Montenuovo Collection – Who stands behind the name?

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by Ruedi Kunzmann

The names of important collections like Donebauer, Julius, Merseburger, Unger, Willmersdörfer and Wurzbach sound like music in the ears of medal collectors. One finds citations of these collections regularly in serious auction catalogues. Probably, most of all, one finds the Montenuovo Collection. If the researcher enters the name Montenuovo in the special numismatic auctions archives, the citation appears for over 5000 medals, show talers and historical jetons. It proves that the collection was truly important.

Who was the owner of this collection and what do we know about this personality?

The first numismatic acquaintance that one makes with the name Montenuovo is when one studies the history of the coin dealership Adolph Hess. Hess opened a store 1871 in Giessen in which he offered small art objects, coins and medals. Two years later he moved his business to Frankfurt am Main, where it became a leading numismatic auction house in a few years. Adolph Hess had already issued a publication in Giessen that appeared regularly: “Autographierte Numismatische Correspondenz” (Autographic Nunismatic Correspondence). In this publication he featured numismatic articles, as well as medals and coins from his stock. Starting in 1880 medals from the Montenuovo Collection were offered on a regular basis.

Wilhelm Albrecht von Montenuovo.

Wilhelm Albrecht von Montenuovo was born, depending on the source, on August 8, 1819, probably though on August 9, 1821 in Parma as son of Count Adam Albert von Neipperg and the widow of Napoleon Bonaparte, Archduchess Marie-Louise of Austria. He received the title of Count of Neuberg (Montenuovo) and at the age of 19, joined the Imperial and Royal Austrian Army. Here he quickly made a career as a lieutenant in the 5th Military Police Batallion. In 1848 he served during the disturbances in Hungary and Italy and attained the rank of field marshal of the 11th Army Corps in 1854. His merits and his marriage to the Countess Batthyány-Strattmann led to his achieving the hereditary title of Prince on August 13, 1864.

Silver medal 1895 by Heinrich Jauer upon the death of Wilhelm Albrecht von Montenuovo with a dedication of the Numismatic Society of Vienna. Specimen of SINCONA AG, Auction 29 (May 18/19), lot 603.

As commander of the state of Transylvania in 1860 and Bohemia in 1866, he received the title of General of the Cavalry. With the age of 69 he retired and enjoyed the rest of his life until April 7, 1895 in Vienna. Two daughters and a son, Alfred, 2nd Prince of Montenuovo, guaranteed the survival of the family name.

Transylvania seems to have figured prominently in the life of Wilhelm Albrecht von Montenuovo. We find references there to his interests in culture and natural science. He is reported to have been an honorary member of the Transylvanian Society for Natural Science. And naturally, in our numismatic sense, he built up a prominent and important collection of medals and coins of Austria-Hungary, Italy, Transylvania, diverse Balkan states and other European countries.

Parts of the important Montenuovo Collection in the sales catalogue 1882 of the firm Adolph Hess in Frankfurt a. Main.

His collection, numbering several thousand items, was, as mentioned above, sold and auctioned in the years 1880-1886 by Adolph Hess in Frankfurt am Main.

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