Salcedo Stories

Of Pearls and Porcelain: The Well-Appointed Life of Baroness Rothschild

Of Pearls and Porcelain: The Well-Appointed Life of Baroness Rothschild

  • 13 July 2021

On the grounds of a sprawling Viennese estate just east of the Danube River, Baroness Rothschild prepared for the day ahead.

As she settled into the rhythm of her daily routine, she noticed something amiss— her favorite necklace, a string of iridescent pearls, was nowhere to be found. Though the baroness frantically searched for the missing pearls, she came up empty handed and resigned herself to the fact that she might never see them again.

A few days passed without incident. Then one morning, while attending to the grounds of the manor, the gardener noticed something unusual: nestled in the branches of an oak trees, he noticed a pair of birds playing with something bright and shiny. As he moved in to get a closer look, he recognized the object entangled in their beaks. It was an unmistakable sight— he had just found the lost necklace of the baroness!

…Or so the story goes. Whether this delightful tale that has passed from hearsay into legend is fact or fiction, we may never know. What is certain, however, is the lasting influence that this story has had on the fascinating world of decorative art. This narrative has been reimagined in the form of a hand-painted dining set by one of Europe’s leading porcelain purveyors, Herend, a Hungarian firm established in 1826 specializing in gilded and hand-painted porcelain.

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HEREND, A ‘Rothschild Bird’ 200-piece porcelain luncheon, dinner, and coffee set. Sold at ‘The Well-Appointed Life’ auction weekend, September 2017.

To find out more about the Rothschild family and their well-appointed life, keep reading.

The Rothschilds

Much like the Medici family of Florence, the Rothschilds amassed a substantial portion of their wealth in the world of finance, and established themselves as one of the most powerful & influential banking dynasties in Europe.

Later on, the hereditary titles of baron and baroness were bestowed upon the family as tangible proof of their prominent place in society. By this time, the family business had already expanded into several sectors and the Rothschilds became important art patrons. They, along with Britain’s Queen Victoria, became one of the early patrons of Herend— its reputation prospering within the banquet halls of the aristocracy.

For many connoisseurs, Herend’s luxurious dining sets are said to be the epitome of this highly specialized craft.

Inspired by the myth of Baroness Rothchild’s pearl necklace, Herend created a hand-painted featured the fabled birds frolicking on tree branches surrounded by other fauna. When the design was shown to the family, it’s said that they were so enthralled that they fell “instantly in love” with the set. In the 1860s, Herend officially named the motif, ‘Rothschild Bird,’ as a tribute to their patrons.

The pair of birds symbolizes the relationship between man and woman, while the colorful butterflies and little insects scattered around them create an immersive environment for their love to flourish.

The most interesting element of the design, however, is a tree with a gracefully draped pearl necklace. The ‘Rothschild Bird’ pattern is usually available with the branches painted in brown, but this rare set is illustrated with purple branches— the color most often used to symbolize nobility

Today, the ‘Rothschild Bird’ remains immensely valuable and highly sought after. Even with Herend continuing its production, it’s rare to come across one as expansive as the one that went to auction during the ‘Connoisseur Collection’ sale as part of ‘The Well-Appointed Life’ auction weekend in September 2017.

As the heated bidding war for the set came to a close, the fall of the gavel marked the sale of the Herend ‘Rothschild Bird’ 200-piece porcelain set at just short of a million Philippine pesos. It was at the time the highest price achieved for any dining set in local auction history.

It’s pieces like these— with stories full of old-world charm and fantastical narratives— that Salcedo Auctions bring into the worlds we create to live a truly well-appointed life.

Who knows? The next fine bone china porcelain set – or for that matter, hallmarked sterling silver or signed crystal objets d’art – to make auction history could be yours! 

Entrust your most valuable possessions to the Philippines’ premier auction house. We are currently accepting notable pieces to be offered at our upcoming ‘The Well-Appointed Life’ auction weekend in September. Click here to make a confidential and obligation-free appointment or consignment offer, or send an email to [email protected]