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Stendahl Art Galleries Records: Guillermo Echániz Correspondence

Letter 3: November 11, 1940

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


Los Angeles,Calif

Nov. 11,1940

Dear Bill:

I must know about the grasshopper and the Mayan tiger.[1] I think you told me one time that you got the grasshopper from Spratling.[2] Mr. Arensberg[3] questions that and also the tiger, so please be honest and tell me exactly whether they are absolutely genuine. He would also like to know the location where the big stone came from.[4] You told me it came from the same pyramid as the frescoe.[5]

By the way, if you have any more frescoes you want put together, I now feel that I am an expert and would apply for the job. Think I will be working on this for another two or three months. Your friend Aguirre[6] used glue, and I have to remove every bit of it. It takes hours as he did not put them together professionally. I cannot understand a man who has worked in a museum as long as he has, why he would do such a thing.

Remember to write soon and tell me just where the frescoe and the other two things came from so that I can talk intelligently when trying to sell them.

The New York dealer[7] says he is sending the urns[8] back. I understood from Van de Velde[9] that some of the urns were absolutely all right.

My best regards to your wife and family.[10]

Sincerely yours,


1. The [Aztec] grasshopper and the Maya tiger are also mentioned in the letter dated November 13, 1940 in this Research Guide.

2. William Spratling (1900–1967) was a U.S.-born silver designer and collector of pre-Hispanic art based in Taxco, Guerrero (see his Biographical Notes).

3. 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).

4. The “big stone” that Stendahl mentions here is the Teotihuacan “Water Goddess” sculpture that Stendahl sold to Walter Arensberg, who later donated it to the Philadelphia Museum of Art (1950-134-282). This sculpture is also discussed in the letter dated November 13, 1940 in this Research Guide.

5. 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.

6. Porfirio Aguirre (1889–1951?) was a Mexican archaeologist best known for his discovery of the “Máscara de Malinaltepec” (see his Biographical Notes). He was a student and then employee of the Museo Nacional de Antropología from 1907–1934. Echániz later corrected Stendahl regarding Aguirre’s treatment of the mural, noting that it was someone else who used glue (see the letter dated November 13, 1940 included in this Research Guide).

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

8. The allegedly fake Zapotec urns (also addressed in the letters dated October 22, 1940, November 2, 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. 

9. Paul van de Velde was Belgian consul to Mexico between 1910 and 1935, during which time he and his wife, Henriette Romeike van de Velde, collected, studied, and wrote about a wide range of examples of Mexican textual and material cultures (Samuel E. Sisneros, “Collection Revitalization at the University of New Mexico Libraries,Southwestern Archivist, February 2015, 22–23). The couple published, among other works, “The Black Pottery of Coyotepec, Oaxaca, Mexico” in Southwest Museum Papers 13 (Los Angeles: Southwest Museum, 1939). Most of the objects in the “Paul Van de Velde Papers” at University of New Mexico’s Center for Southwest Research are documents from 18th and 19th century Oaxaca and, to a lesser extent, Mexico City, with some documents dating as early as the 17th century and as late as the 20th. Notes, manuscripts, and clippings from the couple’s time in Mexico can also be found in the “Paul and Henriette Van de Velde papers” at the University of Oregon Libraries, Special Collections.

10. Juliette (“Julieta”) Latremouille Echániz (1905-1985) was the wife of Guillermo Echániz (see their Biographical Notes).