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Archduke Dr. Géza von Habsburg
Art & Fabergé-Specialist

There is indeed no other city in the world which is immediately so fascinating as New York. Today we have a busy schedule: Forbe's Fabergé collection and a meeting with an internationally renowned author and the world's leading authority on Fabergé: Archducke Dr. Géza von Habsburg - grandson of King Frederick Augustus III of Saxony and great-great grandson of the last Emperor Franz-Joseph of Austria.

With his wife and litte daughter he lives in America since over a decade. In his private home in the heart of New York, he shows me his personal treasures and tells me more about his fascinating life...

Archduke von Habsburg:
I was born in Budapest in 1940 and fled in 1945 when the Russians 'liberated' Hungary. The first stop on our escape was Schloss Sigmaringen in the Black Forest, which was the home of two of my mother's sisters - that is the Catholic Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen family. We stayed there for four years and in 1948 we moved on to Portugal, where we lived with all the crowned and uncrowned heads of the family. Then after that school in England, university in Switzerland....

Dr. von Habsburg attended universities in Fribourg and Berne, Switzerland; Munich, Germany; and Florence, Italy, before earning his Ph. D. in History of Art and Archeology from the University of Fribourg in 1965. In 1966 he joined the staff of Christie, Manson & Woods Auctioneers as Chairman, Switzerland, overseeing a network of offices throughout Europe. In 1980 he became Chairman of European Operations for the company. Later in his career, he served for four years as Chairman for Habsburg Fine Art International Auctioneers in New York and Geneva, a city which is linked to the tragic fate of his great-grandmother, Empress Sissi, who died in the Hotel Beurivage at the hands of an anarchist. At both organizations, Dr. Geza von Habsburg's work specialized in silver and gold, objects of vertu and Russian art.

In his private life he is also surrounded by art objects and antiques which he either inherited or collected over the years. Proudly he shows me around his elegant flat. One painting is particularly striking...

Archduke von Habsburg:
This is my great-great-grandfather - a Hungarian Habsburg, a Hungarian Palatine, namely the Archduke Joseph, who you can see here three times. He was the first Habsbug Palatine - he lived between 1800 and 1850. On this picture you can see him as the Hungarian magnate with the golden fleece. This is, in fact, the only piece that we rought with us from home. My mother took if from my father's office as we were fleeing. Everything else was left behind.

And here you can see Emperor Franz, Franz II, who later became the Austrian Emperor Franz I, and then next to him you see Emperor Franz-Joseph as a young man, a very smart man. The Empress Elizabeth fell in love with him immediately.

I also have a painting of Empress Maria-Theresia with her husband Emperor Franz Stephan and their family of 12. All the Habsburgs are descendants from them and from this one in particular....(he shows another painting) This is Archduke Leopold, who later became Emperor Leopold II.


You are the first member of the higher aristocracy to go into art. What made you become involved in art?

Archduke von Habsburg:
I don't really know. I always found it rather surprising, that no one else had this interest. Even from early childhood I have had an interest in art, I have always been dragging my family through the museums and cathedrals - even as a ten-year-old. It was in my blood. But the Habsburgs have always had an interest in art and a tendency to collect.

Géza von Habsburg acts as auctioneer for dozens of charity sales each each year and has an up-to-date auctioneers licence.

Is it you intention as an auctioneer, to bring all your ancestors "under the hammer"?

Archduke von Habsburg:
(laughs...) ...A question that
I have often been asked... How can you bring all your is quite impossible...there are thousands of them! But I have sold a lot of things belonging to the Habsburgs, indeed - unofficially and usually anonymously.

You have bben specialising in the Old Masters and in Fabergé. which of them is your favourite?

Archduke von Habsburg:
In fact, it is the Old Masters that interest me most. And then comes the Art of the Renaissance goldsmiths - so my main area of interest covs the 15th to the 18th centuries!

What advice would an art specialist like yourself give to a 'normal' art collector - what should one buy today as a good investment?

Archduke von Habsburg:
I would still confidently recommend the Old Masters...

What about antique clocks...?

Archduke von Habsburg:
Yes...well, they can be very expensive...

Gunter Sachs just recently told me in an interview that one can also buy photographs - they are also an art form! What would you say to that?

Archduke von Habsburg:
Yes, the photography market is very good. It is also doing very well here in the United States and very high prices are being paid. More than $100.000 and, in fact, I know that one even fetched more than one million dollars!

Why did you leave Geneva? You had your own auction house there...

Archduke von Habsburg:
Yes, I opened my auction house there and then I founded one here in New York. therefore I left Geneva for professional reasons...

Does it still exists?

Archduke von Habsburg:
Yes, business in Geneva continues, but I am involved in something very different at the moment, because I am the "curator" of a major exhibition - a large Fabergé exhibition. It will be the first time that major part of Fabergé's work that remained in Russia will be shown - there are about 300 items in different museums there. The Russians sold most of his work to the West after the death of Lenin in 1924, so it is now either in private or public collections - mainly in the United States. We will be getting about 250 exhibition items from those in Russian museums, mainly in the Kremlin and from the Hermitage in St. Petersburg and from all the palaces. We will also be receiving about 200 items on loan from Western collections, for example from Forbes, the Queen of England, and all the European collections and American museums. The exhibition will be displayed in three cities...


Much of the Archduke's career has been devoted to organizing and curatorial work for exhibitions, especially Fabergé exhibitions, all over the world - attracting over 2 million visitors. He served as the curator and organizer for Fabergé, Jeweller to the Tsars (1986-87) at Kunsthalle in Munich. Also, while as a Board Member with the Fabergé Arts Foundation, he was Chief Curator of Fabergé, Imperial Court Jeweler (1993-94), which was shown in St. Petersburg, Paris and London. He also served as Guest Curator of Fabergé in America, which toured five cities in the United States (1996-97) and another highlight was the exhibition Fabergé/Cartier, Rivalen am Zarenhof ( 2003/4) at the Kunsthalle der Hypo-Kulturstiftung in Munich.

Until 2004 the renowned Forbes Magazine Gallery in New York owned the largest Fabergé collections in the world. Malcom Forbes was a passionate collector. 14 years after his death, his heirs auctionned the nine Imperial eggs. It's a rich Russian entrepreneur who owns them now.

But when we were in New York with Géza von Habsburg, we had the honour to see them at the Fores Museum: the famous eggs created by the Russian Peter Carl Fabergé, the celebrated goldsmith and jeweller appointed to the Tsars.

Easter is the most joyful celebration of the Orthodox faith in Russia. The Easter of 1885 marked the twentieth anniversary of Tzar Alexander III and Tzarina Maria Fedorovna. The Tzar needed an exceptional gift for his wife. On Easter morning, Fabergé delivered to the palace what appeared to be a simple enameled egg. But to the delight of the Empress, inside was a golden yolk; within the yolk was a golden hen; and concealed within the hen was a diamond miniature of the royal crown and a tiny ruby egg. His wife's delight was all the Tzar needed to reward Fabergé with a commission for an Easter egg every year. The requirements were straightforward: each egg must be unique, and each must contain a suitable surprise for the Empress. With consummate craftsmanship and an inventive spirit, Fabergé repeatedly met the challenge, borrowing inspiration from the gilded lives of the Tzar and Tzarina.

From left to right, Photo1: Golden "Coronation egg" (1897) Photo 2: Birthday egg for Tsar Nicholas' daughter featuring 18 portraits of the family. Photo 3: Egg with portrait of Tsar Nicholas II (1916). Photo 4: This egg's secret: the Gatschina Palace - the preferred resicence of Tzarina Marie Feodorovna (1901).
Photos were taken from book "Fabergé - Hofjuwelier des Zaren" with permission of Dr. Géza von Habsburg.

Fascinated, we listen to the story told by the Archduke von Habsburg. The surprise contained in the Emperor's coronation egg, he explained, was a coach of pure gold, diamond roses and red enamel - an Easter present from Tsar Nicholas II to his wife, Tsarina Alexandra. Nowhere is the world of the turn of the century and the flair of the court of the Russian Tsar to be seen reflected so radiantly and admirably as in the creations of the jeweller appointed to the court of the last Romanovs. A testimony to the refined luxury of an epoch on the brink of the ruin, Fabergé's Easter eggs have become highly sought-after ojects d'art.

Naturally, Archduke Geza von Habsburg continues to explain, Fabergé's designs did not include only Easter eggs, but also jewellery cases, perfume bottles, picture frames and clocks, writing utensils and figurines - all valuable accessories of a highly aristocratic lifestyle.

While Dr. Geza shows us around the impressive Forbe's collection, we discover the egg created for Nicholas II's 15th wedding anniversary and, next to it, the "Orange blossom egg" - also an Easter egg.

Archduke von Habsburg:
Fabergé died in 1922. His sons took over the Fabergé tradition. Two sons worked in Paris and continued to produce Fabergé items - which were sold using their father's name. Nowadays there are mostly Fabergé forgeries - excellent forgeries some of which are produced in the ex-Soviet Union. Others are produced not far from here - in Brooklyn there is a very active forgery workshop. A certain number are also officially produced under the name of "Fabergé". In fact, today the brand name belongs to Unilever and it sells the rights. There is a jeweller in Germany who produces Fabergé under this agreement...

There are 50 Imperial Easter Eggs in the world, including the nine owned by the Forbes family. Ten are in the Moscow Kremlin Collection; five are at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond, Va.; Britain's Queen Elizabeth owns three. Others are in the United States, Switzerland and Monaco. The whereabouts of eight is unknown.

Fluent in seven languages, Dr. von Habsburg joined Fabergé Co. in 1994 as a consultant, spokesperson and lecturer worldwide. He has authored seven and co-written two books on Fabergé and related topics, as well as 75 articles, which have been published in various art journals all over the world. In addition, he has been featured prominently in a Russian film (1994), a Japanese film and two biographies for the Arts & Entertainment Network (A&E), all in association with Fabergé.


Dr. von Habsburg is currently a lecturer for the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Some of his topics include "Princely Collections," "The Habsburgs as Collectors and Patrons of the Arts," and "Celebrated Habsburg Women." He has also been featured in the A&E documentary, "Treasures of the Habsburgs" (1998), and "Habsburgs Today" on the Romance Channel (1999).

The Archduke is "a Habsburg" from top to toe. In his private study I discover lot's of other interesting books....

Archduke von Habsburg:
This is a biography of the Habsburgs - it tells you everything about the Habsburgs!

Well, I know a lot already - and of course always the best. However, I am more interested to know the "dark side of life"...has there been any "black sheep" in your family?

Archduke von Habsburg:
Do you mean me...? (laughs)
Yes indeed, there have been a lot of black sheep. Perhaps my grandmother was also one of them. She married a crown prince of Saxony and - what a scandal that caused at that time - she fled from the Saxon court and after her divorce married an Italian violinist.

Well, may be she was happier, who knows...

Archduke von Habsburg:
May be. Perhaps the most interesting black sheep is the Archduke Ludwig Salvator. He was born in 1847 in the Pitti Palace, Florence, as the son of Leopold III of Tuscany and Marie Antoinette de Bourbon. He was a grandson to Emperor Leopold II - you saw his picture before. His brother was my great grandfather (it must sound a bit complicated, I know...)

Archduke Ludwig Salvator was, in fact, one of the great scholars of our family, he was a keen botanist and wrote a number of books. Later, after he retired from the court in Vienna, he went to live in Mallorca. He owned two ships - "Nixe 1" and "Nixe 2" - and built a series of houses on Mallorca. Among them his "Son Marroig" which is one of the best known. Today it houses a "Ludwig Salvator Museum". There are a number of scandalous stories about him...his name has been mentioned in connection with a whole series of blonde, blue-eyed children who are supposed to be his offspring.

Anyway, it is known that he had a mistress there - Catalina Homar - I believe. He was dreaded at the court in Vienna because he was so unusually eccentric. Empress Elizabeth was particularly fond of him because they had that in common. He always appeared inappropriately dressed. One story tells of him using shoe laces instead of cuff links...he must have been a rather shocking figure for the extremely conservative members of Viennese court!


Archduke Ludwig Salvator von Habsburg-Lothringen was 20 years old when he first came to Mallorca - that is over 100 years ago. His aristocratic background was of little importance to him and so he lived under a psydonym in his Mallorca residence "Son Marroig" - surrounded by gardens and a Greek temple. Today everyone can visit the whole property, where the aristocratic "drop-out" once wrote his 80 books about the Balearic Islands.

Of all the famous foreigners attracted to Mallorca's northwest coast, none is so admired locally as 'S'Arxiduc', Archduke Ludwig Salvator. An ecologist before it was fashionable, and an eary hippy who wore Mallorcan peasant clothes, he bought up estates along the coast in an effort to save them from development. He also was well known for buying old olive trees and letting them live rather than allowing them to be cut down. He completely devoted himself to studying and recording Mallorcan wildlife and traditions. His seven volume "Las Baleares" took 20 years to produce and is still an authority on its subject. Ludwig Salvator died in 1915 in a Bohemian castle.

The Archduke's home at Son Marroig, outside Deia, has been turned into a shrine to his memory, with his photographs, paintings and books and a museum devoted to his life. His heirs have managed his property and gardens in much the same style, to the delight of everyone who comes here to visit today. In the gardens is a white marble rotunda, made from Carrara marble and imported from Italy, where you can sit and gaze at the Na Foradada ('pierced rock') peninsula. We, too, are really taken with the romance of this place. Ask at the house for permission to walk onto the peninsula.


If you want to learn more about my preferred Balearic Island and many lifestyle tips, please read now

Nathalie's Special Feature "Mallorca"

Archduke von Habsburg:
Another original character in the Habsburg dynasty is Swiss-born Archduchess Francesca von Habsburg, daughter of Baron Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza. She is certainly not a 'black sheep' but fun and eccentric and has always been Society's darling...

In 1993 Karl, eldest son of Otto von Habsburg (head of the family dynasty) married Francesca Thyssen-Bornemisza. They currently have three children and the girl who once was known as the "wild Francesca" started to be interested in art and culture. Like her father, the late Baron "Heini" who was one of the world's most influential art collectors, she herself is a respected collector today. Archduchess Francesca von Habsburg organised many interesting exhibitions such as "Art in War" which I featured on one of my TV shows several years ago.

Here are some interesting links for all those who are interested to learn more about the Imperial House of Austria . Also interesting: the Habsburg Biographies home page or The Society of the Golden Fleece . My team and I could stay forever. We can not stop to listen to Dr. Géza von Habsburg's stories about his family and his passion for art and Fabergé. As we are about to leave, he stops me at the door. "Here is a little souvenir", he says and hands me over a heavy book. "Fabergé - Hofjuweliere der Zaren" - including a personal dedication of the Archduke: "For Nathalie - to always remember an interesting stay in New York"

P.S. With his in-depth knowledge of the market and of buyers, in particular in the field of Fabergé and Russian Art, Géza von Habsburg discreetly handles private treaty sales of major single items and/or of collections. For a modest fee, buyers may seek his advice on acquisitions through auctions.

If you would like to contact Dr. Géza von Habsburg personally, please send an e-mail to

and I will forward your request to the Archduke.



* This special feature "Dr. Géza von Habsburg" has been one of more than 200 VIP-Portraits, produced by Nathalie Gütermann for her TV-Shows 'Nathalie's Lifestyle' and 'Nathalie's Art of Living' that were broadcasted between 1990 - 2003 in Germany and in 15 countries world-wide. The content has been updated with actual information in 2005 for © 1990 - 2005. The reproduction or other use of any text, photographs, etc. needs the prior written permission of the Chief Publisher.

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