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Stendahl Art Galleries Records: Guillermo Echániz Correspondence

Letter 2: November 2, 1940

Getty Research Institute (2017.M.38) Box 11, Folder 9

Getty Research Institute (2017.M.38) Box 11, Folder 9


Los Angeles

Nov. 2,1940

Dear Bill:

I have written air mail to New York to return the urns[1] immediately. It is just too damn bad that my New York agent got in a jam[2] and we will have to take care of him as he is very active and a very fine gentleman and has a reputation of being very honest.

The bank will have to return the note for two weeks, so get in touch with Hale[3] and tell him the sad news. I have demanded from my New York agent the money he owes me, which would cover the first note, and which he refused payment on Oct 15th.[4] Arensberg[5] hasn't been in yet but ‘phoned that he would be down shortly. When he sees the things he is going to have a hemorrhage. He still owes me enough money to cover the second note in spite of the fact that I had to discount his account $800. to bring him back into the fold. I thought this would be the best thing to do and it worked.

I am taking colored kodachromes[6] of every piece and sending them to the different museums, and in this way we will pick up quite a lot of business in the coming year. You would be surprised how beautiful they look in these kodachromes when they are thrown up on the screen. I have given many lectures showing the kodachromes during the talk and we are working up a tremendous amount of interest. This has also brought in people who are going to be potential collectors.

Please send the jade pieces as soon as you can. I will take colored kodachromes of them with my portrait camera and shoot them around to the different collectors throughout the country. I think in this way we can sift out the collectors who can afford to pay for small things. I want to try to get enough ready cash together so that I can come down in January or the last of Dec. We have some pretty tall work to do there. If Willkie is elected, business will be 100% better.[7] I hope your political situation down there will be settled.[8] It is surprising to see how the Willkie stock has risen. It seems to be more or less of a crusade and I think the betting is about even now.

I would suggest sending up the things that you have as I need more for the room. The garden pieces[9] I will sell out quickly as they don’t look quite so good among the finer things. As you say, we have to establish ourselves to be absolutely on the square on the authenticity of our pieces, even if it hurts at times, and of course, I am leaving most of this to you as you should know and should not allow a thing to come up that there is the slightest question of doubt. I have great faith in you and don’t want to be disillusioned. I haven’t opened up my room to the public and doubt whether I will, but I will soon get the ball rolling and start operations in full.

The new lot looks marvelous. You ask what kind of material I would like now. They seem to like the animals in stone and the snake. Also, if you can get ahold of any palms[10] it would be swell. By all means, try to get the piece from Tampico. It looks very good. I received the book but I can’t read Spanish, I just have to look at the reproduction.

I am going to send you a photograph of the frescoe with its ten million pieces.[11] H

I will ever get it together, God only knows. When you see the photograph you wi

Bill Echaniz – continued – Page 2

see what I am up against. It is driving me nuts, as some of the pieces are broken into such small bits that I will never be able to get them together. As I said before, the best way to pack these things is in sawdust. If we had skinned the frescoe down to one inch of the plaster and put it in plaster of paris, as you did that one box, it would have been much better. I could have completed the skinning here and had the pieces in order. Your suggestion on that was the best and I am sorry now that we didn’t act upon it. Well, experience teaches us a lot.

With kindest regards.



1. The allegedly fake Zapotec urns (also addressed in the letters dated October 22, 1940November 11, 1940, and November 13, 1940 included in this Research Guide) caused a serious but surmountable conflict at what appears to be an early stage in the professional relationship between Stendahl and Echániz. April Dammann recounts this story in Exhibitionist: Earl Stendahl, Art Dealer as Impresario (Santa Monica: Angel City Press, 2011), 133–134. 

2. Karl Nierendorf (1889–1947) was a leading modern art dealer based during this era in New York City (see his Biographical Notes).

3. Salomón Hale (1897–1964) was a Polish-born merchant and important collector based in Mexico City (see his Biographical Notes). It is not clear from these letters why Stendahl owed Hale money.

4. The references to a “note” or “notes” in this and other letters concern promissory notes that served as paper documents of monetary loans with set deadlines for repayment. Many copies of these promissory notes are preserved in the Stendahl Art Galleries Records.

5. Walter Arensberg (1878–1954) was a prominent collector and patron of the arts whose Hollywood Hills estate served as a gallery and art and literary salon (see his Biographical Notes). In this paragraph, Stendahl is referring to Arensberg visiting the Stendahl Gallery on Wilshire Blvd.

6. Kodachrome was an Eastman Kodak color film first introduced in 1935.

7. Wendell Willkie (1892–1944) was a corporate utilities attorney and the presidential candidate for the Republican Party in 1940 (see his Biographical Notes). Willkie believed that the nation’s expanding electrical grid should be developed by private utilities, not the federal government, which is one reason he was considered a pro-business candidate. This likely explains Stendahl’s comment here, as well as the fact that California was a solidly Republican state at the time.

8. General Lázaro Cárdenas (1895–1979) ended his term as President of Mexico in November 1940. His successor, General Manuel Ávila Camacho, whom Cárdenas supported throughout a bitter and violent election season, would scale back some of Cárdenas’s social and economic reforms.  

9. “Garden objects” or “garden pieces” is a term that Echániz and Stendahl used to refer to a class of objects that were generally made of stone with rough surfaces, which both dealers later kept in the gardens of their respective gallery-homes (see their Biographical Notes). The term appears in their letters and Stendahl’s stock books.

10. The word “palms” refers to the object type “palma.” Palmas are stone objects from Veracruz that are associated with the Mesoamerican ballgame.

11. The “frescoes” discussed in this selection of letters include at least two from the Tetitla compound and one from the Atetelco compound, all likely looted from Teotihuacan c. 1939–1942. The two from Tetitla are now in the collections of Dumbarton Oaks (PC.B.062, the so-called "Net-Jaguar Mural") and the Denver Art Museum (1965.202). Earl Stendahl sold the Net-Jaguar Mural to Robert Woods Bliss in 1941 (Inventory Number 579 found in Inventory Book). His son, Alfred (“Al”) Stendahl, sold the other to the Denver Art Museum in 1965 (Inventory Number 1538 found in Stock Book and Inventory Book). The Atetelco Mural is now in the collection of the Philadelphia Museum of Art (1950-134-404). Earl Stendahl sold it to the Arensbergs in 1950 (this may be Inventory Number 1539 found in Stock Book and Inventory Book; see: Hoobler, “Smoothing the Path for Rough Stones,” in Hollywood Arensberg, 385, n. 264). At least one other mural, now at the Musées royaux d'art et d'histoire/Koninklijke Musea voor Kunst en Geschiedenis in Brussels (A.AM.48.16.623), was also extracted during this same period, though it did not pass through Stendahl’s hands (see the letters dated November 13, 1940 and August 4, 1941 included in this Research Guide). Additionally, there is at least one other “frescoe” listed in the Stendahl Galleries stock books (Inventory Number 580 found in Stock Book and Inventory Book), and yet more are referred to in other letters from Echániz, suggesting that some mural fragments extracted during this period are either no longer extant; remain unidentified in private collections; or lack definitive links to the looting that took place c. 1939–1942.