Rothschilds to Sell Lavish Heirlooms Made for Kings and Queens
(Bloomberg) -- Furniture and artifacts that once belonged to European monarchs and were later snagged by the scions of the Rothschild banking family are heading to the auction block. Call it a royal summer yard sale.
Members of the storied clan, whose extravagant style influenced generations of the mega-rich, consigned about 57 lots to Christie’s July 4 auction in London. The trove is estimated at about 10 million pounds ($12.9 million).
“There’s something mythical about the Rothschilds that’s attached to whatever they owned,” said Robert Couturier, an interior designer in New York. “They created their own world of taste and elegance. There’s an abandon of luxury that few other families had.”
The top lot is a pair of inlaid, Flemish-made giltwood cabinets commissioned around 1713 for King Philip V of Spain. They’re estimated at 1.5 million pounds to 2.5 million pounds.
A mahogany writing desk made for Marie Antoinette circa 1780 by the French queen’s favorite cabinet maker Jean-Henri Riesener may fetch as much as 1 million pounds.
The lavish style is known as le gout Rothschild and became the hallmark of the American Gilded Age, influencing the Rockefellers, Astors and Vanderbilts. The family was known to buy only the best of what was on the market. After the French Revolution in 1789, many pieces from the Palace of Versailles entered their collection.
Still, the ornate, gilded aesthetic isn’t that fashionable among many collectors these days, who may pay more for a KAWS painting than an Old Master canvas.
“Taste changes. Times change. Houses change,” Couturier said. “It is an era that has definitely passed.”
The Rothschild name appeals to plenty of Christie’s clients, especially in Europe, said Paul Gallois, head of European furniture. New buyers from Asia, Russia and the Middle East also are interested, he said.
Other auction highlights include Jean-Honore Fragonard’s painting “Dans les bles,” which depicts a frolicking scene in a wheat field, estimated at 700,000 pounds to 1 million pounds. An 18th century sundial that is thought to have been commissioned by King Louis XV is estimated at 60,000 pounds to 80,000 pounds.
The Rothschilds don’t sell often, Gallois said. In 2015, Eric de Rothschild sold a pair of Rembrandt portraits to the governments of France and the Netherlands for $180 million. The collection of barons Nathaniel and Albert von Rothschild was sold by Christie’s in 1999, with a royal commode by Riesener fetching 7 million pounds. It’s now on view at Versailles, according to Christie’s.
The auction house declined to say which family members are selling in July.
“Most of the houses were filled with such splendors,” Couturier said. “They could come from any of the Rothschilds’ homes.”
©2019 Bloomberg L.P.