‘Collections de Mr Le Baron Alfred de Rothschild Seamore Place et Halton’
The Rothschilds were dedicated collectors. From books to butterflies, stamps to silver, they vied among themselves to develop the most spectacular collections. The great Rothschild houses were perfect settings for art, silverware, and porcelain. Some of the most priceless collections were of old master paintings.
Alfred de Rothschild, collector, patron and connoisseur
Alfred (1842-1918) was the fourth of five children of Lionel and Charlotte de Rothschild. He spent his childhood in the family homes at 148 Piccadilly and Gunnersbury. At the age of 21, he became a partner at N M Rothschild & Sons at New Court. While he was perhaps in the shadow of older brother, Nathaniel (1840-1915), aged 26, Alfred became a director of the Bank of England, the first Jew to be appointed. Alfred's wide social circle supplied a long list of private clients for N M Rothschild & Sons. Upon the death of his father in 1879, Alfred inherited the estate at Halton in Buckinghamshire, and set about building a house in the style of a French chateau. Work started around 1880 and Halton House was finished in July 1883. Alfred remained in residence at his town house, 1 Seamore Place in London and only ever used Halton House for social purposes. Both houses formed magnificent backdrops to his art collections. A lifelong patron of the arts, Alfred also donated money to the National Gallery for acquisitions, and served as a trustee of both the National Gallery and the Wallace Collection.
Cataloguing his collections
This large blue leather volume, measuring some 55 x 70 cm, is handsomely inscribed in gold 'Collections de Mr Le Baron Alfred de Rothschild Seamore Place et Halton'. It was most likely privately published in Paris by Maison A.D. Braun & Co. of Paris, Dornach and New York. The exquisite plates are by Braun, Clément & Co. The plates illustrate the most important old masters in Alfred’s collection, including works by Boucher, Drouais, Gainsborough, Greuze, Reynolds, Romney, Rubens, Teniers, van Dyck and Watteau. The volume bears the manuscript inscription ‘For Lady Feo's kind acceptance in remembrance of ten very pleasant days spent at Halton, Alfred de Rothschild, 28 March 1901’, and bears a bookplate with the arms and motto 'En Dieu Est Tout’ and the family name ‘Alington’. These are the arms of Humphrey Napier Sturt, 2nd Baron Alington, whose wife was Lady Feodorowna Yorke (1864-1934). It is presumed that the volume was presented to her by Alfred as a gift.
An earlier two-volume catalogue of Alfred’s collections of pictures, china, furniture, metal work and objets de vitrine (Catalogue of the Works of Art forming the collection of Alfred de Rothschild: Volumes I and II (Charles Davis, 147 New Bond Street, London, 1884)) is also in the collection of the Archive (RAL 000/2281). Together with the latest acquisition, these catalogues provide a comprehensive account of Alfred’s style and collecting taste.