The collection of Lionel de Rothschild (1808-1879) was probably one of the largest ever made. Ivories, mother-of-pearl, rock crystals, mounted tusks, horns, shells and nuts, Renaissance jewels, snuffboxes, Venetian and Flemish glass, majolica, Palissy and Henri II ware made up the collection. One outstanding piece of craftsmanship was a mother-of-pearl model of a partridge, made by Georg Ryhl in about 1620 in Nuremburg.
The jewels which Ferdinand de Rothschild (1839-1898) collected were part of his ambition to create a room full of precious objets d'art in the tradition of the Renaissance courts of Europe. Ferdinand collected jewels all through his life, a number of them inherited from his father, Anselm. The collection was remarkable for the way it reflected the achievements of goldsmiths of the early Renaissance and Baroque period who worked in ways described by Benvenuto Cellini. They used gemstones of many colours but also enamelling, using several techniques, to create polychrome jewels. Above all there are many examples of heavy sculptural pendants which were a distinctive feature of the second half of the 16th century, especially in Germany. The collection also includes three lockets, especially the Lyte Jewel designed to contain a miniature of King James I painted by the court-limner, Nicholas Hilliard. The collection was bequeathed to the British Museum, where it is known as The Waddesdon Bequest. Read more on The British Museum website here »
Adolphe de Rothschild (1823-1900) was an enthusiastic collector of objets d'art , and built up a fine collection of religious pieces, many dating back to the Renaissance, which he displayed at his house in the rue de Monceau. He arranged his collections in glass cases in rooms where daylight entered through glass ceilings, and which, like those of a museum, were arranged solely for those admiring the objects on display, with benches around the walls. The objects were organised by type or period, with some displayed in a dramatic setting. Adolphe's collection consisted of a remarkable series of reliquaries, monstrances, sacred vases and other pieces of religious jewellery and precious objects, which permitted the study of forms and techniques used in the workshops of the gold and silversmiths of the 15th century.
In 2015, the descendants of the Viennese Rothschild family gifted to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, USA, an important collection of objects looted from the family during the Nazi era and ultimately restored to their rightful owners. The collection of 186 items, originally owned by Baron Alphonse Mayer (1878-1942) and Baroness Clarice (1894-1967) von Rothschild of Vienna, includes European decorative arts, furniture, prints, drawings, paintings, and personal objects including jewellery and jewelled objects, miniatures, and rare books, and was a gift of the heirs of Bettina Looram (née von Rothschild). Read more about this collection on Museum of Fine Arts Boston website »
The Rothschild egg is a jewelled, enamelled, decorated egg that was made under the supervision of the Russian jeweller Peter Carl Fabergé by the workshop of Michael Perchin in 1902. Béatrice, Baroness Ephrussi (nee de Rothschild) (1864-1934) presented this egg to Germaine Halphen (1884-1975) upon her engagement to Béatrice's younger brother, Édouard Alphonse James de Rothschild (1868-1949). Upon the hour, a diamond-set cockerel pops up from the top of the egg, flaps its wings four times, then nods his head three times, crowing all the while. It is one of the few significant Fabergé eggs that were not made for the Russian Imperial family, and it had been in the Rothschild family since it was first purchased. It was one of the most expensive eggs that Fabergé had ever made and sold. It was sold by Christie's in 2007, the most expensive timepiece, Russian object, and Fabergé object ever sold at auction,
Judaica and religious objects
The collection of Judaica which Charlotte de Rothschild (1825-1899) bought had once been in the collection of the musician Isaac Strauss. At his death, Charlotte entrusted an agent, Charles Mannheim to procure 149 items of Jewish religious objects on condition that the nation accept them as a donation. The objects were deposited with the Musée de Cluny in 1890 in the name of Charlotte de Rothschild.
Ferdinand de Rothschild (1838-1898) collected Gothic sacred objects, the most important of which is the gold enamelled reliquary of the Holy Thorn of French origin and dating from the first decade of the 1400s. There was also an early 16th-century elaborate tabernacle of highly carved boxwood which may have belonged to the Emperor Charles V. This is in detachable sections and opens like a flower to reveal minutely carved scenes on the inside of each 'petal' from the Life and Passion of Christ.
Gold & silver art objects
Mayer Carl von Rothschild (1820-1886) and his wife Louise (1820-1894) amassed an incomparable collection of over 5,000 works of art; by the time he died his art collection was so vast it took up a whole house in Frankfurt. A large part of this collection consisted of gold and silver plate made in Augsburg and Nuremberg in the 16th century of which there were more than 400 items. During Mayer Carl's lifetime the collection was on display to the general public every Sunday. Drinking vessels, jugs, cups representing women, birds and cherubim, as well as ewers and chalices made up the collection. It also included some fine examples of work based on 16th-century engravings. Many involved not only gold and silver, but also other precious materials, such as jade, tortoiseshell, ivory and agate. The collection was described in two catalogues, published in 1883 and 1885. Today these volumes, with their exquisite photographic plates, are an important source for scholars of gold and silver work, and provenance researchers. Copies of these catalogues are in the Archive collection. See Mayer Carl von Rothschild: collector or patriot? in The Rothschild Archive Annual Review 2003-2004 for more information about Mayer Carl and his collections.