25 Mar-25 Oct 2015House
In the late 1880s Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild ordered the creation of a ‘New Smoking Room’ in the Bachelors’ Wing at Waddesdon. The room would contain the ‘Renaissance Museum’, Ferdinand’s collection of objects made of precious materials in the manner of princely collections of the 16th and 17th centuries, the core of which had been inherited from his father, Anselm. The collection had been displayed in the Tower Drawing Room on the ground floor at Waddesdon, though no photographs survive of the room before it was redecorated following the removal of the objects to the Smoking Room.
The Smoking Room, Billiard Room and corridor in between were decorated in the French Renaissance style, in contrast to the 18th-century French character of the rest of the house. The glass cases containing the ‘Renaissance Museum’ were surrounded by textiles, furniture, and other fixtures and furnishings which complemented the richness of Ferdinand’s collection of treasures. Many of these objects are still at Waddesdon, although they have been in store for a long time because of the fragility of the textiles, and changes in display and use of the rooms.
On Ferdinand’s death in 1898 he bequeathed the bulk of his ‘Renaissance Museum’ to the British Museum where it remains as the Waddesdon Bequest.
To celebrate a new display of the Bequest at the British Museum opening in 2015, this exhibition at Waddesdon examines the furnishings that surrounded the precious objects in the 1890s and Ferdinand’s very conscious decision to decorate this part of the Bachelors’ Wing in Renaissance style. Changes made to the Smoking Room by Alice de Rothschild and its subsequent use and display are also be explored.
The Bachelors’ Wing, including the Smoking Room, can be viewed on Wednesday to Friday each week.