Moritz Sobotka 1913
Half-length portrait, upper part of the body slightly turned, head tilted to the left, looking at the viewer. The sitter with blond-white moustache and monocle in his left eye wears a brown two-row traditional suit with green lapels and on his head a hat with a small chamois beard.
Contemporary color print reproduction 40 x 38 cm
Signature: ф (JQ intertwined) Ɑdams 1913.
Private collection, USA
Moritz Sobotka 22.10.1843 Dobkau/Dobkov (Chotěboř, CZ) to 20.11.1918 Vienna. Self-made industrialist and father-in-law of the artist.
Moritz was born the son of Valentin Franz S. (1810-1892), who operated a leased distillery he took over from his father in law. At the age of 14 he went to Vienna to attend a commercial school. (Two of his brothers followed him to Vienna, Gustav S. [1845-1919, chemist who emigrated to the United States], and Ignatz S. [1853-1909, physician, married to the daughter of Moritz’ partner Jacob Hauser and in close contact with Moritz's family and also a collector of Adam's works].) Moritz started his career as a clerk for the grain merchant Josef Heller and then in the alcohol and yeast factory of Baron Gustav von Springer, one of the most successful Jewish industrialists in Vienna. In 1869 he married the daughter of the malt merchant Leopold Brum - Sofie Brum/Sobotka (1851-1930); the couple had nine children. Their daughter Stefanie (1881-1952) married the painter John Quincy Adams (1873-1933) in 1901.
Together with his brother-in-law Jacob Hauser (1839-1915, who had married Sofie's sister Johanna/Hanna), he was a partner in his father-in-law's company, which they took over in 1884 and, with the financial support of Baron Springer, founded the Erste Wiener Export Malz Fabrik Gesellschaft Hauser & Sobotka in 1885 and built a modern malt factory in the Stadlau neighborhood of Vienna. Its main customers were beer breweries. The company, which remained under the ownership and management of the Hauser and Sobotka families until its Aryanization in 1938 (it still exists today under the name STAMAG Stadlauer Malzfabrik Aktiengesellschaft, cf. the Adams beer poster with illustrations of the factories in the cross-references) grew into a successful large-scale enterprise and made the company founders very wealthy (Sandgruber, 2013 lists both Moritz Sobotka and Jacob Hauser among the 500-richest Viennese men and women by income tax in 1910 [income about 150,000 crowns each]). By World War I, the company had grown to become the largest malt factory in Europe and diversified its product range (including also malt coffee, baker's malt extract [for bread and pastry production], Hoff malt extract, and the Ovomaltine beverage still known today) as well as its export markets, with subsidiaries in Germany (1902), England (1905), the USA (1906), Italy (1909), and France (1911).
In 1904, Moritz S. acquired the approximately 200-hectare Bürglgut on the shores of Lake Wofgang (municipality of Strobl), where he spent most of the year after his 60th birthday and moved from operational management to supervisory functions at the Stadlau malt factory. His succession was assured after the marriage of his daughter Alice (1873-1963, see her Adams portrait) to Alfred Hauser (1870-1948), the son of his partner Jacob, and by the entry into the company of his sons Hanns (1877-1947) and Felix (1878-1934), and later also Valentin (1896-1988). The Bürglgut became the center of family life for the extended family. In the various villas of the estate, up to 40 guests were accommodated during the summer months. (The management of such a large household, with up to 10 servants, was in the expert hands of Sofie, from whom her granddaughter Harriet Adams/Walderdorff later took many ideas to run the Goldener Hirschen in Salzburg, which she had founded). Moritz, on the other hand, was involved in local politics, charitable work, and the development of rural infrastructure (water pipeline, recruitment of a doctor for Strobl), for which he was made an honorary citizen by the communities of Strobl as well as St. Wolfgang. In his Adams portrait he is depicted in the habitus of a landed nobleman with (fashionable) monocle and hunting clothes (Styrian attire, although he did not hunt nor owned a gun). Moritz Sobotka died in November 1918 and thus did not have to witness the end of the monarchy and the "age of security" (Stefan Zweig). His youngest son had to sell half of the Bürglgut in 1929 after economic difficulties of the post-war period and hyperinflation. After Sofie's death, the rest was also sold in 1930. The new owner, the Prague industrialist (coal) Hans Petschek (1895-1968) was the son-in-law of Moritz's daughter Gabriele Epler, née Sobotka (1871-1959). After Aryanization and use by Nazi bigwigs, the property was restituted to Hans Petschek in 1948 and used as a refugee home. Hans Petschek sold the property to the Republic of Austria in 1955 with the condition that it be used for educational and peace-promoting purposes. Today it serves as an educational facility and hosts the University of Vienna's international summer college.
The original portrait of Moritz Sobotka, dated 1913, is lost. It likely disappeared after 1938 due to the racial persecution of the extended Sobotka family and the emigration of almost all family members. However, a contemporary color reproduction has survived in the family's possession, which was probably produced in about 1913 as a souvenir for the numerous family members of the extended family. Two other portraits of Moritz (reproduction?) and Sofie (original, possibly reduced in size) Sobotka from 1905 have also survived in the family's possession, although they are not signed. An attribution of these 1905 portraits to Adams is not very plausible due to the missing signature and also stylistic reasons, which is why these portraits only appear in the cross-references, but not in the catalog raisonné.
Biographical information: Roman Sandgruber, 2013, Dreamtime for Billionaires, Styria (in German); and Valtentin Sobotka, 1980, Ways and Issues Retraced, self-published, Berkeley, USA. Genealogical information: kind communication from Mark Petschek, USA.
Cross-referencesBeer poster 1901
1913-1938? Sobotka family Strobl and Vienna,
Contemporary color reproduction, owned by
private collection USA.