Celebrating Waddesdon's women
Today is International Women's Day so we thought we'd mark it with highlights from our collections and history.
Emma, Lady Hamilton was the artist George Romney’s muse thanks to her vivacity and beauty. Here, Romney depicts her as the enchantress Circe, who ensnared Odysseus, commenting on her influence on his friend and patron, Charles Greville.
100 years ago some women got the right to vote, so we’ve taken a look back at two important figures in Waddesdon’s history, Miss Alice and Mrs Dorothy de Rothschild, and their political positions.
Jeanne-Antoinette Poisson, Madame de Pompadour, was the mistress of king Louis XV. She used works of art to captivate the king and to cultivate her own image. François Boucher’s portraits like this one were central to her self-presentation.
Alice de Rothschild, the sister of Ferdinand who built Waddesdon, was a collector in her own right and her housekeeping regime, known as ‘Miss Alice’s Rules’ have become the basis of National Trust conservation practise.
The gardens are accented with many 18th-century sculptures including several of Roman goddesses. This sculpture, a copy of an Hellenistic marble, is of Ceres, the goddess of agriculture. She holds ears of corns and was a symbol of fertility.
It is often said that women’s history is overlooked, but here at Waddesdon, the very survival of the house and its contents is in large part thanks to the role played by three significant Rothschild women.
Marie-Antoinette, Queen of France, used this exquisite writing table at the Petit Trianon, the small palace she retreated to, from Versailles. The desk was commissioned from her favourite cabinet-maker Jean-Henri Riesener.
This is a portrait by one of the leading women artists of late 18th century France, Elisabeth Vigée-LeBrun. It depicts the duchesse de Polignac, an intimate friend of Marie-Antoinette and governess to the royal children.
You can find contemporary art as well as 18th-century sculptures in the grounds, like Lafite, two giant candlesticks by artist Joana Vasconcelos, adorned with hundreds of individually illuminated Château Lafite Rothschild wine bottles.
This copper, gold and enamel plate by Pierre Reymond, is from a service made in 1560 depicting the biblical Book of Genesis. One of the four surviving plates, this scene shows the creation of the first woman, Eve.