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Stendahl Art Galleries Records: Guillermo Echániz Correspondence

Letter 5: December 7, 1940

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


Librería Anticuaria


Libros, Documentos, Mapas, Grabados,

Objetos Arqueológicos,

Códices, Antigüedades

Books, Documents, Maps, Prints,

Archaeological Objects,

Codex, Antiques

Apartado Postal 499


Donceles 12


December 7th 1940

Dear Earl:

Please send photos of every piece you are returning.[1] Pack them good but do not send them, as I may sell them over there somewhere. That is why I need the photos {(}also negatives.{)}

Do you remember Co{w}dry[2] that student who had the photo of Mexican Indians. Once you exhibited some of thos photos. He was paid to get photos of the stuff I have, and took lots of time to come to do the work. Now they are developping and printing and some time next week I’ll send them to you.

In view of your last letter I went to Hale[3] and explained the situation. Send check as soon as possible.-

Do not mention the Fresco[4] as Caso[5] is looking for it.- Diego[6] or some one else wrote to him about it and he has appointed three lawers to investigate the way it went out.- Be very careful about this matter.-

Tell Diego he is a K.K. lier[7] if he insists in beeing the owner of Tampico’s piece.- I expect to see you here soon in your way out, we may go to visit Tampico, and will try our luck.- Regards to your legal wife.[8]-

By bye old toy and Viva Stalin.[9]-

{G.M. Echaniz}


1. This statement may be in reference to the allegedly fake Zapotec urns addressed in the letters dated October 22, 1940, November 2, 1940November 11, 1940, and November 13, 1940 included in this Research Guide. 

2. Donald B. Cordry (1907–1978) was a U.S.-born artist, photographer, and collector. He collected Mexican masks and other popular arts for the Heye Foundation between 1935 and 1938, at which point he relocated permanently to Mexico with his wife, Dorothy Mann (“Donald B. Cordry photographs from Mexico [1933–1940],” National Museum of the American Indian, and “Donald Bush Cordry photographs of Indigenous peoples of Mexico, 1937-1972,” National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Online Virtual Archives, Smithsonian Institution). The couple established a highly successful workshop of folk art-style crafts in Mexico City, and produced several books together, including Mexican Indian Costumes (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1968) and Mexican Masks (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1980), which was published shortly after Donald’s death. Dorothy Cordry distributed most of the couple’s collection of ca. 3000 objects across three institutions: the Museo Universitario de Ciencias y Arte (MUCA) at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México; the Arizona State Museum at the University of Arizona; and the Fowler Museum at UCLA, which also holds the Cordry Archive. For more on the MUCA collection, see: Luis Roberto Torres Escalona, “The Donald Cordry Archeological Collection,” Voices of Mexico 40 (1997): 25–27, and Luisa Fernanda Francisca Rico Mansard and Rosa María Sánchez Lara, El mundo de Donald Cordry [exhibición] (México: Museo Universitario de Ciencias y Arte, 1983). The Stendahl Gallery exhibition of Cordry’s photos, mentioned by Echániz in this letter, has not yet been identified.

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 “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.

5. Alfonso Caso (1896–1970) was an attorney-turned-archaeologist and the first director of the Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia, which was founded in 1939 (see his Biographical Notes). Caso sought to reign in illicit excavations and exports, and to better regulate and professionalize official Mexican archaeology.

6. Diego Rivera (1886–1957), a world-famous Mexican painter and muralist, was also an active collector of pre-Hispanic art (see his Biographical Notes). Rivera was not against collecting pre-Hispanic items but expressed concern about their widespread removal from Mexico.

7. This reference, used here to insult Diego Rivera, is not yet adequately understood. 

8. Enid Stendahl (1889–1970) was the wife of Earl Stendahl (see their Biographical Notes).

9. Joseph Stalin (1878–1953) was the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and de facto head of state (Vyacheslav Molotov was Chairman of the Council of People’s Commissars of the Soviet Union until May 1941).