The name Rothschild is one that immediately suggests wealth, opulence, and luxury. The famed banking family were at the centre of international high finance during the rapid industrialisation of Europe in the nineteenth century, being responsible for supporting many of the great railway schemes as well as complex government financing for massive infrastructure projects such as the Suez Canal. Originally from Frankfurt, by the end of the century the family had extensive households in London, Paris, Naples, Vienna, and the Netherlands, and their great wealth, combined with their love of art, luxury, and fine living led to the creation of the expression le goût Rothschild – “the Rothschild taste”.
These elegant Viennese silver candlesticks of neo-classical design are dated 1805, the year that Napoleon’s army stormed through Europe, ultimately occupying Vienna after the December defeat of the Austrian and Russian armies at the battle of Austerlitz. The fluted urn shaped nozzles are supported by draped female herms suggesting the caryatids (the sculpted figures serving in the place of columns) of the Erechtheion in Athens, and the overall design is of a pared back classicism close to the spare linear designs of John Flaxman and a foretaste of Biedermeier. The base of each candlestick is engraved with the arms of the Rothschild family and their motto: “Concordia, Integritas, Industria” (harmony, integrity, industry). This hereditary barony was granted to the five Rothschild brothers; Amschel, Salomon, Nathan, Carl, and James, by the Austrian Emperor Francis II in 1822.
It is likely that these candlesticks belonged to Salomon Mayer von Rothschild (1774-1855). In 1820, Prince Metternich, Austrian Minister for Foreign Affairs, entered into negotiations with the House of Rothschild for a large loan that was to take the form of a lottery. The complicated arrangements for this enormous loan demanded the presence of
a Rothschild in Vienna and thus Salomon, who had been handling Rothschild affairs with Austria, moved to the city and established a bank there. Salomon’s close ties to Metternich were crucial in earning for the family a stake in the restructuring of Europe after the Napoleonic wars.
We are pleased to offer these beautiful candlesticks in our forthcoming Collector’s Auction in Sydney.
RONAN SULICH / Senior Adviser, Sydney