Thanks to the contribution of this ‘Le Goût Rothschild’, the sale of Furniture and Works of Art on August 11 set a new house record for the firm.
Building on the previous high of £706,000 set in January, the mid-summer sale (postponed from April) posted a hammer total of £782,000.
Sixteen eagerly anticipated lots came from Exbury House, the country estate on the edge of the New Forest acquired by Lionel Nathan de Rothschild (1882-1942) in 1919.
He was himself a collector but most of these pieces entered the family via his uncle Alfred de Rothschild (1842-1918), builder of a mock French château on the 1400-acre Halton estate in Buckinghamshire. They came for sale in Salisbury after descent to the Trustees of Exbury House.
The financial highlight of the sale, with an estimate of £20,000-30,000, was a pair of Louis XVI white marble and gilt bronze mounted vases. Made in the final days of France’s Ancien Régime, c.1790, these copy the famous Borghese vase, a massive Roman krater acquired by the Borghese family shortly after its rediscovery in 1566 and displayed in the Louvre since 1811.
This pair, standing 18in (45cm) high on later leaf scroll decorated bases with lion paw feet, is illustrated in Charles Davis’s 1884 publication A Description of the works of art forming the collection of Alfred de Rothschild.
Attracting a bank of phone bidders, the competition reached £95,000 (plus 25% buyer’s premium) before they sold to the French trade.
The preceding lot, two 11½in (29cm) wide silver gilt models of an elephant and a rhinoceros with exotic riders and attendants, were also previously owned by Alfred de Rothschild.
Although unmarked and mounted on later onyx bases, these were probably German and owe much to elephant and rhinoceros groups modelled by Johann Joachim Kändler and Paul Reinicke for the Meissen porcelain factory in the 1740s.
The rhino adopts the armour-plated body based on the famous woodcut by Albrecht Dürer. They sold to a buyer in Hong Kong at £78,000 against an estimate of £10,000-15,000.
W&W specialist Mark Yuan-Richards said the sale attracted bidders from Russia, Hong Kong, Europe and the US, all drawn in by the Rothschild provenance. “It’s fantastic that we, as the local auction house to Exbury House, have been able to reach this international audience and realise such great prices.”
Le Goût Rothschild is the name given to an opulent style of interior decoration and living which had its origin in France, Britain, and Germany during the 19th century.
The lavish aesthetic, that championed furnishings in the Renaissance and pre-revolutionary French style, became the preferred ‘look’ for many who amassed a serious fortune in the pre-war era when the Rothschild family’s wealth was at its height.
In total, around 85 lots from Exbury House are being offered over five different Salisbury sales this year with an estimate in the region of £200,000-300,000.
The running hammer total is now close to £400,000 with the final tranche forming part of the firm’s September 8 Paintings sale.