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Royall Tyler to Robert Woods Bliss, April 29, 1937 [2]


Dear Robert.

On arrival here on the 26th I found a letter from V. begging me to urge you to make some sort of offer for the Emp. Relief,BZ.1937.23. on the ground that otherwise the Prince, who appears to be flighty, might try some dealers. I therefore cabled you.

Shortly afterwards I got a wire from V., saying that Fiedler, the man in touch with the Prince, who lives at Lugano, was coming over here to see me, and yesterday Fiedler turned up. I’d never seen him before.

He is an old retired Berlin private banker about 70, who has lived at Lugano for 7 years. Not a Jew, I think. He has known V. & V’s fatherFriedrich “Fritz” Volbach (1861–1940), a professor and orchestra conductor. for many years. He also knows the princely family. He made a favourable impression on me, as to honesty. I should guess that he’d like to make a bit of money, & to do a bit of business. He doesn’t seem to be hard up—he motored over here from Lugano. He says he is in touch with Göring’sHermann Wilhelm Göring (1893–1946), a German politician, military leader, and leading member of the Nazi Party (NSDAP). aid (not the Hessen one) who handles such matters, & se fait fort“It’s guaranteed.” to get results.

He explained that V. had approached him to get into touch with the Prince, & get to the Prince’s objects. He had had some difficulty in finding out where they were, but had finally succeeded. Prince very apprehensive, for fear of confiscation in Germany. The Prince needs money, & will sell if a good offer is made, the sum of course payable outside Germany. Fiedler, who isn’t at all a dealer, & has only an average cultivated person’s idea on art, says the Prince has wonderful small Byz. objects, including enamels.E.g., an enamel pendant, gold and enamel, Constantinople or Russia, third quarter of the eleventh century. See Gerd-H. Zuchold, Der “Klosterhof” des Prinzen Karl von Preussen im Park von Schloss Glienicke in Berlin (Berlin: Gebr. Mann Verlag, 1993), 2:107–09, no. 82, color pl. I. “Much might be done, after our initial affair has been concluded, thus proving to the Prince that it was a serious customer.”

Now, this story fits in well with what little I know. I’ve heard of the Prince’s Byz. things for years past. When organizing the Byz. Show in ‘31 I went to Berlin & asked V. to try to get the Prince to lend some of his things, but V. was unable ever to get to see them. Since then, the Prince seems to have become more cagey, & he’s now terrified of the things attracting attention, & of being unable to get them out of the country.

The things are good. They were bought by the Prince’s grandfatherPrince Friedrich Karl of Prussia (1828–1885). or great gf.,Prince Karl of Prussia (1801–1883). a brother of King Friedrich Wilhelm III of Prussia;Royall Tyler is mistaken in citing this lineage. King Friedrich Wilhelm III of Prussia (1770–1840) was the father of Prince Karl of Prussia (1801–1883). King Wilhelm IV (1795–1861) was the brother of Prince Karl. See also Robert S. Nelson, Hagia Sophia, 1850–1950: Holy Wisdom Modern Monument (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2004), 37–39, 42–43. the two brothers bought together in Italy, and the Venetian-Byz. & Ravenna things in the Kaiser Friedrich Mus. were thus acquired; the things now belong to the Prince never went to the Mus., but stayed in the Prince’s Potsdam villa.Schloss Glienicke in Berlin-Potsdam.

As to the value of the Emp. Roundel,BZ.1937.23. there’s only one other thing like it, that I know of, & that’s its companion piece,Roundel with Emperor Alexios I (?), Byzantine (?), twelfth century, marble, immured in the Campiello de Ca’ Angaran, Venice. See Matteo Bezzi, Iconologia della sacralità del potere: Il tondo di Angaran e l’etimasia (Spoleto: Fondazione Centro Italiano di Studi sull’Alto Medioevo, 2007). the celebrated relief (reproduced in SchlumbergerGustave Schlumberger, Bas-relief du campo Angaran à Venise, représentant un empereur byzantin du Xe siècle (Leipzig: B. G. Teubner, 1893).) in the wall of a house in Campiello Angaran, near the Ch. of S. Pantolon in Venice—now archi-classé monument historique.“Classified historic monument.” I think V’s 120 much too high, but I wonder whether there’d be any hope of getting it for under 50, I’d suggest you make a lower offer (assuming you are interested) just to enable Fiedler to start working on the Prince. Otherwise, there’s perhaps some reality to F’s fear that the Prince may go to a dealer & that is highly undesirable. So please be extremely cautious as to whom you speak to about it, so that nothing leeks out to the dealers.

I explained to F. that V. had not sent you the photos (as V had told me he had done) & he of course understood you couldn’t possibly make an offer without having seen them. I also told him that if he could get GothaSee letters of April 8, 1937 [2]; April 9, 1937 [1]; April 9, 1937 [2]; April 16, 1937 [1]; April 16, 1937 [2]; 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 [1]; November 23, 1937; December 13, 1937 [3]; February 28, 1938; March 31, 1938; July 10, 1938; July 29, 1938; August 10, 1938; August 16, 1938 [2]; December 20, 1938; and January 3, 1939. for you, at a reasonable price, it would give you confidence and might whet your appetite for bigger bites. He said he’d try.

Of course I shall bide my soul in patience till you’ve made up your mind. I thought these indications might give you a bit of useful background.

Bill has just arrived here, & we’re going to spend the week-end together before I go back to Pest.

Much love

R. T.

Associated Artworks: BZ.1937.23