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Royall Tyler to Mildred Barnes Bliss, January 26, 1930

21, Quai Bourbon

I set out early this morning, dearest Mildred, to see the two Gothic tapestries,As Tyler explains in this letter and in the letter of February 10, 1930, these two tapestries are related to or are part of the series of five tapestries known as the “Condamnation de Banquet” in the Musée Historique Lorrain, Nancy. They are based on an early sixteenth-century morality play by Nicole de La Chesnaye. See Nicolas de La Chesnaye, Jelle Koopmans, and Paul Verhuyck, La Condamnation de banquet (Geneva: Droz, 1991), esp. 31–36 ; and Les tapisseries de la Condamnation de banquet (Nancy: Musée historique lorrain, 1980). These tapestries may be the two now in the collection of the Musée-Château de Villevêque in Angers that show the attack of diseases in the banquet hall. One of the Angers tapestries (inv. 2003.1.405), woven of wool and silk, measures 410 cm x 460 cm, very close to the measurement that Tyler gives in this letter. The tapestries and the other artworks of the museum were bequeathed by Mary and Daniel Duclaux to the city of Angers in 2002. At the time of Tyler’s letter, the tapestries may have been at Cérans. See letter of February 11, 1930. photographs of which are enclosed. They are in a chateau 170 kil. from Paris. I didn’t see them, however, as we had a bad panne,“Breakdown.” and never got anywhere near the place. I am sending you the photos., however, because I’ve got to go away on a business trip in 3 days, and I shall not have time to go and see them until I return, in 2 or 3 weeks. I propose, when I have seen them, to cable you my impressions.

A friend of mine, who has had very great experience of tapestries, and has had many fine ones pass through his hands (one Boutreux,Boutreux, who Royall Tyler in this letter suggests worked for Jacques Seligmann et Cie in Paris, has not been identified. of whom I’ve probably spoken to you) told me about them. I, mindful of what you said about wanting two Gothic tapestries,The Blisses wanted large-scale tapestries for their new Music Room at Dumbarton Oaks. The room had been designed by Lawrence Grant White and was completed in 1928. In 1930, the Blisses acquired a Gothic tapestry (HC.T.1930.07.[T]) for the room, and in 1935, they acquired a second tapestry (HC.T.1935.15.[T]). thought these would be worth investigating.

Boutreux has seen them, and says they are glorious in colour, and in extraordinarily good condition. They measure 4m.20 in height—one is 4m.60 broad, the other 3m.40. They certainly belong to a series, the others of which are in the Museum at Nancy (Les Banquets).See also Philippe Ménard, “Les tapisseries de Nancy et la ‘Condamnation de banquet,’” in Lorraine vivante: Hommage à Jean Lanher, edited by Jean Lanher, Roger Marchal, and Bernard Guidot (Nancy: Presses universitaires de Nancy, 1993), 137–61. They are not long after 1500. The owners (Cte du Touchet)The Du Touchet family, a noble family originally from Normandie. A Du Touchet family member is recorded in the entourage of William the Conquerer. want 2 million francs for the two (1 million each). Boutreux would get his commission from the sellers. Boutreux, who works for Seligmann,Probably Germain Seligmann (1893–1978), a French art and antiquities dealer and son of Jacques Seligmann (1858–1923), who founded the Paris firm Jacques Seligmann & Cie. (after 1920 Jacques Seligmann et Fils) in 1880. tells me that he knows Seligmann is offering Frs. 1,800,000 for them. As prices go, and considering the rarity of such things, I think the price is as reasonable as one can hope to find. The photos. are wretched, but they’ll suffice to give you an idea of what the tapestries are like. Subject to what I think of them when I see them, and assuming that you really want tapestries of this period, I think you’d do well to buy them.

The other tapestries of which photos are enclosed are, as you’ll observe, after BoucherFrançois Boucher (1703–1770), a French painter. (signed). They form a series, woven for Louis XV.Louis XV (1710–1774), king of France between 1715 and 1774. I’ve not seen them, but the photos, show me that I should find them magnificent and adorable. I think I’ve often told you that, next to the finest Gothic tapestries, I like French XVIIIs at their highest; and these are unbeatable.

They belong to the succession Franchetti,The Franchetti family, a noble family of Tuscany. and formerly belong to Demidoff of San Donato.The Demidoff (Demidov) family, a wealthy, influential Russian family in Tuscany. Anatole Nikolayevich Demidoff (Anatolii Nikolaevich Demidov) (1813–1870) was a collector who acquired the title of Prince of San Donato in 1837. The famous sale of his estate in 1880 featured five tapestries after Boucher, see Palais de San Donato: Catalogue de la bibliotheque dont la vente aux enchères publiques aura lieu à Florence, au Palais de San Donato le mercredi 5 Mai 1880 (Paris: Pillet et Dumoulin, 1880), no. 36. The present owners smuggled them out of Italy in an avion, and the tapestries are now in a bank at Lugano. Boutreux has shown me all his correspondence with the owners. They will not take a penny under 5 million Lire for the lot, and Boutreux must get his commission for himself. He would want 250,000 francs.

I don’t suppose they would interest you, but they are so supreme of their kind that I couldn’t resist the temptation of sending you the photos. If, as I expect, you don’t want them, please don’t speak to anyone else about them (except as something to be approached via Boutreux) as it wouldn’t be fair to Boutreux, and please return the photos to me.

I am delighted about the results achieved at the Hague.The second Reparations Conference was held at The Hague between January 3 and 20, 1930. At the conference, Allied and German delegates negotiated a new reparations payment plan for Germany, and the German government agreed to pay thirty-eight billion gold marks over fifty-nine years. I had counted on a settlement of the German matter, but the Eastern Reparations, and especially the Hungarian, with the OptantsThe Optants question, the protracted dispute between Hungary and Romania over the expropriation of property from Hungarians in Transylvania who had opted to retain their Hungarian citizenship after the First World War. Beginning in 1923, the Hungarian government appealed to the League of Nations stating that the expropriation of the lands of Hungarian Optants in Transylvania “constitutes a flagrant violation of the Treaties.” See John O. Crane, The Little Entente (New York: Macmillan, 1931), 27–30. and other claims which had to be faced, formed a frightfully complex and difficult problem, and I was very much afraid of trouble, which might have resulted in Hungary’s being left out of the settlement, and some Reparation Commission Machinery being kept going for Hungary’s exclusive benefit. This, among other things, would have meant that Hungary would have had to get the Creditor States’ permission before it could contract any State loan.

My view was that failure to be included in the settlement must be avoided at all costs, and that Hungary must make as good a bargain as possible, but must make some bargain, and I told BethlenCount István Bethlen de Bethlen (1874–1946), a Hungarian aristocrat and statesman who served as prime minister of Hungary from 1921 to 1931. so just before the Hague, with all the conviction I could muster. But the difficulties were enormous, and I hardly dared to hope they would be overcome.

Now that all these questions have been settled, I think one may look forward to an appreciable improvement throughout Central and S. Eastern Europe—and it was about time.

I’m overjoyed to hear from Mlle MalyeThérèse Malye (1886–1951), Mildred Banes Bliss’s social secretary in Paris. that you’ll be in Paris this Spring. Thank God for that! Elisina sends you much love. She is getting on well now. Bill seems to be flourishing, and is reading History passionately. He wrote to me that he had decided to specialize in Byzantine.

Much love

R. T.

I hear that the King of Bulgaria is going to marry a Meklenburg.King (Tsar) Boris III of Bulgaria (1894–1943) married Giovanna of Italy, the daughter of King Victor Emmanuel III, in October 1930. She was from the House of Savoy and not from the House of Mecklenburg.

Associated Places: Paris (France)
Associated Things: Jacques Seligmann & Cie
Associated Artworks: HC.T.1930.07.(T); HC.T.1935.15.(T)