Baron Ferdinand Rothschild bequeathed the contents of his New Smoking Room at Waddesdon Manor to the British Museum in 1898. The collection consisted of a wide-ranging collection of almost 300 objets d’art et de vertu. A new display for the collection, which under the terms of the bequest must be kept and displayed together, opened on 11 June 2015.
About Waddesdon Bequest in brief
Baron Ferdinand Rothschild bequeathed the contents of his New Smoking Room at Waddesdon Manor to the British Museum in 1898. The collection consisted of a wide-ranging collection of almost 300 objets d’art et de vertu, which included exquisite examples of jewellery, plate, enamel, carvings, glass and maiolica. The majority of the objects are from late Renaissance Europe, although there are several important medieval pieces, and outliers from classical antiquity and medieval Syria. Earlier than most objects is the outstanding Holy Thorn Reliquary, probably created in the 1390s in Paris for John, Duke of Berry. A new display for the collection, which under the terms of the bequest must be kept and displayed together, opened on 11 June 2015. It was started by Baron Ferdinand’s father, Baron Anselm von Rothschild, and may include some objects from earlier Rothschild collections. For Mayer Amschel Rothschild, who began the prominence of the family, his business dealing in coins,antiques, medals, and objects of display preceded and financed his banking operations, and most Rothschilds continued to collect art. Ferdinand continued to expand the collection until his death in 1898, mostly using dealers, and expanding the range of objects collected. In particular Ferdinand’s collection was only planned from 1891 to 1896, and the collection was moved in there in 1896, less than three years before Ferdinand’s death. The room is refilled with objects from the same period, though there were some upholstered with pieces from medieval vestments, and there were framed photographs and photographs from the period.
Comfortable seating was plentiful, with some upstaged from the walls away from the fireplace, which had an elaborate chimneypiece. Several objects, including the Casket of Saint Valerie, were on tables on the walls in wood above the fireplace. At least one of the object can be seen in a cabinet in the background of a family portrait from 1838, the year before Ferdinand was born. In his Reminiscences Ferdinand recalled his excitement as a child when he was allowed to help wrap and unwrap his father’s collection. The period after the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars offered tremendous opportunities for collectors of the decorative arts of the medieval and Renaissance periods. These categories were valued very little by the art market in general, and metalwork was routinely sold for its bullion value alone. Some of the older objects in precious metal in the collection may have first been received by the family as part of banking transactions; ownership of such pieces had always been partly a way to get some use from capital. There is no group for paintings, and WB. 174, a portrait miniature on vellum in a wooden frame, is included with the jewellery,. though this is because the subject is wearing a pendant in theCollection was assembled for a particular place, and to reflect a particular aesthetic; other parts of Ferdinand Rothschild’s collection contain objects in very different styles.