de Rothschild Fréres: rue Laffitte
James de Rothschild (1792-1868) arrived in Paris in 1812. With the purchase of an hôtel in 1818 in the old rue d’Artois, now rue Laffitte, the richest, most animated and modern part of Paris, James' lifestyle began to reflect the high social position he had attained as founder of the French Rothschild bank. His reconstructions of the building in 1836 attracted the approval of his family.
James’s nephew, Lionel, wrote to his fiancée, Charlotte: The first floor, the daily habitation is… splendid, so much gold that for the first few days one is quite dazzled.
With its seven gilded salons and luxurious interiors the house aroused general admiration. The poet Heine described it as the Versailles of a financial potentate. It was the perfect setting for the many soirées James held there each week. As many as sixty guests regularly sat down to dinner, among whom were numerous figures from the artistic community, such as Balzac and Heine, Liszt, Puccini and Meyerbeer, while Rossini wrote music for his parties and Ingres painted a portrait of James’s wife, Betty, there.
The twentieth century
During the Second World War, James’s grandsons and business heirs, Edouard and Robert, were forced to leave Paris. Their business was largely left in the hands of their Amsterdam agent, Auerbach, whose firm was incorporated into N V Commissie en Handelsbank.
Following French government reform of banking regulations, de Rothschild Frères became Banque Rothschild, a limited-liability company in 1967. Banque Rothschild was created on January 1st 1968, functioning as a deposit bank. In 1969 Guy de Rothschild became the chairman. At Easter 1970, a new modern bank building was inaugurated at 21 rue Laffitte, Paris. Baronne Liliane de Rothschild, (whose husband Guy de Rothschild was one of the French partners) had a good eye for pictures and a flair for design, and, in collaboration with Michel Boyer, she supervised the interior decoration of the new offices.
In 1982, the bank founded by James de Rothschild as de Rothschild Frères was nationalised by the French government, becoming became Compagnie Européenne de Banque.
A safe from the original French bank in the rue Laffitte is on display at New Court.