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Royall Tyler to Robert Woods Bliss, February 28, 1938

Finance Ministry


28th February 1938.

Dear Robert,

The silver objectsBZ.1938.31, BZ.1938.32, and BZ.1938.33–34. from BustrosElias (Elie) Bustros, an antiquities dealer in Beirut, Lebanon. were sent off from here two or three days ago. I was able to insure them, through a Lloyd’s agent here, for £50, payable in sterling outside Hungary.

The little lot of jewelsBZ.1938.27, BZ.1938.28, BZ.1938.29, and BZ.1938.30. has just arrived. I think you will be pleased with them. The two medallionsBZ.1938.28 and BZ.1938.29. seem to me to be of the XIIe century.They are both in glass paste. They are both of good quality, but what makes them particularly interesting, and indeed as far as I can remember unprecedented are their settings. The one of St. Demetrius /half figure/ has, as you will see, a very elaborate and very attractive setting, perfectly preserved in every respect. The other one has no chain attached to it, but the granulation on the back and the sides is of the most delicious and delicate taste.

The Eucharistic dove,BZ.1938.27. in agate on a little gold column and surmounted by a little gold cross, is I think unique. I don’t know what date to ascribe it to; I suppose it might be as late as the XIIe century, but I should not be surprised if it were a bit earlier. The plastic quality of the dove is marvelous, as is also the advantage the artist has taken of the colour of the strata of the agate to represent the plumage of the bird.

The little alabaster boxBZ.1938.30. is not an object of great beauty, but it is intact and I have never seen anything quite like it before.

All in all, I think this little lot a valuable accession for the Oaks.

I will send it off from here, insuring it through Lloyd’s for £220.

I have to-day had the enclosed letterThe whereabouts of this letter are not known. from Bustros. I don’t suppose you would want the cylinder,This cylinder has not been identified. or perhaps the buckles,These buckles have not been identified. through these may be more interesting than one can see from the very bad photograph. The necklaceThis necklace has not been identified. which he says was found at Palmyra looks rather attractive, as far as one can judge from the rotten photograph. If you want it you might cable me, referring to it as “Palmyra necklace” and giving me a price in Dollars. The figure Bustros asks is perhaps a bit high. The object looks to me as if it were not later than the IVe century, and indeed might be of the IIIe.* [in longhand:] *Probably of the IIIe, if from Palmyra, as that city was destroyed in the III?

The MadonnaBZ.1938.62. referred to in Volbach’s letter which I sent to you a couple of days ago is of course the Prince L.Prince Friedrich Leopold of Prussia. Madonna, of which you have already had a photograph. I have just heard from Fiedler that he hopes to have it in his possession by the middle of March. In that case, I might stop at Milan, when I leave here towards March 20th or 22nd, and see it. They are naturally asking a big price for it, and I am afraid that it will be necessary, if you want it, to pay heavily for it. However, one might be able to get it for less than the amount mentioned in Volbach’s letter.

If you wish me to make an offer for it, you might perhaps cable me a figure to reach me not later than March 20th. One does not want to be over hasty about it. On the other hand, once it is in Fiedler’s hands, there is a risk of its going somewhere else. It is an object of extreme rarity; indeed I think it is safe to say that it is the only intact sculpture of this class existing to-day outside of San Marco and the Kaiser Friedrich Museum, and it is much more attractive than any of those.

Fiedler says that the negociations of which the Gotha diptych leafSee letters of April 8, 1937; April 8, 1937; April 9, 1937; April 9, 1937; April 16, 1937; April 16, 1937; May 22, 1937; June 3, 1937; June 16, 1937; June 26, 1937; July 6, 1937; July 25, 1937; August 21, 1937; September 4, 1937; October 25, 1937; November 23, 1937; December 13, 1937; March 31, 1938; July 10, 1938; July 29, 1938; August 10, 1938; August 16, 1938; December 20, 1938; and January 3, 1939. depends have not yet been terminated, but that they probably will be soon. In Dresden, the change in the management which will have to take place before anything can be done has not yet happened, but Fiedler expects that it will soon.

I am paying Bustros at once for the little lot of jewels received to-day.

With love to you both


R. T.