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Stendahl Art Galleries Records: Guillermo Echániz Correspondence

Letter 7: August 4, 1941

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

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


August 4th. 1941.

Dear Earl:

When you were here, I told you that a Cornel appointed Militar Judge at Campeche, was instructed on what kind of matterial we wanted.[1]

I also gave him aproximate idea of what he was going to get for each piece at Veracruz.[2] He asked for advanced money to move arround, which I did not give to him but promised to be ready to pay for the goods as soon as he could have them at Veracruz.

Soon after he took over his job, he went to the jungle and wrote that he had not been able to find any thing at all. He had spent two weeks over there and came back to Campeche where {h}e wrote very angry for his time lost and also for his sufferings on account of the heat, mosquitoes, snakes, etc. blaming me for giving him the wrong kind of information.

A while after, he learned of an other place where he could get some material. He went and brought back three large flat ones, a large round one and several small ones.[3]

He called me by phone from Veracruz. I promised to go to see the stuff and did not do it because I had no money. Three days after and there he was again on the phone, cursing like any good Stendahl can do Promised to see him two days later.- Then an other phone call. He was mad. He had been away from his job for quite a long time, therefore he needed to go back to work.

Lots of hard talking by phone, excusing myself of important deals pending here. He gave me a last chance, which I could not meet. With your last wire, I went to Veracruz. He had gone to Campeche after closing a deal with the Argentina Ambasador here[4] who bought the goods to send to the owner of a ne{w}spaper of Buenos Aires called "La Crítica”.[5] I had chance to see the pieces in a Carpenter shop where they were making pa{c}king boxes for the pieces. By the way, this man of Buenos Aires is a very rich guy who is putting up a pre-colombian Museum at his of offices.[6]

I know that guy does not want to deal with me any more, and I do not think he is going after more stuff. I am sorry we lost that connection. Any how, I have made proposition to a very sma{r}t young chap: Albert C. Wereyrstall, who was General Manager of the United Fruit Co.[7] He has been in the banana business for thirty years and knows Tabasco and Campeche quite well.- Now he has a big plantation of his own quite near Palemke and is going to do some exploring for good things as soon as the rivers come down. -------

Just received your check for one thousand. I am returning the two notes which it covers: June 30th and July 31st.[8]

There are still six notes pending ammounting to $ 3.000.oo. on which I am willing to cut 10% which is very good additional discount.

And if you use those 300 to fly over here, you can see the selection I have made and will understand why I can not accept your proposition of one thousand for the lot offered to you.

The pannel was taken over to Belgium by Mis. Benzinaire of the [end p. 1] Royal Museum of Bruxeles.[9] We know she arrived over there and was not able to leave the country.

The Belgian Ambassador followed, but as he remainded here four months he was not able to get into the country.[10] Some people say he is at Portugal and some say he is at New York, which I dobut, because he has not been able to located by Dehesa[11] who wants to get in touch with him, since long time.


I am not showing any thing. Hale[12] was here when I was buying, like you have seen people that sells something while you were back of the counter.

I am fixing a stand for the camara and will study photography to be able to make good pictures of things. But it takes some time and I wont be able to send photos of the rest of the stuff soon.


So I will wait to see if you are able to come when you get the money, or else, I may send some photos.


B. 52.[13]




1. This letter forms part of a series of correspondence from the summer of 1941 regarding the procurement of materials from the state of Campeche, including the letter dated July 31, 1941 in this Research Guide. In short, Echániz and Stendahl were unable to coordinate payments to an unidentified colonel-turned-military judge, and the lot was lost. This official was likely stationed in Campeche City, but went into the jungles of Campeche or a nearby state to look for pre-Hispanic objects. In addition to revealing the types of social networks and on-the-ground logistics that undergirded the activities of Stendahl and Echániz, this letter also points to the geographic breadth of their activities, which range, already in this early period, from west and central Mexico to the Yucatán Peninsula. 

2. The location of present-day Veracruz has been important to travel and commerce since the Pre-Hispanic era, serving as a point of arrival and departure for people and objects moving between the Gulf Coast and central Mexico. The Spanish transformed Veracruz into a major imperial port city that connected New Spain to Asia, South America, and the Iberian Peninsula, and a railroad line between Veracruz and Mexico City was inaugurated in 1873, well after Independence. For Echániz and Stendahl, Veracruz was a place of negotiation, transit, and even export, necessitating collaborations with willing officials on an unofficial basis. Veracruz was also the port from which two other individuals mentioned in this letter departed Mexico in the early years of WWII: Germaine Wenziner and Robert van de Kerchove d’Hallebast (see footnotes 7 and 8 below).  

3. These are descriptions of unidentified stone sculptures, presumably Maya works. The large flat ones might have been stelae, lintels, panels, or door jambs, whereas the large round ones might have been altars.

4. Based on the dates of these letters, this individual is likely Juan G. Valenzuela, Argentine Ambassador (Embajador Extraordinario y Plenipotenciario) to Mexico. He served from June 1939 to June 1942.

5. Based on his identification as the owner of La Crítica of Buenos Aires, this is likely Natalio Félix Botana Millares (1888–1941), Uruguayan exile and larger-than-life figure in South American society and politics. Botana Millares established La Crítica in 1913, and owned and directed the paper until his death on August 7, 1941 (three days after this letter was written) following a car crash in Jujuy the day before. For more on his life and work, see: Crítica. Arte y Sociedad en un diario argentino (1913–1941) (Buenos Aires: Fundación OSDE, 2016). Botana Millares is also known for a mural that he commissioned David Alfaro Siqueiros to paint in the basement of his country house, “Los Granados,” in 1933. See, for instance: Daniel Schávelzon, El mural de Siqueiros en Argentina. La historia de Ejercicio Plástico (Buenos Aires: Fundación YPF, 2010; digital version).

6. La Crítica’s art-deco office at Avenida de Mayo 1333 included “Aztec” designs, so perhaps the the objects Botana Millares sought to acquire through Ambassador Valenzuela, though not “Aztec,” were meant to enrich that aesthetic. For more on the office’s “iconografía precolombina” (pre-Columbian iconography), see: Gabriela Vicente Irrazábal, “El nuevo edificio Crítica es un palacio para el pueblo,” in Crítica. Arte y Sociedad en un diario argentino, 33.

7. Albert C. Weyerstall, an agent for the United Fruit Company in Mexico, was a collector and amateur archaeologist whose fieldwork informed professionals such as the Smithsonian anthropologist and archaeologist Matthew Williams Stirling (1896–1975), among others. In 1932, Weyerstall published “Some Observations on Indian Mounds, Idols and Pottery in the Lower Papaloapan Basin, State of Vera Cruz, Mexico” in Middle American Papers, Middle American Research Series, no. 4, Maurice Ries, ed. (New Orleans: Tulane University, 1932), 27–69.

8. The references to “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.

9. Germaine Wenziner (1893–1950), also the “Belgian woman” from the letter dated November 13, 1940 in this Research Guide, was a wealthy collector with ties to the Royal Museums of Art and History in Brussels (see her Biographical Notes). Regarding this “pannel,” it is likely the mural fragment still held in the Royal Museums [AAM 00048.26.623], though this particular object was donated in December 1947 under the name of “Mr. Van de Kerckhove,” not Germaine Wenziner. It was common for Teotihuacan mural paintings in general, and those in Tetitla more specifically, to feature repeated imagery, which allows us to connect fragments of paintings in various museum or private collections to one another, and to the buildings from which they came. The fragment in Brussels matches the mural in the Denver Art Museum (1965.202), purchased from Al Stendahl in 1965. It was exhibited in the Stendahl Gallery as early as 1944 (see p. 136 of April Dammann’s Exhibitionist for a photo that features this mural hanging on a gallery wall) and in Stendahl-organized exhibitions. See, for instance, the catalogs for the “Pre-Columbian Art” shows at the Pasadena Art Institute (1952) and the Otis Art Institute (1963), the latter of which traveled to seven other U.S. galleries and museums.  

10. Robert van de Kerchove d’Hallebast (1890–1974) was a Belgian aristocrat and career diplomat who served as Belgian Minister to Mexico, 1937–1940 (see his Biographical Notes).

11. Raúl Dehesa (1880–1961) was a collector in Mexico City with close ties to Veracruz. His father, Teodoro Dehesa, was the long-time governor of Veracruz before the Mexican Revolution, as well as a patron of the arts and of Mexican artists, including Diego Rivera, and a major collector of pre-Hispanic objects (part of his collection resides in the Museo Nacional de Antropología in Mexico City). See, for instance: Jesse W. Fewkes, “Certain Antiquities of Eastern Mexico,” in Twenty-Fifth Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology to the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, 1903–1904 (Washington, DC: United States Government Printing Office, 1907), 223–296. Raúl Dehesa remains an understudied figure in the world of Mexican collecting, though his frequent appearance in letters sent between Stendahl and Echániz suggest that he was active in terms of both acquisitions and sales. Indeed, additional correspondence in the Stendahl Art Galleries Records reveal that the Stendahls (Earl and his son "Al") bought directly from Dehesa, much to the displeasure of Echániz. Pierre Matisse purchased items from Dehesa as well, as noted by Megan E. O’Neil in “Changing Geographies of the Mesoamerican Antiquities Market circa 1940: Pierre Matisse and Earl Stendahl,” Collecting Mesoamerican Art before 1940, eds. Andrew D. Turner and Megan E. O’Neil (Los Angeles: Getty Publications, forthcoming). Dehesa also appears, alongside Echániz, in Jorge Enciso’s long list of collectors who lent him objects for the preparation of his book, Sellos del Antiguo México (México: Imprenta Policolor, 1947), published in English as Design Motifs of Ancient Mexico (New York: Dover Publications, 1953).

12. Salomón Hale (1897–1964) was a Polish-born merchant and important collector based in Mexico City (see his Biographical Notes).

13. “B.52” is a codename sometimes used by Echániz (see also the letter dated January 4, 1942 included in this Research Guide), and it appears that his wife, Julieta, used “B.51” (Julieta Echániz to Earl Stendahl, January 8, 1941, Box 11, folder 9). The significance of these codenames has yet to be identified; the B-52 bomber was designed in 1948.