The Dorotheum combines historic tradition, modern zeitgeist and internationally renowned expertise.
The Dorotheum was founded in 1707 and, today, comprises the Auction, Jewellery and Pawnbroking divisions under one roof. The professionalism and market experience of our experts, personal service and the diversity and international character of our firm are what set us apart.
The service encompasses more than 40 fields, professionally overseen by over 100 experts. 600 auctions are held each year in all specialist areas. This includes four major international auction weeks of top auctions. 100 special catalogues are published each year.
Moreover, Dorotheum Jewellers is Austria's biggest jeweller, the Dorotheum Gallery in the Palais Dorotheum is Vienna's largest antiques store and, as the market leader in the pawnbroking business, the loan service offers quick, temporary finance with minimal paperwork.
Emperor Joseph I. founded the present-day Dorotheum, which was then known as "Versatz- und Fragamt", as a pawnbroking establishment, auction house and sales agency for real estate, movable assets and services. He was inspired by the idea and social philosophy of Bernardino da Feltre, creating a "Monte di Pietà" to ease financial distress. As early as 1760, the name "Kayserlich königlich privilegiertes Versatz- und Pfandamt" (denoting the emperor's seal of approval) had become established and the firm enjoyed great popularity among the public.
Joseph II. opened the Dorotheum to all social strata, introduced regulated auction processes and chose the former Dorothea convent as the site - hence the name. Anecdotes abound about the son of Empress Maria Theresia and the instigator of numerous progressive reforms. One of them tells of the emperor's visit to the Versatzamt, as it was then known: Joseph II. - so the story goes - came dressed as a humble citizen to the pawn office and asked to pawn his hat there. However, as the official on duty didn't recognise the emperor and was unwilling to accept the hat as a pledge, the emperor subsequently enacted a decree stipulating that low-value pledges must also be accepted. To this day, Dorotheum remains committed to this philosophy, which is why it still pays out loans from as little as EUR 20.
The Dorotheum was always able to protect its pledges - as the story of the "Madonna of Komoron" demonstrates. During the revolutionary year 1848 the Dorotheum transferred them to the well-secured fortress of Komoron, in present-day West Hungary. Once the threat had been averted, the pledges were brought back and all gratefully collected by their owners. A simple image of the Mother of God remained in the Dorotheum's ownership and, to this day, is still a treasured possession of the firm.
Emperor Franz Joseph I. had the Dorotheum redesigned as an auction house in the Baroque style, which meant that, in future, it could stage all its exhibitions in a magnificent setting which greatly enhanced the allure of the auctions. The emperor himself, surrounded by Austrian aristocracy, conducted the opening ceremony.
Over the following decades, the Dorotheum built an excellent reputation in all social strata. Affectionately dubbed "Aunt Dorothee" by those who needed money, it was also held in high regard for the skills of its appraisers in art and antiques auctions. The Dorotheum was visited by artists, mentioned in literary works and even celebrated in song. Franz Kafka's diaries and a novel by Joseph Roth were just two examples of this renown; even the Waltz King Karl Michael Zierher entitled his most famous opera "Der Schätzmeister" (The Appraiser).
Since the commercial division was founded, Dorotheum Jewellers have offered the country's widest range of jewellery. The Dorotheum Gallery sells items of beauty from all fields.
Privately owned for the first time, the Dorotheum's aim is to consolidate Vienna's status as an international auction venue and preserve the firm's charm as a traditional establishment in the future.
The Dorotheum celebrated its 300th anniversary at the Palais Dorotheum, complete with the 300-year-old foundation charter, and the Austrian broadcasting corporation ORF devoted a special documentary to the occasion, spanning the firm's entire history.
The pawnbroking service was expanded with the Car Pawning+ service, enabling customers to use their car as collateral for a loan, quickly and conveniently raise cash and carry on driving!
Since the beginning of 2015 it has been also possible to use smartphones, tablets and smartwatches of common brands as collateral for a loan.
The Dorotheum is an extraordinary company, a blend of the traditional and the modern, distinguished by its diverse range and its services as an auction house, jeweller and pawnbroker. Find out more about the Auction and Jewellery divisions