The Hare With Amber Eyes

A Family's Century of Art and Loss
De Waal, Edmund (Book - 2010 )
Average Rating: 4 stars out of 5.
The Hare With Amber Eyes

Item Details

Baker & Taylor
Traces the parallel stories of 19th-century art patron Charles Ephrussi and his unique collection of 360 miniature netsuke Japanese ivory carvings, documenting Ephrussi's relationship with Marcel Proust and the impact of the Holocaust on his cosmopolitan family.

McMillan Palgrave

The Ephrussis were a grand banking family, as rich and respected as the Rothschilds, who “burned like a comet” in nineteenth-century Paris and Vienna society. Yet by the end of World War II, almost the only thing remaining of their vast empire was a collection of 264 wood and ivory carvings, none of them larger than a matchbox.

The renowned ceramicist Edmund de Waal became the fifth generation to inherit this small and exquisite collection of netsuke. Entranced by their beauty and mystery, he determined to trace the story of his family through the story of the collection.

The netsuke—drunken monks, almost-ripe plums, snarling tigers—were gathered by Charles Ephrussi at the height of the Parisian rage for all things Japanese. Charles had shunned the place set aside for him in the family business to make a study of art, and of beautiful living. An early supporter of the Impressionists, he appears, oddly formal in a top hat, in Renoir’s Luncheon of the Boating Party. Marcel Proust studied Charles closely enough to use him as a model for the aesthete and lover Swann in Remembrance of Things Past.

Charles gave the carvings as a wedding gift to his cousin Viktor in Vienna; his children were allowed to play with one netsuke each while they watched their mother, the Baroness Emmy, dress for ball after ball. Her older daughter grew up to disdain fashionable society. Longing to write, she struck up a correspondence with Rilke, who encouraged her in her poetry.

The Anschluss changed their world beyond recognition. Ephrussi and his cosmopolitan family were imprisoned or scattered, and Hitler’s theorist on the “Jewish question” appropriated their magnificent palace on the Ringstrasse. A library of priceless books and a collection of Old Master paintings were confiscated by the Nazis. But the netsuke were smuggled away by a loyal maid, Anna, and hidden in her straw mattress. Years after the war, she would find a way to return them to the family she’d served even in their exile.

In The Hare with Amber Eyes, Edmund de Waal unfolds the story of a remarkable family and a tumultuous century. Sweeping yet intimate, it is a highly original meditation on art, history, and family, as elegant and precise as the netsuke themselves.

& Taylor

Traces the parallel stories of nineteenth-century art patron Charles Ephrussi and his unique collection of 264 miniature netsuke Japanese ivory carvings, documenting Ephrussi's relationship with Marcel Proust and the impact of the Holocaust on his cosmopolitan family.
Traces the parallel stories of nineteenth-century art patron Charles Ephrussi and his unique collection of 360 miniature netsuke Japanese ivory carvings, documenting Ephrussi's relationship with Marcel Proust and the impact of the Holocaust on his cosmopolitan family.

Authors: De Waal, Edmund
Statement of Responsibility: Edmund de Waal
Title: The hare with amber eyes
a family's century of art and loss
Publisher: New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2010
Edition: 1st American ed
Characteristics: 353 p. : ill. ; 22 cm.
Notes: "Originally published in 2010 by Chatto & Windus, Great Britain, as The Hare with Amber Eyes: A Hidden Inheritance."
Subject Headings: Ephrussi family Jewish bankers Europe Biography Jewish businesspeople Europe Biography Art Collectors and collecting Europe Biography Netsukes Private collections England London De Waal, Edmund Travel Europe
Topical Term: Jewish bankers
Jewish businesspeople
LCCN: 2010025539
ISBN: 9780374105976
Branch Call Number: 909.0492 D
Research Call Number: JFD 12-1526
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Jul 19, 2014
  • callaottawa rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

Excellent read and a book I could not put down. Use of the netsuke collection as it moved through the ages and the families that owned it as the underpinning for the story was very effective. Not a kind of book I usually enjoy but stayed with the author right to the very end.

from Patricia Wilson 5/2013

Apr 26, 2014
  • talktimereader rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

Historically interesting and well written story around the author,s family history and his relationship to the great European banking families of Ephrussi and Rothschilds.

Author is a renouned English ceramics artist. His exploration into the family possession of a collection of Japanese netsuke figurines, which eventually comes to him, is surprisingly involving and an education.

Feb 18, 2014
  • dinkthecat rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

In a word: amazing. Unsentimental, clearly written story of a family to evoke Age of Innocence and the Budenbrooks. I could not put it down.

Oct 11, 2013
  • Jane60201 rated this: 4.5 stars out of 5.

I really enjoyed this unusual book. Illustrates periods of history "on the ground" as experienced by real people.

Dec 21, 2012
  • icelandia rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

If history had been taught with books like this for text, I would have gotten straight A’s. One hundred years of the Ephrussi family, a Jewish banking family that originated in Russia and spread from there to Vienna, to Paris, to London, and then the Nazi-enforced diaspora to America, Holland & Japan. A secularized Jewish family who collected art and built stupendous houses, who rubbed shoulders with such as Proust, the Impressionists, Rilke, and other banking families like the Rothschilds. The author, a contemporary descendant, a successful potter in England, frames the book with the family’s collection of netsuke (small Japanese carvings). The book begins and ends with a contemplation of objects and collecting, leaving the reader with food-for-though, as they say.

Nov 30, 2012
  • dsftulsa rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

I loved this book and I didn't think I would. It went off on tangents, but it was like having a conversation with a thoughtful artist. The personal story of his family, the immediacy of the history he relates is wonderful.

Sep 15, 2012
  • bette108 rated this: 3 stars out of 5.

It took me a third of the book before my interest was fully captured by this book. Then I was intrigued by the plight of the Ephrussi family and the travels of the netsuke they owned, and how these 'trinkets' survived.

Aug 02, 2012
  • uncommonreader rated this: 3 stars out of 5.

A history told through the story of inherited netsuke - a picture of the macro world told through the micro. Interesting.

Giant snore, struggling to finish it for book group. Uninteresting lists, name dropping, surprising lack of illustrations. How can one write a book about art and not include SOME illustrations? Don't care what the old house looked like from the outside, which is mostly all you get here. Wandering, solipsistic narrative caused this careful reader to skim long passages of dull descriptions of furniture (again, photos please!) and the like and lists of who attended some 2-hr party over a 100 years ago. What, huh? Oh sorry, dozed off again just trying to write about this somnambulistic tome. Don't get the stellar reviews at all. zzzzzzzz

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