Christie's tonight broke auction records with a $90.7 million sale of paintings, furniture and ornaments seized by the Nazis from the Austrian arm of the Rothschild banking dynasty.
Since the war, the collection had been in the hands of the Austrian government, which put it on display in the country's museums and libraries. It finally agreed to return it to the Rothschild family in February, to right what it called an "immoral" wrong.
Rothschild heirs are selling the treasures because "we don't have the kind of houses for these things," descendant Bettina Loos told the Sunday Telegraph newspaper recently.
Raising more than double what had been anticipated, the Christie's sale became the biggest auction ever held in Europe. "There was exceptional interest," said Alexander Hope, project manager of the auction. "This is a fairly unique opportunity to buy a part of what was the greatest collection of its kind in Europe in the 19th century."
Among the more important items was a richly illuminated Latin prayer book dated around 1503 and printed on fine parchment, which sold for $4.04 million. A Book of Hours, or prayer book, made in Flanders in the early 16th century sold for $12.14 million. A portrait by Dutch master Franz Hals fetched $12 million.