• European Noble and Private Col auction at Christies

    Sale 2835

    European Noble and Private Collections

    15 - 16 December 2009, Amsterdam

  • Lot 540



    Price Realised  


    The later rectangular bevelled plate within a rectangular frame, decorated overall with birds and foliage and inscribed Graf Reus in gera heunerich der XXX, surmounted by a shaped clasp depicting a fountain
    126 cm. high x 52 cm. wide

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    Christie’s charges a premium to the buyer on the Hammer Price of each lot sold at the following rates: 29.75% of the Hammer Price of each lot up to and including €20,000, plus 23.8% of the Hammer Price between €20,001 and €800.000, plus 14.28% of any amount in excess of €800.000. Buyer’s premium is calculated on the basis of each lot individually.

    Pre-Lot Text

    The Collection of the Fürsten Reuß j.L.

    Reuß, the younger line

    The 800 year history of the Princely House Reuß is closely connected with the region of the Vogtland and the present German provinces Thuringia, Saxony and Bavaria and helped shaping their economical and cultural landscape in numerous ways.

    The origin of the Reuß family can be tracked down to the reeves of Weida, Plauen and Gera in the 12th century. The name 'Reuß' is thought to relate to 'Der Reusse' (the Russian) and was first used to describe Heinrich (I) the younger of Plauen (recorded 1274/6-1292), who married a Russian princess.
    In the 16th century three different lines were formed, of which only the younger line exists today.

    The rise of the younger line is mainly due to the work of the prospective Heinrich Posthumus (1572-1635). He created a tightly organized administration, sponsored schools and welfare services, and laid the foundation for the economic rise of the city of Gera. Until the introduction of primogeniture, his sons and heirs divided the land into more and more small pieces, however in the course of history - even under Napoleon 1807, the Congress of Vienna in 1815 and the Prussians in 1866 - the Reuß family always kept their independence.
    In 1848 all territories were re-united to the Princedom Reuß younger line. Overall, the Reuß family succeeded in rising from Reichsministeralien (a form of Royal administrators) in the Middle Ages to a reigning monarchy that stayed independent until 1918.

    Over the years the Houses of the younger line built many residences and estates in East-Thuringia. In the 17th century the Neues Schloss was built below the destroyed castle complex of the residence city of Lobenstein. In the 19th century Heinrich LXXVII Reuß-Ebersdorf (1797-1853) built the hunting lodge 'Waidmannsheil'. After being residence until 1848, Schloss Ebersdorf was later used as the summer residence. Schloss Osterstein near Gera, until 1918 residence and seat of government, was consistently extended and altered. From the beginning of the 20th century it housed parts of the art collection from various Reuß castles in its numerous rooms and galleries. Not only the Ancestor-, Tapestry-, Marble-, Paintings-, Music- and Library-Room were part of the extensive interior, also coins, arms, porcelain, glass, silver and paintings added to the rich decoration. After a bombing in 1945 the Schloss burned out completely and was finally destroyed in the 1960's.

    The small German states played only a subordinate role in European politics, but their premier families did fuel the cultural life in their region as a tool of self-portrayal. The Princely houses of Thuringia competed in the fields of art, theatre and music with the Reuß family as one of the most ardent players. For instance, the Gera Theatre, built and financed in collaboration with the city's bourgeoisie, can be named as a fitting example of their cultural engagement. In addition to that, Fürst Heinrich XIV (1885-1928) financed a grant for the painter Otto Dix at the Dresden Art School in 1910. His grandson Erbprinz Heinrich XLV (1895-1945) and the adopted son Heinrich I (1910-1982) continuously kept ordering paintings from the Bodensee based artist.

    During the November revolution of 1918, Heinrich XXVII Reuß j.L. resigned on behalf of the Free State of Reuß younger line. In 1921 the area was combined with Thuringia. Until the dispossession in 1945, the Reuß family was able to keep an extensive property of land and estates, including the entire art collection, which enabled them to finance their substantial cultural and social commitments.

    Between 1945 and 1949 the family was a victim of the confiscations in the Russian occupied zone. They lost all their property, which included also the art collection. The last owner Erbprinz Heinrich XLV was arrested in August 1945 and is missing since this date. After the German reunification in 1990 the Ausgleichsleistungsgesetz (compensation law) of December 1994 set the rules for the restitution of this collection. The return takes place since 1997.