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Lot 306

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Amateur Archaeologist Schliemann Boasts of Discovering Trojan Treasure

In this response to an inquiry, Heinrich Schliemann references books he has published on Troy in French and English as well as a forthcoming book on Mycenae (published as Mykena in 1878 and translated the same year into English as Mycenae: A Narrative of Researches and Discoveries at Mycenae and Tiryns). Schliemann also references a famous photograph of his wife wearing “Priam’s Treasure” that Schliemann discovered but incorrectly dated to the period of the Trojan War and King Priam.

HEINRICH SCHLIEMANN, Autograph Letter Signed, April 2, 1877, London. 1 p., 5ʺ x 8ʺ. Affixed to same sized sheet at top; very good.

Complete Transcript
London 2 April 1877
Charing Cross Hotel
Dear Sir
In reply to your note of 22 Feby I beg to say that on Troy I have published in French with F. A. Brockhaus in Leipzig “Antiquites Troyennes” with an Atlas containing 217 photographic Plates, and in English with John Murray 50 Albemarle Str London “Troy and its Remains” with many engravings. On Mycenae I am now publishing here, equally with John Murray a work with hundreds of splendid Plates.
A good copy of Mrs Schliemann with part of the Trojan treasure you find in the Graphic of Feby last. Unfortunately I have no photograph with me to send to you.
Yours very truly
Dr H Schliemann

Heinrich Schliemann (1822-1890) was born in the German Confederation to a poor Lutheran minister and his wife. He attended grammar school and a vocational school but could not afford to attend a university. He served as an apprentice to a grocer for much of his teen years, then moved to Amsterdam, where he became a clerical worker. In 1844, he took a position with an import/export firm, which sent him in 1846 to St. Petersburg. There, he learned Russian and Greek. Schliemann had a keen ability with languages, and by the end of his life, he could converse in thirteen languages. In 1851, he traveled to the California gold fields and opened a bank in Sacramento. The following year, he sold his business and returned to Russia. There, he married Ekaterina Petrovna Lyschin (1826-1896), with whom he had three children between 1855 and 1861. He cornered the market in indigo dye and made a fortune. During the Crimean War, he made another fortune as a military contractor for the Russian government. He moved to Indianapolis, Indiana, to take advantage of the state’s liberal divorce laws and divorced his wife. As soon as he received the divorce, he moved to Athens, Greece, and married Sophia Engastromenos (1852-1932), with whom he had two children. Obsessed with the stories of Homer, Schliemann began a career as an amateur archaeologist. He visited sites in the Greek world and published Ithaka, der Peloponnesus und Troja, in which he claimed that Hisarlik was the site of ancient Troy. He submitted a dissertation in Ancient Greek on the subject to the University of Rostock in Germany, which awarded him a Ph.D. in absentia. He began digging at Hisarlik in 1870, and by 1873, he had discovered nine buried cities. In June 1873, he discovered gold and proclaimed it to be “Priam’s Treasure.” He smuggled the treasure out of Turkey to Greece but was forced to pay a 10,000-gold-franc indemnity. He published Troy and Its Remains in 1874. His collections ended up in Germany by the early 1880s, where they remained until 1945, when Soviet forces took them to Moscow, where they remain in the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts. In 1876, Schliemann began digging at Mycenae, where he discovered the Shaft Graves and what he dubbed the “Mask of Agamemnon.” He later made three additional excavations at Troy between 1878 and his death in 1890. Ultimately, more careful archaeological study has revealed that “Priam’s Treasure” belonged to a city of the Early Bronze Age, hundreds of years before Priam’s city of Homer’s epic.

This item comes with a Certificate from John Reznikoff, a premier authenticator for both major 3rd party authentication services, PSA and JSA (James Spence Authentications), as well as numerous auction houses.


Caption for Photograph: Not included. Photograph of Sophia Schliemann wearing “Priam’s Treasure” that her husband discovered at Hisarlik. Engraving published in The Graphic: An Illustrated Weekly Newspaper (London) on January 20, 1877.

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