The collection of Walter and Vera Eberstadt reflects both their deep love of art and the legacy of their forebears. Walter Eberstadt wrote that as a child his grandfather Ernst Flersheim started to educate his eye with museum visits, and later, after having moved to New York, where he worked as a successful investment banker, he continued this tradition with regular visits to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and to the Frick Collection. His wife Vera’s eye was informed by her training as a sculptor with Jean Arp. The collection reflects their eclectic taste ranging from Old Master Paintings to modern sculpture.
Walter Eberstadt’s mother, Edith Flersheim (1895-1992) had a remarkable pedigree of connoisseurship and patronage. Her father Ernst Flersheim and his siblings Martin and Alice were each noted collectors. Ernst and Martin were active patrons of the Frankfurter Kunstverein and the Städel Museum in Frankfurt (to which they each made major donations), and they collected some of the most important artists of the day including Monet, Corinth, Hodler, Munch and Liebermann. Their sister Alice married Louis Koch, the Court Jeweller to the Bavarian Royal family, and her daughter, Martha Koch, married first the banker and collector Willy Dreyfus and later Robert von Hirsch, who was arguably one of the most important European collectors of the 20th Century. Sotheby’s celebrated 1978 London sale of the von Hirsch collection remains one of the landmark auctions of the 20th century.
Vera Eberstadt’s paternal grandfather Moritz Edler von Kuffner (1854-1939) managed the family’s substantial brewing and sugar interests and was also a leading property developer in fin-de-siècle Vienna. He was a founding member of the Musikverein and built a famous astronomical observatory on land near his Ottakringer Brewery on the outskirts of Vienna. He was a keen mountaineer in the 1880s and 1890s and forged new routes up many mountains including the Kuffner Pillar on the Piz Palü and the Kuffner Ridge on Mont Maudit (both named in his honour). His tastes in art were broad; to the small collection inherited from his father he added landscapes by the popular artists Rudolph von Alt, Emil Jacob Schindler and August von Pettenkofen, several large antique Roman statues, manuscripts by Mozart and Martin Luther and a fine collection of drawings by the great German artist Adolph von Menzel.
Walter and Vera Eberstadt’s donations to the Frick Collection (Giovanni Francesco Susini’s Lion Attacking a Horse and Leopard Attacking a Bull) represent a continuation of their families’ patronage of the arts and a lasting reminder of their contribution to the city which was their home for more than 50 years until their death in 2014.
Further works from the Eberstadt Collection will be offered in the following auctions at Sotheby’s London: Impressionist & Modern Art Day sale on 25th June, Old Master Drawings sale and Old Master Paintings Evening sale on 8th July, and English Literature, History, Children’s Books & Illustrations sale on 14th July, as well as the 19th Century Furniture & Decorative Arts sale in New York in the autumn 2015.
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