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Royall Tyler to Mildred Barnes Bliss, March 27, 1931

29, rue d’Astorg
F Anjou 16–88

Dearest Mildred—Enclosed are photographs of the lioness’ head I boughtSee letter of February 3, 1931. for you from May Norris,May Norris (d. 1938), an American interior designer and friend of Edith Wharton. She owned the Château de Gourdon, near the French Riviera, between 1918 and 1938, which she opened to her American and British friends. See Allyson Hayward, Norah Lindsay: The Life and Art of a Garden Designer (London: Frances Lincoln, 2007), 200 and 270. and of the Suermondt Mus. ivory.Adolph Goldschmidt and Kurt Weitzmann, Die byzantinischen Elfenbeinskulpturen des X.–XIII. Jahrhunderts (Berlin: Bruno Cassirer, 1934), 2:80–81, fig. 228. See also letter of March 17, 1931. The bone head is superb; the only thing I know like it is the bigger stone headHead of Bodhisattva, black marble, Chinese, Norther Qi Dynasty, third quarter of the sixth century. See Collection Jacques Doucet: Céramiques d’Extrême-Orient, bronzes, sculptures, peintures chinoises et japonaises, laques du Japon, faïences de la Perse, de la Transcaspie et de la Mésopotamie, miniatures persanes, vente du vendredi 28 novembre 1930 (Paris: Impr. Lahure, 1930), 11, no. 21, pl. 5. This Head of a Bodhisattva was acquired by the Musée Cernuschi, Paris, in 1988, inv. no. M.C. 9801. from the Doucet Coll.,Jacques Doucet (1853–1929), a French fashion designer and collector. See Collection Jacques Doucet: Céramiques d’Extrême-Orient, bronzes, sculptures, peintures chinoises et japonaises, laques du Japon, faïences de la Perse, de la Transcaspie et de la Mésopotamie, miniatures persanes, vente du vendredi 28 novembre 1930 (Paris: Impr. Lahure, 1930). now in the Louvre; and I really think the bone one, as sculpture, is the finer.

Great excitements here over the Byz. Show. My intervention via the Brit. F.O.“British Foreign Office.” was successful; Eric was overruled and we are being lent most of what we want from the V. and A.For the issue of compelling the Victoria and Albert Museum to lend to the Byzantine Exhibition of 1931, see letters of October 4, 1930; January 6, 1931 [2]; February 3, 1931; and March 7, 1931 [1]. Eric took it very hard at first, but is calming down. Don’t mention this to anyone, please, except Robert.

AlbaDon Jacobo Fitz-James Stuart y Falcó, 17th Duke of Alba (1876–1953). has got us what we want from Spain; Germany is very generous, Italy also (though there I’m not quite sure we may not have some trouble), Russia hasn’t yet said yes or no, but I think will march. It’s going to be a glorious show. Please, if you haven’t already done so, send me the $1000 you are so kindly advancing us. I have advanced this sum to the caisse“Financial office.” of the Arts Décoratifs. I trust the show will be well enough attended for gate money to amount to enough to refund our supporters, in part at any rate.

The Musée des Tissus, Lyon, is marching, and I’m going there next week to choose the things they are to send,There are twenty-one textile entries from this museum in the catalogue. See Exposition internationale d’art byzantin, 28 mai–9 juillet 1931 (Paris: Musée des arts décoratifs, 1931), 98–114, nos. 230, 231, 236–245, 250, 263–265, 269, 288, 308, 315, and 332. and also to assist at two Pontifical Masses at the PrimatialeLyon Cathedral is known as the “Primatiale” because in 1079 the pope granted the archbishop of Lyon the title of Primate of All the Gauls with legal supremacy over the principal archbishops of the kingdom. one on Thursday in Holy Week, and one on Easter Day.For Royall Tyler’s interest in Roman Catholicism, see The Early Letters (1902–1908): An Introduction. Easter night, John HughArnold John Hugh Smith (1881–1964), an American expatriate banker, art collector, Francophile, and friend of Henry James and Edith Wharton. He was the director of Hambros Bank in London. and I start for Berlin, Warsaw, Bucharest, etc.

My heart feels like lead every time I remember—and I often remember—that you won’t see the Byz. Show.

You’ve perhaps heard that Walter Gay fell desperately ill of broncho-pneumonia in London, where he and MathildaMatilda Gay (née Travers) (1856–1943). had gone to see the Persian Show,International Exhibition of Persian Art, Royal Academy of Arts, Burlington House, London, January 7–February 28, 1931. See Persian Art: An Illustrated Souvenir of the Exhibition of Persian Art at Burlington House, London, 1931 (London: Hudson and Kearns, 1931), and that his life was in danger for 3 days? I hear from Mrs. Gay this morning that he’s now making a satisfactory though slow convalescence.

The enclosed from Bill may amuse you. How delighted poor Lyulph HowardLyulph Howard was killed in action in 1915 during the First World War. would have been with his Godson!

Business here is lamentable. On the Bourse they say ‘Si ça continue un peu plus, on fera visiter le monument.’“If this continues a little longer, we will open the monument up (to the public).”

A recent Jew story from Berlin. Der Izzi geht auf der Strasse spatzieren; vom Knopfenboch seines Rockes hängt eine Nummer 1 aus Carton. Ihm begnegnet sein Freund und sagt ‘Du Izzi, du hast deine Garderobenummer noch immer im Knopfenboch.’

‘Nein’ sagt Izzi ‘das ist keine Garderobenummer. Ich habe in der Zeitung gelesen, die Nazis warden jeder zweiten Jud erschlagen.’“Izzi goes for a stroll in the street. From the button-hole of his coat hangs a cardboard number 1. His friend meets him and says ‘Hey Izzi. You still have your checkroom number in your button-hole.’ ‘No,’ says Izzi ‘that’s no checkroom number. I read in the papers that the Nazis are going to kill every second Jew.’”

And one from Budapest:

Der Samu stirbt; das was ein sehr braver Jud gewesen, und als der Sankt Peter um Erlaubnis bittet, in den Himmel einzutreten, sagt Sankt Peter, er wäre schon einverstanden, aber leider ist die Judenabteilung momentan ganz voll; kein einziger Platz frei. ‘Du kanst hineinschauen, Samu, du wirst sehen, dass alles besetzt is.’

Der Samu schaut hinein und schreit, so laut er kann ‘Neben Tarnow hat man Petroleum entdeckt!’

Da laufen sämtliche Juden hinaus.

Sankt Peter lacht, und sagt dem Samu, ‘Nun, das war gelungen; jetzt kanst du eintreten.’

Aber, zu seinem Erstaunen, läuft schon der Samu den anderen Juden nach, und ruft Sankt Peter zu: ‘Vielleicht, doch!’“Samu dies; he was a very brave Jew, and when he asks Saint Peter for permission to enter heaven, Saint Peter says he would have agreed but unfortunately the Jewish section is completely full; not a single free place. ‘You can look in, Samu, you’ll see that all is filled.’ Samu looks in and yells as loud as he can, ‘Petroleum has been discovered near Tarnow.’ Then all of the Jews run out. Saint Peter laughs and says to Samu, ‘Well, that was successful, now you can enter.’ But to his surprise, Samu runs after the other Jews. And Saint Peter calls out, ‘Maybe!’”

This seems to me one of the profoundest stories I’ve ever heard.

With much love, dearest Mildred.

R. T.

Associated Things: Byzantine Exhibition of 1931
Associated Artworks: BZ.1931.3