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Seilern, Antoine, Count

    Full Name: Seilern, Antoine, Count

    Other Names:

    • Antoine Count Seilern und Aspang

    Gender: male

    Date Born: 1901

    Date Died: 1978

    Place Born: Farnham, Surrey, England, UK

    Place Died: London, Greater London, England, UK

    Home Country/ies: Austria

    Career(s): art collectors


    Collector and art historian. Seilern was the son of Count Carl Seilern und Aspang (1866-1940) and Antoinette Woerishoffer (Seilern und Aspang) (1875-1901). His mother, who was American by birth, died shortly after his birth. Seilern was raised by his grandmother in New York and Vienna, enjoying dual citizenship of Austria and England. At the end of World War I, however, he renounced his Austrian citizenship. Seilern graduated from the Realgymnasium in Vienna in 1920 continuing on to the Wiener Handelsakademie (1920-1921 where he likely met another future art historian, Fritz Grossmann) and then, beginning in 1922, at the Technische Hochschule, studying for the engineering certificate, (though 1924). Seiler briefly worked in lumber harvesting companies in Yugoslavia and finance in Vienna. His friend the art collector Count Karl Lanckoronski, encouraged Seilern to collect as well. In 1931 a vast inheritance from his grandmother ensured his life leisure. Between 1930 and 1933 he made a world tour, lingering in Africa for big-game hunting. In 1933, a family friend and art historian Count Karl Wilczek recommended Seilern for private study with Johannes Wilde. Seilern enrolled at Vienna University studying under Karl Maria Swoboda, Julius Alwin von Schlosser, and Hans Sedlmayr. Seiler’s collecting had blossomed on a grand scale, advised by Ludwig Burchard and Wilde. His Rubens’ paintings included “Landscape by Moonlight” (onced owned by Sir Joshua Reynolds), numerous Rubens’s drawings and modelli, and Tiepolos. Seilern completed his Ph.D. in 1939 with a dissertation on the Venetian influences on Rubens’s ceiling paintings. Seiler’s (sole) British citizenship and the annexation of Austria by the Nazi’s the year before, both enabled and forced Seilern to return to England in 1939 together with his considerable art and book collection. In England he provided financial support to

    Selected Bibliography

    Flemish Paintings & Drawings at 56 Princes Gate, London SW 7. London: Shenval Press, 1955; Italian Paintings and Drawings at 56 Princes Gate, London SW 7. London: Shenval Press, 1959; Paintings and Drawings of Continental Schools Other than Flemish and Italian at 56 Princes Gate London, SW7. London: Shenval Press, 1961; Recent Acquisitions at 56 Princes Gate, London SW7. London: Shenval Press, Early Chinese Ceramics, Archaic Bronzes, Paintings and Works of Art: the Property of the Estate of the Late Count Antoine Seilern, sold by Order of Beneficiaries. London: Christie’s, 1982.


    Ludwig Münz another Austrian art historian fleeing Hitler. Wilde, who’s wife was Jewish, was also in peril. Seilern made arrangements for Wilde’s books to be shipped as Wilde struggled to leave himself. He and Wilde, who had been sponsored by Kenneth Clark, reunited in Aberystwyth, Wales. During World War II, Seilern enlisted in the British army volunteering for the disasterous Russo-Finnish campaign of 1940. He escaped occupied Norway completing the War as a German interpreter. At the height of the War, Seilern made one of his finest acquisitions, “The Entombment with Donor and the Resurrection” by the Master of Flémalle, which he purchased in 1942 as a work attributed to Adriaen Isenbrandt. After the War, Seilern lived in South Kensington, London, (and a farm near Chesham, Buckinghamshire), building his collection. His drawings included those by [Giovanni] Bellini, Brueghel, Dürer, Hugo van der Goes, Michelangelo, Rembrandt, Watteau, Degas, Picasso, and Cézanne, and even Chinese bronzes. His friend and mentor, Wilde, now deputy director of the Courtauld Institute, convinced him to leave the bulk of his paintings to the Courtauld Institute. Other works went to the National Gallery, London, and the British Museum, and, like the Courtauld bequest, completely annonymously. These included Bernardo Daddi’s “Virgin and Child with Saints,” 1338, (purchased 1956). Seilern’s anonymous gifts are referred to simply in those museums as coming from the “Prince’s Gate Collection.” Beginning in 1955 Seilern published a catalogue of his collection with the assistance of Grossmann. The seven-volume work was completed in 1971. He died of heart disease at age 56 and was buried in Frensham churchyard, the place of his birth. He was later exhumed and re-interred at the family vault at Aspang, Austria, south of Vienna. His archives were placed at the Courtauld Institute. “Count Seilern’s Flemish Paintings and Drawings.” Burlington Magazine 97 (December 1955): 396-8; Levey, Michael. “Count Seilern’s Italian Pictures and Drawings.” Burlington Magazine102 (March 1960): 122-3; Braham, Helen. “Introduction.” in, The Princes Gate Collection. London: Courtauld Institute Galleries, 1981, pp. vii-xv; Farr, Dennis “Seilern und Aspang, Count Antoine Edward (1901-1978).” Oxford Dictionary of American Biography; [obituary:] Shaw, James Byam. “Count Antoine Seilern (1901-78).” The Burlington Magazine 120 (November 1978): 760-2; Blunt, Anthony F. “Antoine Seilern: Connoisseur in the Grand Tradition.” Apollo 109 (January 1979): 10-23.


    "Seilern, Antoine, Count." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

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