Ephrussi family

Palais Ephrussi at Vienna's Ringstraße (Universitätsring), opposite the Votivkirche, 2006
Palais Ephrussi, detail

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 descent, 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 Habsburg emperor Franz Joseph I. In 1871 Leonid, together with his younger half-brothers Michel (1845–1914) and 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, transformed through the Ashkenazi pronunciation (Ephrati–Ephrassi–Ephrussi).[3]

Notable members

Notable members of the Ephrussi include:


Properties included:

Other Ephrussi

The Hare with Amber Eyes

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. 1 2 3 4 '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. Rottenberg, Dan (1986). Finding Our Fathers: A Guidebook to Jewish Genealogy. Genealogical.
  4. Pinçon, Michel; Pinçon-Charlot, Monique; Secara, Andrea Lyn (1998). Grand Fortunes: Dynasties of Wealth in France. Algora. p. 124. ISBN 0-9646073-5-2.
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