Few Rothschilds were more highly respected for their breadth of knowledge of fine art than James de Rothschild's sons, Alphonse (1827-1905) and Edmond (1845-1934). The final accolade came with Alphonse's election to the Académie Française, and Edmond's election to the Académie des Beaux-Arts.
While Edmond acquired a specialist's knowledge of engravings, Alphonse became an authority who was consulted by art historians over paintings of disputed provenance. Alphonse collected an astonishing range of some of Europe's rarest masterpieces, including a narrative series of painted leather panels by Govaert Flink, a pupil of Rembrandt. His collection of 18th-century French masterpieces was unique, and he filled his Paris house in the rue Saint-Florentin with works by Hobbema, Wynarts, Wouvermans and Rembrandt.
He also supported contemporary artists and his largesse extended to some 200 artistic institutions with the Académie des Beaux-Arts receiving FF 2,000 to use as a biennial prize.