On the trail of the Ephrussi family

The strong ties between the Ephrussi family and Vienna can be traced and seen in a special exhibition in the Jewish Museum Vienna from the beginning of November.

It was one of perhaps the most influential families in Europe. The Ephrussi banking clan continues to turn heads and draw attention to itself. The family, which originally came from Russia, found their new home in the up-and-coming Vienna of the 19th century. Their ancestors came from Odessa to Vienna, where they continued to expand their own empire in the heart of the Austrian Empire.

Even today, Palais Ephrussi, at Universitätsring 14, bears witness to the family’s great success and wealth. The late 19th century, or “Gründerzeit”, palace was designed and built by none other than Theophil Hansen in forms of Renaissance Revival architecture. The prestigious structure on the Ringstrasse boulevard was a mix of palace and revenue house, because the family even had their own rental apartments built above the obligatory ‘beletage’.

The misfortune began with Austria's annexation to the German Reich. Dispossessed, driven into exile and penniless, the Ephrussis became world citizens. Their travels took them from Austria to France, Britain, Spain, the US, Mexico and even to Japan. Family members can currently be found scattered around the entire world.
Edmund de Waal, himself a descendant of the Ephrussis, first told of the rise of the banking family, its expulsion by the National Socialists, and the search for his own roots for the first time in 2011 in his bestseller "The Hare with Amber Eyes". 

The Jewish Museum Vienna now goes on the search for clues with de Waal's estate and lets the exhibits tell their very own story about the people they were once collected by. At the heart of the exhibition is the family archive, which de Waal donated to the Jewish Museum in 2018. Also on display, of course, are the 157 netsukes (small Japanese carvings, mostly of root wood or ivory), which were loaned to the museum by the family. 

The Ephrussis. Travel in Time. November 6, 2019 - March 8, 2020


Follow us