Ferdinand de Rothschild (1838-1898) began collecting Sèvres as a very young man. He proved his determination and assurance as a collector with his first purchase, a pot-pourri vase in the form of a sailing ship. Only eleven of these had ever been produced because of the difficulty of firing them. Their rarity was reflected in the price, and for two years Ferdinand hid the vase in case he was accused of extravagance by his family. He was later to buy another two Sèvres ships. The collection also included the Razoumovsky dessert service, with its vibrant turquoise ground and ornithological painting.
Alfred de Rothschild (1842-1918) shared with his cousin Ferdinand a love of the 18th-century French decorative arts, and especially French porcelain. He inherited some items of Sèvres from his father, and added more than sixty vases and objects, fourteen pieces of Sèvres-mounted furniture and six services, including two from French royal provenances.
His most impressive item was a cabinet mounted with a Sèvres plaque which had originally served as a table top and which Marie Antoinette had presented to her sister and brother-in-law the Duke and Duchess of Saxe-Tefchen. Measuring 14 by 8.5 inches, this is the largest piece of Sèvres ever to have been produced.