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Royall Tyler to Mildred Barnes Bliss, June 26, 1928

Pavillon Colombe
St. Brice-sous-Fôret (S&O)
Gare: Sarcelles

I have just seen Sanguszko’sRoman Władysław Sanguszko (1901–1984), a Polish landowner, horse breeder, industrialist, and philanthropist. His relative, Prince Paweł Sanguszko-Lubartowicz (1682–1752), a count and grand marshal of Lithuania, reportedly was a general in the army of John Sobieski at the siege of Vienna in 1683. Prince Sanguszko’s chief residence at Slavuta (now in the Ukraine) housed his famous collection of Persian carpets. carpet, dearest Mildred, and I was knocked breathless by it. It is the most beautiful carpet in the world, or at any rate the most beautiful I’ve seen. Sanguszko promises me a photo. in a week or two, and as soon as I get it I’ll forward it to you. In the meantime make what you can of these indications:

dimensions: 5.90 m x 3.10 m
knotted in wool on silk warp, (no metal threads) 49 knots to 1 square centimeter.
decoration: centre panel surrounded by broad border.
, ground dark blue, in middle a big lobed medallion, red ground with big gold-yellow (goldenrod, almost, virgin gold) scrolls, and, at the four corners, lobed
gold-yellow spandrel fillings.
, red ground, scrolls composed of dragons and birds of paradise.

So much for the general scheme of colour, which is powerful, rich, delicate, tender, violent, anything you like. Sends one clean off one’s head. The most beautiful, intoxicating thing ever seen, not in carpets only, but überhaupt.“Overall.”

But this isn’t all. The worst is yet to come. The blue ground of the central panel is enriched by light sprigs and scrolls, surrounding smaller medallions with musicians playing instruments, and angels in conversation. In the spandrel fillings there are hunting scenes, men on horseback pursuing antelopes or slashing at lions with sabres, or lassooing [sic] deer. In the big central medallion, more angels, of supreme grace and presence. In the broad border, numerous scenes, enclosed in the sort of rinceaux formed by dragons and birds of paradise. There are beasts fighting, tigers tearing and rending deer, and more angels comforting animals (qui un chevreau, qui un paon)“Here a kid, there a peacock.” which have taken refuge from the slaughter, like S. Eustace and the stag.Saint Eustace, a Christian martyr who lived in the second century CE. Prior to his conversion to Christianity, Eustace was a Roman general named Placidus and served the emperor Trajan. While hunting a stag, Placidus saw a vision of Jesus between the stag's antlers. He was immediately converted, had himself and his family baptized, and changed his name to Eustace. Also peacocks. Also little dark-blue mountain-goats.

All of consummate accomplishment in drawing, and endless richness and variety of colour, several different blues and reds, gold yellow, peach-bloom, apricot, several greens, pistachio, sage, cypress trees, tête-de nègre. The carpet has been torn in a few places, and coarsely stitched together, but there is no restoration, and it is very little worn. The pile is very deep and the colour very fresh.

Sanguszko says it was taken from the Turk by an ancestor of his at the battle of CHOCIM (pron. HOCHIM) in 1610.The Battle of Khotyn (Chocim) occurred between September 2 and October 9, 1621, and was fought between the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth army and an army of the Turkish Ottoman Empire. Royall Tyler’s reference differs from his earlier reference of April 29, 1928, where he states that the carpet was taken at the Siege of Vienna in 1683.

As IsbirianThe Parisian dealer Isbirian has not been identified. In the letter of November 3, 1928, his address is given as 31, rue Saint-Lazare, Paris, and his telephone number as Trudaine 71.01. had succeeded in telling me first about this carpet, it would in any case have been impossible to prevent him from telling Sanguszko that I was his client, and so I didn’t attempt to approach Sanguszko by any other avenue.

Sanguszko is a young man, a little like Ogden MillsOgden Livingston Mills (1884–1937), an American businessman and politician who served as an undersecretary of the Treasury in the Coolidge administration between 1927 and 1932. He also bred and raced horses and won the 1928 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, the most prestigious thoroughbred horse race in France. when he was 25, and I expect for the same reasons. I suspect him of being intelligent. I presented myself, not as a prospective buyer, which would only have roused his suspicions, as he’d easily have found out it couldn’t be true, but as a lover of carpets. When I asked for the photograph, I told him I wanted to send it to Robert, who also loved carpets. Nothing was said about price.

I think this is the only way to proceed. If I had been mysterious, Sanguszko would only have concluded that I was out for a commission. As it is, if the object arouses in you the frantic desire to possess it which it would in me, mutatis mutandis, and you take steps, you’ll have the advantage that Sanguszko will know that what is offered by you hasn’t already been diminished by the commissions of the half-dozen intermediaries who usually get a rake-off in such transactions. He’ll only have Isbirian to settle.

I fear Edith has found me absent in manner since I saw this vision. I can’t think of anything but the carpet.

By the way, Sanguszko is coming to Budapest about mid-July, and asked if he might look me up. We’ll see.

I spent ten days at Antigny after a weary session at Geneva, and then came straight here to spend the week end with Edith before going to Paris. I shall leave again for Bpest about July 1st, and stay 5 weeks or so in Hungary. Then a month or 5 weeks between Antigny and Geneva, and then Bpest again, and perhaps further afield. I’ll let you know when plans develop.

Bill was chosen to shoot for Harrow for the Aylesbury cup at Bisley,Bisley is a village in Surry, England, known for rifle shooting since 1890, when the village became the location for the National Rifle Association Championships in the United Kingdom. and won that trophy against the champions of all the public-schools of England.By winning one of the chief events, William Royall Tyler and nine others were invited to attend a rifle-shooting meet at Ottawa in August 1928. For more on these interchanges, see letter of July 30, 1928 [2]. Great emotion.

I’ll write again when I’ve been round Paris and seen what there is. But I’ll see nothing worthy to stand anywhere near that carpet, I know that much.

I’ve never seen a work of art that moved me so much, or that would make such a companion. Talk about pictures? I’d rather have it than any ten pictures I could name. All nature and all the solar-spectrum are in it, and all the Persian vision of the world.

Those two carpets at the Poldi Pezzoli Museum at MilanDated hunting carpet (1542–1543) in the Poldi Pezzoli Museum, Milan, inv. d.t. 1. See Jon Thompson and Sheila R. Canby, Hunt for Paradise: Court Arts of Safavid Iran, 1501–1576 (Milan: Skira, 2003), 296, no. 12.19. The identity of the second carpet at the Poldi Pezzoli Museum is unclear. It may be a central Persian carpet, dated to the second half of the sixteenth century, inv. 424. are marvels, but—. Neither in colour, nor in drawing, nor in general design, are they anywhere near.

By the way, the great carpet from the Austr. Imperial collection, the duplicate, torn and discoloured, of the best carpet remaining in Vienna, is going to be sold at Christies in a fortnight or so.In 1925, the Glasgow rug dealer Victor Isaac Behar, the founder of the firm Cardinal and Behar, London and Persia, acquired from the Vienna Museum für Kunst und Industrie a Persian carpet formerly owned by the Russian czar Peter the Great. See “Art: Rug,” Time, October 11, 1926. The carpet was in the Austrian Imperial House, Vienna, between 1698 and 1921 and the Vienna Museum für Kunst und Industrie between 1921 and 1925. It remained in the inventory of Cardinal and Behar until July 5, 1928, when it was sold at auction by Christie, Manson & Wood, London, to the International Art Galleries of New York for the then record price of $112,500. See “$112,500, Record Price, is Paid for a Rug; Famous Emperors’ Carpet Acquired at London Auction by New York Concern,” New York Times, July 6, 1928. The carpet was sold in 1928 to Arthur Upham Pope on behalf of Edith Rockefeller McCormick (1872–1932) of Chicago. The carpet remained in her estate until 1943, when it was again sold to Arthur Upham Pope on behalf of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, inv. no. 43,121.1. The carpet is Persian, second half of the sixteenth century. It is woven with an asymmetrically knotted pile on a silk warp and weft and measures 759.5 cm x 339.1 cm. See letters of April 29, 1928; July 30, 1928 [2]; and November 3, 1928. It has beasts on it, but no human figures. It is perhaps the finest carpet that has ever been sold, but muck beside Sanguszkos. The Vienna Museum got, I think, about £10,000 for it. Behar had it in N.Y. for a long time, and tried to sell it for the proverbial million dollars, without success. The fact that he is now bringing it to Christies is most suggestive. One conjures up the things they doubtless tried to do to him in N.Y. I’ll let you know what it brings at Christies. It is expected to fetch £25,000, perhaps even more.

Much love to you both,

Yrs ever
R. T.

(broken with that carpet)