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Rothschild Legacy: Rare Artefacts Fetch £46 Million at Christie’s New York Auction

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A vast collection comprising artworks, furniture, silverware, ceramics, and jewellery, historically part of the Rothschild banking family’s private collection, fetched over £46 million at several Christie’s auctions in New York.

This event signified the debut North American auction of items from the esteemed banking family’s French lineage. Baron James Mayer de Rothschild, his spouse Betty, and their offspring Alphonse, who lived during the 19th century, primarily amassed these artefacts. They have since remained in the family’s possession.

Prominent within this collection was art from past masters, particularly a 17th-century masterpiece by Gerrit Dou titled “Young Woman Holding a Rabbit with a Lad at the Window”, which garnered over £5 million.

A notable ancient piece was a sardonyx bearing the likeness of Roman Emperor Claudius from the 1st century AD, which sold for nearly £85,000. Interestingly, this gem appeared at a Christie’s auction in 1899, fetching 3,750 pounds (roughly £365,000 in today’s currency), shortly before its acquisition by the Rothschilds.

“Such artefacts have remained hidden from public view since the 1800s. Unless acquainted with this Rothschild branch, one wouldn’t have glimpsed them. Such items aren’t typical in New York; one would expect such auctions in Europe,” remarked Jonathan Rendell from Christie’s.

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Items like Italian Renaissance pottery, exquisite furniture, silverware, tapestries, and jewellery, epitomising the Rothschild’s refined taste, were also on offer.

“Such pieces would’ve stirred quite a frenzy in the market a century or a century and a half ago. We seldom see such items up for sale nowadays,” added Rendell.

Regarding the family’s decision to auction these treasures, Christie’s speculates it might pertain to streamlining or a generational perspective shift.

“Living as 19th-century Rothschilds isn’t common… Not even for the Rothschilds,” concluded Rendell.

Photo: Courtesy of Christie’s

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