Archive for the ‘Waddesdon Manor’ Category

The Waddesdon Bequest redisplayed

June 11, 2015
One of a pair of maiolica vases with ormolu mounts, circa 1565-1571. Before being acquired by Baron ferdinand, theyy were in the collection of Horace Walpole at Strawberry Hill. The Waddesdon Bequest. ©The Trustees of the British Museum

One of a pair of maiolica vases with ormolu mounts, circa 1565-1571. Before being acquired by Baron ferdinand, theyy were in the collection of Horace Walpole at Strawberry Hill. The Waddesdon Bequest. ©The Trustees of the British Museum

In 1898 Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild left his magnificent collection of medieval and Renaissance treasures to the British Museum, to be displayed together as the Waddesdon Bequest, named after his beloved country house, Waddesdon Manor.

The newly displayed Waddesdon Bequest at British Museum. ©The Trustees of the British Museum

The newly displayed Waddesdon Bequest at British Museum. ©The Trustees of the British Museum

This collection has now been redisplayed in a new gallery at the museum (room 2A, entry free), enabled by a donation from the Rothschild Foundation.

Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild in his sitting room at Waddesdon with his favourite poodle Poupon. ©Waddesdon Manor

Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild in his sitting room at Waddesdon with his favourite poodle Poupon. ©Waddesdon Manor

Baron Ferdinand inherited some of these objects from his father, Baron Anselm von Rothschild, but he greatly increased the collection himself as well. He was consciously emulating the art collections formed by the princes of Renaissance Europe.

Portrait busts of Margaret of Austria and Philibert of Savoy, boxwood, about 1515. The Waddesdon  Bequest. ©The Trustees of the British Museum

Portrait busts of Margaret of Austria and Philibert of Savoy, boxwood, about 1515. The Waddesdon Bequest. ©The Trustees of the British Museum

The collecting and building activities of various members of the Rothschild family, with its branches in Vienna, Frankfurt, Paris and London, demonstrated that they saw themselves as a new enlightened European aristocracy.

Aerial view of Waddesdon Manor. ©National Trust Images/John Bigelow Taylor

Aerial view of Waddesdon Manor. ©National Trust Images/John Bigelow Taylor

Of the 45 Rothschild mansions across Europe, only Waddesdon remains intact and open to the public. The house and grounds were bequeathed to the National Trust in 1957 and are managed by the Rothschild Foundation.

The Ghisi Shield, hammered iron, silver-plated and damascened with gold, about 1600. The Waddesdon  Bequest. ©The Trustees of the British Museum

The Ghisi Shield, hammered iron, silver-plated and damascened with gold, about 1600. The Waddesdon Bequest. ©The Trustees of the British Museum

Baron Ferdinand’s Renaissance collection was kept in the Smoking Room at Waddesdon. His sister Alice, who inherited the house, replenished the room with further treasures in a similar taste, which can still be seen there today.

The Smoking Room at Waddesdon. ©Waddesdon Manor

The Smoking Room at Waddesdon. ©Waddesdon Manor

The new display at the British Museum was designed by architects Stanton Williams in collaboration with the British Museum’s curators, conservators and other specialists. The large but subtle display cases, made by Goppion, lead the visitor around the objects and allow close viewing of their beautiful surfaces and exquisite craftsmanship.

Miniature tabernacle and case, boxwood, leather, gold fittings, 1510-1525, coming apart and opening like a flower to reveal further areas of minute carving with scenes from Life and Passion of Christ. The Waddesdon  Bequest. ©The Trustees of the British Museum

Miniature tabernacle and case, boxwood, leather, gold fittings, 1510-1525, coming apart and opening like a flower to reveal further areas of minute carving with scenes from Life and Passion of Christ. The Waddesdon Bequest. ©The Trustees of the British Museum

Evocative images of life at Waddesdon in Baron Ferdinand’s time are projected in a slow cycle on the upper level of the gallery. Discrete wall-mounted video screens show magnified details of some of the more intricate objects.

Turquoise glass goblet, Venice, late 1400s. The goblet is enamelled and gilded with pairs of lovers, suggesting that it may have been a betrothal gift. The Waddesdon  Bequest.  ©The Trustees of the British Museum

Turquoise glass goblet, Venice, late 1400s. The goblet is enamelled and gilded with pairs of lovers, suggesting that it may have been a betrothal gift. The Waddesdon Bequest. ©The Trustees of the British Museum

The new display is accompanied by a splendid catalogue by curator Dora Thornton. The British Museum’s website also includes a dedicated Waddesdon Bequest microsite. And there is an exhibition at Waddesdon specifically about Baron Ferdinand’s Renaissance collection, until 25 October.

The Baron’s Room

October 3, 2014
Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild (1839-98) at Waddesdon Manor, from a privately printed album known as the 'Red Book'. ©Waddesdon Manor, the Rothschild Collection (NationalTrust)

Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild (1839-98) at Waddesdon Manor, from a privately printed album known as the ‘Red Book’. ©Waddesdon Manor, the Rothschild Collection (NationalTrust)

After featuring some of Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild’s paintings in the previous post, I thought I might show the man himself.

©WaddesdonManor, The Rothschild Collection (NationalTrust)

©WaddesdonManor, The Rothschild Collection (NationalTrust)

Here he is in his private sitting room at Waddesdon Manor, with his poodle Poupon, in 1897. The photo also shows some of the grand manner English portraits he collected, as well as a pair of wall lights that came from Marie-Antoinette’s apartment in the Château de Compiègne. More about the album containing this photograph can be found on the Waddesdon blog.

The Baron's Room at Waddesdon today. ©Waddesdon Manor, National Trust.

The Baron’s Room at Waddesdon today. ©Waddesdon Manor, National Trust.

The room has been restored to its appearance in Baron Ferdinand’s time, as if he has just got up to take Poupon for stroll in the garden.

The Gilded Age at Waddesdon

September 30, 2014
Joanna Leigh, Mrs Richard Bennett Lloyd, inscribing a tree, by Sir Joshua Reynolds, 1775-6, at Waddesdon Manor. ©National Trust, image provided by the Public Catalogue Foundation

Joanna Leigh, Mrs Richard Bennett Lloyd, inscribing a tree, by Sir Joshua Reynolds, 1775-6, at Waddesdon Manor. ©National Trust, image provided by the Public Catalogue Foundation

I attended a fascinating conference at Waddesdon Manor last week about the ‘Gilded Age’,  the period towards the end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth century when a group of American industrialists and entrepreneurs became incredibly wealthy and started to buy European art.

Lady Anne Luttrell, Duchess of Cumberland, by Sir Joshua Reynolds, 1772-3, at Waddesdon Manor. ©National Trust, image provided by the Public Catalogue Foundation

Lady Anne Luttrell, Duchess of Cumberland, by Sir Joshua Reynolds, 1772-3, at Waddesdon Manor. ©National Trust, image provided by the Public Catalogue Foundation

The booming of the Amercian economy during the second half of the nineteenth century, coupled with a light taxation and legislation regime, allowed a select group of ‘robber barons’ to build up unprecedented fortunes. These men included John Jacob Astor (fur, real estate), Henry Clay Frick (steel), Collis Potter Huntington (railways), J.P. Morgan (finance), Andrew Mellon (finance, oil) and John D. Rockefeller (oil).

Emma Hart, Lady Hamilton, as Circe, by George Romney, 1782, at Waddesdon Manor. ©National Trust, image provided by the Public Catalogue Foundation

Emma Hart, Lady Hamilton, as Circe, by George Romney, 1782, at Waddesdon Manor. ©National Trust, image provided by the Public Catalogue Foundation

Some of them used some of their wealth to build palatial ‘cottages’ in Newport and elsewhere and to collect art. This ‘demand’ coincided with the opening up of ‘supply’ in Europe, where aristocratic families were hit by the agricultural depression of the 1870s. In addition, in Britain the Settled Land Acts of the 1880s allowed families to sell land and chattels that had hitherto been designated as heirlooms.

Frances Browne, Mrs John Douglas, by Thomas Gainsborough, 1783-4, at Waddesdon Manor. ©National Trust, image provided by the Public Catalogue Foundation

Frances Browne, Mrs John Douglas, by Thomas Gainsborough, 1783-4, at Waddesdon Manor. ©National Trust, image provided by the Public Catalogue Foundation

A number of art dealers stepped in to service both sides of this particularly frothy market, including Agnew’s, Colnagi’s (whose archive has recently been deposited on loan to Waddesdon), Goupil’s, Knoedler’s and Wertheimer’s.

Lady Jane Tollemache, Lady John Halliday, by Sir Joshua Reynolds, 1778-9, at Waddesdon Manor. ©National Trust, image provided by the Public Catalogue Foundation

Lady Jane Tollemache, Lady John Halliday, by Sir Joshua Reynolds, 1778-9, at Waddesdon Manor. ©National Trust, image provided by the Public Catalogue Foundation

Sometimes the dealers formed syndicates to acquire and redistribute large collections, while at other times they competed with climactic tenacity for the opportunities to buy and sell important and fashionable works of art.

Sophia Charlotte Digby, Lady Sheffield, by Thomas Gainsborough, 1785-6, at Waddesdon Manor. ©National Trust, image provided by the Public Catalogue Foundation

Sophia Charlotte Digby, Lady Sheffield, by Thomas Gainsborough, 1785-6, at Waddesdon Manor. ©National Trust, image provided by the Public Catalogue Foundation

Some of the types of paintings that were particularly popular in this period were Dutch seventeenth-century landscapes and interiors and English eighteenth-century portraits.

Mrs Abington as the comic muse, by Sir Joshua Reynolds, 1764-8 and 1772-3, at Waddesdon Manor. ©National Trust, image provided by the Public Catalogue Foundation

Mrs Abington as the comic muse, by Sir Joshua Reynolds, 1764-8 and 1772-3, at Waddesdon Manor. ©National Trust, image provided by the Public Catalogue Foundation

Visiting Waddesdon, it struck me that this house and collection, built and assembled by Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild (1839-98) has strong Gilded Age overtones. Indeed it could be said that the goût Rothschild and Gilded Age taste were partially overlapping and mutually influential.

Thaïs, by Sir Joshua Reynolds, 1781, at Waddesdon Manor. ©National Trust, image provided by the Public Catalogue Foundation

Thaïs, by Sir Joshua Reynolds, 1781, at Waddesdon Manor. ©National Trust, image provided by the Public Catalogue Foundation

The ‘grand manner’ English portraits collected by Baron Ferdinand would have been equally desirable, and occasionally hotly contested, by the robber barons across the pond.