Ephrussi family

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Palais Ephrussi at Vienna's Ringstraße (Universitätsring), opposite the Votivkirche, 2006
Palais Ephrussi, detail
5764 KER2063 C Recoura.jpg

The Ephrussi family (French pronunciation: ​[ɛfʁysi]) were a Russian Jewish banking and oil dynasty[1] of Greek origin.


The progenitor Charles Joachim Ephrussi (1792–1864), of Sephardic descendance, made a fortune controlling grain distribution beginning in the free port of Odessa (then Russian Empire, now Ukraine)[1] and later controlled large-scale oil resources across Crimea and the Caucasus. By 1860 the family was the world’s largest grain exporter.[1]

Charles Joachim's eldest son Leonid (d. 1877) founded a bank in Odessa, while his brother Ignaz (1829–1899) moved to the Austrian capital Vienna, where he established the Ephrussi & Co. banking house in 1856. In 1872 he was elevated to the noble rank of Ritter by the Habsburg emperor Franz Joseph I. In 1871 Leonid, together with his younger half-brothers Michel (1845–1914) und Maurice Ephrussi (1849–1916) founded a branch in Paris, followed by subsidiaries in London and Athens.

During the 19th century, the family possessed vast wealth, owning many castles, palaces, and estates in Europe. The family were known for their connoisseurship, intellectual interests, and their huge collections of art.[2] Leonid's son Charles Ephrussi (1849-1905), a well-known art historian, collector and editor, became a model for the character of Charles Swann in Marcel Proust's novel In Search of Lost Time.

The family's bank and properties were seized by the Nazi authorities after the 1938 Anschluss annexation of Austria by Nazi Germany.[1]

The family name is considered to be a variation of "Ephrati", a Jewish family name attested in various countries since the 14th Century and still current in present-day Israel, in this case transformed through the Ashkenazi pronunciation (Ephrati-Ephrassi-Ephrussi).[3]

Notable members[edit]

Notable members of the Ephrussi include:


Properties included:

Other Ephrussi[edit]

The Hare with Amber Eyes[edit]

The Hare with Amber Eyes (2010) is a family memoir of the Ephrussi family by British ceramicist Edmund de Waal, whose grandmother was Elisabeth Ephrussi of that family (see above).


  1. ^ a b c d 'Hare' chronicles unheard of Jewish family, The Jewish Chronicle of Pittsburgh (6 September 2011)
  2. ^ De Waal, Edmund (2010). The Hare with Amber Eyes. Chatto & Windus. ISBN 0-7011-8417-5. 
  3. ^ Dan Rottenberg, "Finding our fathers: a guidebook to Jewish genealogy", 1986 [1]
  4. ^ Grand fortunes: dynasties of wealth in France, (Algora Publishing, 1998), By Michel Pinçon, Monique Pinçon-Charlot, Andrea Lyn Secara, page 124