'A Rothschild Renaissance: A New Look at the Waddesdon Bequest in the British Museum' Published

30 June 2017

The new British Museum Research Publication, A Rothschild Renaissance: A New Look at the Waddesdon Bequest in the British Museum, was published in June 2017. It draws together papers from the international scholarly conference of the same title, which was held at the BM in October 2015. The publication gives the Bequest a new intellectual status and connects it with Kunstkammer collections across Europe and with the 19th Century art market in fascinating ways. Co-edited by Pippa Shirley, Head of Collections and Gardens at Waddesdon Manor, and Dr Dora Thornton, Curator of the Waddesdon Bequest at the British Museum, which continues the collaboration between the Rothschild Foundation and Waddesdon with the British Museum beyond the making of the new gallery.

In 1898, Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild bequeathed to the British Museum the contents from the New Smoking Room at his home at Waddesdon Manor, a collection of nearly 300 objects to be known as the Waddesdon Bequest. The Bequest contains some of the most beautiful examples of medieval and Renaissance craftsmanship, including exquisite pieces of jewellery, silver plate, painted enamels of Limoges, glass, maiolica and microcarvings in boxwood. It is the only permanent collection to have a gallery to itself in the British Museum.

The gallery was recently redesigned for the 21st century and opened to great acclaim in June 2015. To coincide with the opening of the new gallery, supported by the Rothschild Foundation, a conference was held at the British Museum that opened up this remarkable collection to leading international specialists who spoke on all areas of the Bequest. Subjects included new attributions for sculptures, a detailed discussion of the making and marketing of forgeries by Salomon Weininger, Frédéric Spitzer and Alfred André, the legal and tax issues surrounding bequests in the late 19th century as well as new research on jewellery and its presentation both at Waddesdon Manor and in the new gallery at the British Museum. The collecting tastes of French and English Rothschilds were compared and contrasted, and a line of Arabic poetry enamelled on the Palmer Cup newly identified.

The publication presents these findings, and through up to the minute scientific and academic research, positions the Waddesdon Bequest within a wider intellectual and historical context for the first time. It is available for purchase by clicking HERE