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Royall Tyler to Robert Woods Bliss, January 28, 1939

28.I.39 Geneva.

Dear Robert.

I’ve just had your letter of Dec. 7–Jan. 14th. Very many thanks for telling me the D-L story. I think I see roughly what happened. In any case, what I do see is that you and Mildred put your shoulders to the wheel and worked like Turks to save the poor devil, just at the critical moment, and I’m deeply grateful by the way you did it, for I think my own interest in him had some influence with you. I’m sure he is first-rate, and that he’ll do us all credit & be a satisfaction to us. If I’m not altogether mistaken, he is a white-man through & through, in every way. He’s one of the very few fortunate happenings (his getting over to the US & to such a berth) of these last months one’s mind can turn to. Another is what you tell me of Forbes’ & Sachs’ appreciation of Bill, and Bill’s delight in his work at the Fogg. I’ve just this minute had a card from Doro & Bill of the 20th from Washington.

Well, let me get one rotten bit of news off my chest—to my intense disappointment, BenakiAntonis Benakis (1873–1954), a Greek collector and founder of the Benaki Museum. has bought the Gabriel ivory.Wing of a triptych with the Archangel Gabriel and the bust of Saint Paul, tenth century, ivory, Benaki Museum, Athens, inv. no. 10399. The ivory was donated to the Benaki Museum in 1939 by Stephanos and Penelope Delta. Reportedly, it was acquired from someone named Tozakoglu. See Heaven and Earth: Art of Byzantium from Greek Collections (Athens: Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports and the Benaki Museum, 2013), 158–59, no. 76. I’ve got to send it back to him. Very bitter—but of course he had first call on it.

Just one little point: BernakiAntonis Benakis (1873–1954), a Greek collector and founder of the Benaki Museum. offers to pay insurance etc on it, as indeed he ought to, as he’d sent it to me for expertise. But it occurs to me that it might be wise to make a noble gesture and not ask for refund of the sum (about £3.0.0), in order further to put Bernaki in our debt (of course I’m asking nothing for the expertise). MakridyTheodore Makridy (Macridy) (1872–1940), a Turkish archaeologist and curator who was the founding director of the Benaki Museum in Athens (1931–1940); he was the former keeper (1872–1931) of the Greek and Byzantine department and the assistant director (1925–1930) of the Istanbul Archaeological Museum. frequently gets first crack at things from Greece & the Levant, and it might easily happen that he’d give us first chance if it were a matter of an important object. I gather Bernaki’s fortune isn’t what it was. I’ll not ask for refund until you tell me to. My reasons are purely Machiavellian, as you’ll appreciate.

I’m delighted you’re so pleased with the Khawam large necklace.BZ.1938.69. Yes, it’s a stunning object, & no error. I note you’ll need no more cases.

About LandauNicolas Landau (1887–1979), an antiquities dealer known as “Le prince des antiquaires.” Born in Varsovia, he studied law in Paris before becoming an antiquities dealer in New York and then in Paris, where he had a business on the rue de Duras.—I’ll try to go to Paris soon & see him. But I suggest that, if you haven’t done so already, you might on receipt of this offer him say 8.For BZ.1939.8. I think you might emphasize, when doing so, that some people in whose judgment you have confidence don’t think the thing is what Landau claims it is. You’ll have had my cable of the 16th inst. suggesting letting him stew a bit. Perhaps you may have written him again before you get this. I feel strongly you ought to have that ivory—all the more so because of the divergent opinions about it.

I’ve also heard from Juritzky to the same effect as you have. Those fibulaeSee Katalog der Sammlungen Ludwig Marx-Mainz, Albert Sieck-München (Munich: Weizinger, 1918), 55, nos. 893 and 894. See letter of December 18, 1938. are of course desirable from the German point of view, as being “Germanic”, and Juritzky thinks he can get for them, in Germany, a RM price with which he can buy, in Germany, non-Germanic things for which he can get more outside than he could for the fibulae. We’ll see. I’ll try & get a Marx-Sieck catalogue,Katalog der Sammlungen Ludwig Marx-Mainz, Albert Sieck-München (Munich: Weizinger, 1918). but doubt if I succeed. It isn’t very valuable from the point of view of the fibulae—just a poor rep. of them & a brief description. I saw the Castel Trosino findCastel Trosino, a village near the Italian town of Ascoli Piceno. A large Lombard necropolis was discovered at the village in 1893. Objects excavated there are now exhibited in the Museo nazionale dell’Alto Medioevo, Rome, opened in 1967. again the other day in Rome, and was confirmed in my belief that Juritzky’s come from that find—they are better than any of those remaining in Rome. The find is roughly dated by several coins of Phocas († 610). I’m not keen on the little chalcedony cameo.This chalcedony cameo has not been identified. It’s rare, & good—but a bit dull, to me.

I don’t think there’s anything more to say about Kühnel’s [sic]Otto Kümmel (1874–1952), a German art historian and director of the Berlin State Museums between 1934 and 1945. Royall Tyler mistakenly believed that this person was named Kühnel. Ernst Kühnel (1882–1964) was a curator of the Islamic collection of the State Museum (Kaiser Friedrich Museum) in Berlin. saucy initiative. If you feel like answering him, and even giving F’s name, it’s all right by F—though naturally he’d prefer not to be mentioned, unless you feel impelled to name him. I’ll write to him at once (Later: I’ve written to F.) & ask him to send you receipts for the two sums.For BZ.1937.23 and BZ.1938.62. I have his acknowledgements, but of course you should have the receipts.

I have destroyed the enclosures in your letter, and will of course keep mum about them. Just for your own entertainment, I hear than BB, as soon as he heard (not from AnnaAnna Cosadino (Kosadinou) Levi (1895–1981), wife of the art historian and archaeologist Teodoro (“Doro”) Davide Levi (1899–1991). She was born in the Greek section of Istanbul and married Levi in 1928. See Giovanna Bandini, Lettere dall’egeo: Archeologhe italiane tra 1900 e 1950 (Florence: Giunti, 2003), 92n29 and 122n3.) that Doro had been taken on at Princeton, started intimating that he, BB, had arranged it all. Incidentally, I don’t think BB is in the slightest danger. The measure affecting foreign Jews is explicitly limited to those not over 65 years of age.

Well—I wonder what the next weeks will bring? The two burglarsAdolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini. need a new succès de prestige,“Critical success.” and they’ll attempt hold-ups, beyond a doubt. And they may get something. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Gt. B.Great Britain. & France make them a colonial offer mainly at the expense of Belgium & Portugal. But the temper of the French, & of increasing numbers of British, is getting more bitter, and the possibilities of a rumpus are larger than they were last summer. Stories of economic difficulties, both in Germany & Italy, come thick & fast to confirm the evidence of such actual facts as one can ascertain, which though they show (in Germ., not It.) a huge & increasing industrial production, also show increasing difficulties in getting some indispensable raw materials, a huge & rising trade deficit, and ever-increasing demands on labor, which sees its standard of living going down & down. There have been some bad cases of sabotage on the German railways. FritzRoyall Tyler’s slang for “Germans.” is so easy to govern that I can’t picture his staging a revolt, but things are certainly getting on towards an end-war state, where living is concerned. This may restrain Adolf.Adolf Hitler (1889–1945), a German politician and the leader of the Nazi Party. He was chancellor of Germany from 1933 to 1945 and dictator of Nazi Germany from 1934 to 1945. But it may, on the contrary, make him risk all on one throw. The firing of SchachtHjalmar Schacht (1877–1970), a German economist, banker, politician, and cofounder in 1918 of the German Democratic Party. Schacht became a supporter of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party, and he served in Hitler's government as president of the Reichsbank and minister of economics. But he opposed the policy of re-armament and was forced out of the Third Reich government beginning in December 1937. and the reinstatement of the S.A.The S.A. (Sturmabteilung; Storm Detachment or Assault Division), also known as Brownshirts, functioned as the paramilitary wing of the Nazi Party. Although Hitler disempowered the S.A. in 1934, the S.A. were used for “demonstrations” against Jews in 1938, after the murder of the German diplomat Ernst vom Rath by Herschel Grynszpan, a Polish Jew. are not signs that appear to point to counsels of moderation prevailing.

Supposing there were to be a colony-deal acceptable to the burglars, I don’t see it really putting an end to the tension, for I don’t think any amount of colonies would enable Germany to reverse the economic trend suitably enough to turn her into a peaceful citizen. I’m afraid the alternatives are: either war, or a continuation of the armaments race and cut-throat economic warfare, with resulting impoverishment to all the chief actors. It’s very striking to me that the only countries doing well at present are those which, like the Scandinavian lands, have kept to a great extent out of big politics and armaments.

Much love to you both—and remember I’m always thirsting for news of you.


R. T.

Associated Artworks: BZ.1937.23; BZ.1938.62; BZ.1938.69; BZ.1939.8