One of the greatest private art galleries in the world is now housed in the palace of the Vienna branch of the famous Rothschild family. While other aristocratic families of Europe have been gathering art treasures for fifty generations, the colection of the Vienna Rothschilds is only some two or three generations old. But the Rothschilds are such art connoisseurs that in a comparatively short time they have accomplished in this respect much more than the oldest aristocratic families of Europe.
During a period of seventy years, the Rothschilds became the owners of some of the greatest private art galleries in the world. The Parisian and Vienna Rothschilds especially, spent enormous sums of money and much effort and used much discrimination in the gathering of their art treasures. They didn’t merely buy the best that could be had at the market or at international auctions, but they also employed a number of “silent brokers” who went about among the highest aristocracy and sought to purchase certain pictures or other antiques.
CONTAINS ONE WORTH $1,000,000
In the history of the Rothschild art treasures more than one picture had diplomatic and financial episodes of an international character hovering around it. There are paintings which required twenty years to reach the Rothschilds. There are rare pictures by great masters whose value can hardly be estimated. In the art gallery of the Vienna Rothschilds there is, for instance, one portrait, a Fragonard, worth millions of dollars, whose inestimable value can be seen from the fact that when ex-Kaiser Wilhelm fled from Germany in 1918 he hid a picture by the same master under his coat. To Wilhelm it was more important to save this picture than his entire estate in Germany.
Even many art specialists do not know the real value of the Rothschild art collection in Vienna. While the galleries of the Parisian Rothschilds are at least semi-public and there is a catalogue for the perusal of connoisseurs, the gallery of the Vienna Rothchilds is strictly private, only a few personal friends having the privilege of viewing the collection.
Recently a noted guest from America, the director of the Metropolitan Museum, was receied by the Vienna Rothschilds. He was astounded, both at the quality and the quantity of paintings. So great a private collection he never found in the whole world. He is reported to have said that in the art collection of the Vienna Rothschilds there are as many treasures as in all the thirty largest private collections in the United States.
ALFONSE ROTHSCHILD IS OWNER
The present owner of this collection is Baron Dr. Alfonse Rothschild, and an entire palace of several floors containing innumerable rooms and halls is filled with art treasures. He inherited from Baron Nathanial Rothschild, who was the greatest art collector of all the Rothschilds, greater even than the Parisian Baron Solomon and the Vienna Baron Albert Rothschild. Baron Nathaniel, who remained a bachelor all his life, engaged in no business affairs and devoted himself entirely to the art collection, which was his great ideal in life. Art experts claim that the gallery of the Vienna Rothschilds today represents a financial value equal to that of a great government bank.
The interesting thing about the Rothschilds is that the art connoisseurs among them represent a different tribe. Part of the Rothschild family devotes itself to the materialistic pursuits of business, and another part has dedicated itself to spiritual matters. The present Baron Rothschild of Vienna occupies himself only with spiritual matters, with art, literature and social affairs. He has nothing to do with the business interests of the Vienna family, which are taken care of by his brother, Baron Louis Rothschild, head of the Vienna dynasty. Only in extremely important commercial matters is a family council held, in which the “impractical” member of the family also participates.
In the Vienna art collection there are also Jewish art treasures of tremendous value, though not quite as great as the Jewish department of the Parisian Rothschild gallery. During the past half-century talented Jewish artists have been receiving stipends and subventions from the Viennese Rothschilds, and have also sold them their best pictures.