A Rothschild Treasury
28 Mar – 1 Nov 2020, Wed-Sun
This new permanent gallery houses more than 300 objects made from rare and precious materials, many on display for the first time.
From a 1st-century cameo of Augustus Caesar’s grandson, to a microscope used by entomologist and flea expert Charles Rothschild, via jewellery given as presents from Queen Victoria, to objects bearing Nazi inventory numbers, gold boxes, silver and jewellery – this new gallery displays items that celebrate the Rothschild family as collectors of extraordinary objects.
A Rothschild Treasury tells the story of generations of Rothschild collecting, and also reveals the interests and relationships of family members. Visitors will be able to see objects with personal connections, such as James de Rothschild’s coin collection, Baron Ferdinand’s watch chain, and Miss Alice’s seal and bracelet given to her by Queen Victoria.
Densely displayed and beautifully lit, the new gallery presents an absorbing opportunity to enjoy and understand objects, dating from 100AD to the 20th century, made from rare and precious materials.
Highlights include an amber casket made in the 17th century, a mounted nautilus shell that once belonged to the renowned collector William Beckford, an 18th-century Mughal jade vase encrusted with precious stones and the Nelme Cup, a unique gold standing cup made in England in 1727.
The Rothschilds were, and continue to be, active in sponsoring archaeological excavations. Following expert conservation work, a small but important collection of ancient jewellery and glass from the Middle East, acquired by Baron Edmond in the late 19th century, will form part of the displays. Included in this section is an exceptional 1st-century cameo of Augustus Caesar’s grandson, Gaius.
For horologists, A Rothschild Treasury also devotes a section to showing how time can be mastered through scientific knowledge. Two astronomical clocks combine complex mechanisms with skilful metalworking and precious materials, and include the earliest known clock by Jeremias Metzger (1563). A clock by the renowned watchmaker Abraham-Louis Bréguet (1747-1823), owned by Nathan Mayer Rothschild (1777-1836), founder of the English branch of the family, is also on display for the first time.
A Rothschild Treasury not only reflects the Rothschild passion for collecting, but also the tradition of the Schatzkammer. These treasure rooms which celebrated the riches of the earth and natural world and were first created in European courts from the 16th century. Baron Ferdinand was so inspired by them that he created his own ‘Renaissance Museum’ in Waddesdon’s Smoking Room, now the Waddesdon Bequest at the British Museum.
Today’s Lord Rothschild says: “I am truly delighted that the Treasury, the culmination of a long-held family ambition to extend the displays at the Manor, is opening this autumn. Many objects from my family’s collections, all with significant and personal connections, are being put on show for the first time.
The display is a homage to the Rothschilds who created and have cared for Waddesdon, and an expression of the ties which bind earlier generations to the present. I also hope that this new room, with its extraordinary and varied contents, will surprise, delight and intrigue our visitors as they explore. Even for those who think that they know Waddesdon and its collections well, there is much to discover.”