matter. However, we have acted, as I have just said, in entire good faith and we should not be willing to relinquish the two objects unless there were clearly demonstrated reasons why we should return them, of course upon restitution of the cost they entailed for us.

Last October Volbach wrote me, and I informed you at the time, that F. had brought to his notice that the EmperorBZ.1937.23. had been published in an art magazine in this country as belonging to the Dumbarton Oaks Collection. I at once wrote V. that, although we follow the art magazines closely in this country, we had seen no published reference whatever to the Emperor and furthermore that I could not understand how anyone would have been in a position to publish anything about the Emperor. I asked him to find out and inform me the name of the magazine, and if possible the issue, in which this notice was alleged to have appeared. Since then I have heard nothing from him.

Since a fortnight or more I have had on my desk the beginning of a letterDecember 7, 1938. to you about Doro Levi, but the tide has been too strong to permit finishing it and, besides, every few days seemed to bring something new in his situation. We are now overjoyed to learn through Princeton that he is due to arrive on January fifth. In this connection, thanks very much for your letter written from Basle on the eleventh, which reached me yesterday.

Bill and family arrived this morning and though I have not seen any one member of it as yet, we are overjoyed at having them under the roof at Dumbarton Oaks. We only wish that you too were here.

This carries our love and affectionate New Year wishes to you and Elisina.

Yours as ever,


P. S.

Since dictating the above I have received from H. M. CalmannHans Maximilian Calmann (1899–1982), a German-born art dealer in London who specialized in old master drawings. Originally a stockbroker in his family’s firm in Hamburg, Calmann moved to England in 1937 and opened an art dealership in Saint James's, which he re-opened in 1941 in Davies Street and relocated to Bruton Place in 1963. Calmann retired in 1973. (of whom I have not heard before) the enclosed letter and accompanying photograph.In the letter of January 17, 1939, this is called an encolpium. The whereabouts of the Calmann letter are not known, and the encolpion has not been identified. As you may be going to London some day before long I suggest that you have a look at this object. It is not possible to judge from the photograph of its interest and value but even should it prove worthy of adding to the Collection I feel that the price asked is excessive. If this does not place a burden upon your shoulders and you will be so good as to look at it if the opportunity offers, Milrob will be most grateful. I shall write Calmann (but not for a week or so) that I have sent the photograph to a friend who will eventually communicate with him.

Associated Artworks: BZ.1937.23