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Royall Tyler to Mildred Barnes Bliss, June 26, 1911

8 rue de la Barouillère


June 26th 1911Monday.

Dear Mildred.

Your telegrams about going to Buenos Aires to advise you about some picturesThe exact nature of these Renaissance and Baroque paintings is unknown. In a letter of November 9, 1911, Royall Tyler wrote: “I am very greatly excited about your 200 canvasses: when shall I see them?” It is possible that they were part of the furnishings in the house that the Blisses rented at Calle Liberdad 1376. Much later, on Feburary 16, 1932, the New York dealer René Séligman sent Mildred Barnes Bliss a portrait by George Romney and wrote: “I thought you might enjoy living with this picture a few days, considering what you told me about having had once the opportunity to live with a MANTEGNA, a BELLINI, and a BOTTICELLI some time ago.” Réne Séligmann to Mildred Barnes Bliss, February 16, 1932, “General Correspondence: Bliss, Mr. and Mrs. Robert Woods, 1927–1937,” box 15, folder 19, Jacques Seligmann & Co. Records, Archives of American Art, Washington, D.C. See Archives of American Art, "General Correspondence: Bliss, Mr. and Mrs. Robert Woods, 1927–1937." arrived while I was at Simancas, a village eight miles from Valladolid and the railway, so a great deal of delay was inevitable. I had to send them back to Paris to be deciphered, as no one had the ABC codeThe ABC Universal Commercial Electric Telegraphic Code, 5th edition (London: E. Fischer and Co., 1901). at Valladolid, and get them wired to me from my bank. I expect you received both my answers—one from Madrid and the other from Paris.

That I should fail you in something you expected of me is a heavy thought, and I wish I were a millionaire to wire you what I now am writing, but I do not fear that you will misunderstand. Even if the collection you are interested in were to be sold here in Paris, I would not advise you because I do not consider myself competent to do so. Four or five years ago I might have done so, and lived to regret it, but since then I have really worked my way to a sufficient knowledge of two things—Persian pottery and French medieval sculpture, and my experience in those fields has revealed to me my incompetence in others. Sixteenth and seventeenth century painting I now make no sort of pretence [sic] of knowing in such a way as to be able to advise anyone in making important acquisitions, or to write specialist articles about it. I have studied Near-Eastern and Spanish pottery, and medieval sculpture and architectureSee, for example, letter of March 5, 1911: "Until the Calendar seized hold of me I had been studying French mediaeval sculpture and architecture for over a year—there is much that is entirely French in S. Italy and more in Spain—and I hope to go back to it later. Persian pottery and textiles also; you will be delighted and amazed when you see the marvels that have come from Persia quite recently."—outside Italy—too hard to have much energy left for other schools, and for the rest my preferences have taken me to primitive or quite modern painting, and to textiles, so that of all the schools I might conceivably know something about, those you wanted my advice on are my very weakest points. For years I have hardly looked at any but a few of the greatest men of the Renaissance. RubensPeter Paul Rubens (1577–1640), a Flemish Baroque painter. for me is a god, so is El GrecoEl Greco (Doménikos Theotokópoulos) (1541–1614), a Spanish Renaissance painter. and Rembrandt,Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn (1606–1669), a Dutch Baroque painter. and I feel that I know their work well by having seen and felt it constantly, and almost as much I feel for a few Titians,Titian (Tiziano Vecelli or Tiziano Vecellio) (ca. 1488/1490–1576), an Italian Renaissance painter. VeronesesPaolo Veronese(1528–1588), an Italian Renaissance painter. and Tintorettos,Tintoretto (Jacopo Comin) (1518–1594), an Italian Renaissance painter. but only in the case of one of them, El Greco, would I dare to say I know his periods or swear to the authenticity of a picture. The others I have looked at as a relaxation from my work, and with all the greater pleasure because I have never studied them. But when it comes to the rest of Renaissance painting, I really know nothing about it at all, nor do I care at present. The other day we were five days in Madrid, and every minute we could spare in the Prado, yet I only spent about 20 minutes in the VelazquezDiego Rodríguez de Silva y Velázquez (1599–1660), a Spanish Baroque painter. room and did not go near MurilloBartolomé Esteban Murillo (d. 1682), a Spanish Baroque painter. or Ribera.Jusepe de Ribera (1591–1652), a Spanish Baroque painter. The Florentines and Romans of that time I don’t so much as know by name, and I have almost forgotten what Van DyckAnthony van Dyck (1599–1641), a Flemish Baroque painter. and the other Flemings look like. It isn’t that I don’t approve of them, that I have adopted any theory about art that shuts out the Renaissance early and late, but I know that the amount of ground any man can hope to cover is limited, and that to understand anything thoroughly one must recognize this and work intensively. God knows I am only at the beginning of the part I have staked out for myself, and I can imagine no nightmare more horrible than to be put face to face with a collection of 16th and 17th cent. Flemish Italian and Spanish pictures and be forced to give advice upon them to anyone whose interest I had at heart.—And as for a sale! I no more know the prices they ought to fetch than I know the rules of Japanese versification. I have often heard in Spain that there are good pictures in South America, and if you succeed in getting something very fine I should be delighted and not very much surprised—but I think you know more about the schools you mention than I do.

Elisina and I have just come back from Spain. We spent about two months at Simancas working very hard, and transcribed about 400 documents between us which means a vast deal of work—we calculate that there must be about 300,000 words there at the lowest computation. The best of it is for the marriage negotiations between Philip IIPhilip II (1527–1598), king of Spain, Portugal, Naples, Sicily, and, while married to Mary I, king of England and Ireland. and Mary of England,Mary I (1516–1558), queen of England and Ireland from 1553 to 1558. and for the time Philip spent in England. His own letters are wholly flat and empty, padded with meaningless phrases and betraying an inability to grasp anything but the exterior and unessential aspects of affairs, but his father’s,Charles V (1500–1558). Simon Renard’s (Imperial Ambassador in England),Simon Renard (1513–1573), an advisor to the Emperor Charles V and his son Philip II of Spain. He was Spanish ambassador to France and England. Ruy Gomez de Silva’s,Rui Gomes da Silva (known in Spain as Ruy Gómez de Silva) (1516–1573), a Portuguese nobleman and an advisor to King Philip II. Eraso’s (Charles V’sCharles V (1500–1558), ruler of the Holy Roman Empire from 1519 and, as Charles I, of the Spanish Empire from 1516 until his abdication in 1556. secretary)Francisco de Eraso, Charles V’s secretary in Brussels. and many others are full of the right stuff. I only wish I were allowed to publish them in the original French or Spanish, translations must take away much of their charm and even of their historical value, but the Record Office, having inherited a manner of editing State Papers which has been abandoned everywhere on the Continent, is determined to stick to it.

Between what we did here in Paris and this new lot from Simancas, we have enough to complete Major Hume’s unfinished volume and another all our own, but before examining the other Archives I can’t make up the Calendar. We shall spend a fortnight or so here, then go to ViennaThe Wiener Stadt- und Landesarchiv (Archives of the City and Province of Vienna). where I hope to find as much as at Simancas or nearly, which means another two months, then BesançonArchives municipales, Besançon. where there may be something, then back to Simancas for a month, then back here. A visit to BrusselsArchives du Royaume de Belgique, Brussels. and Lille,Archives municipales, Lille. and then hard at translation all winter. If all goes well I hope to be correcting proofs by this time next year. The work is harder than I thought, because the choice of documents is very harassing, and with the irregular orthography of the time very minute care is needed in verifying the names of men and places. Imagine long accounts of battles in Scotland written by a Spaniard who has never seen the Scotch name written and attempted to put them down as pronounced! Haddington is Dindón, but that is simple in comparison with others. Poor Secretary PagetWilliam Paget, 1st Baron Paget of Beaudesert (1506–1563), an English statesman who served as secretary to Henry VIII, Edward VI, and Mary I. appears as Paquete and WyattThomas Wyatt the Younger (1521–1554), a rebel leader during the reign of Mary I. as Biets.

We found your Godson very well, and with two teeth. He is splendidly healthy, thank God, and happy. I have been looking for a letter from you for long past—and hope to hear in it that everything is well with you and Robert. Elisina sends you her love and will write directly. While we are away we are sending Nounou“Nanny.” and William to Julie’sJulie Mendiboure, William Royall Tyler’s nanny. house at Biarritz, because with her we are absolutely secure. Please let me know as early as possible when you are coming to Europe, and your probable plans. At the rate we are working now we ought to have a little time to spare by then.

Yours sincerely

Royall Tyler.