Waddesdon's rich interiors are typical of 'the Rothschild style' - superlative French 18th century decorative arts, paintings by leading 17th and 18th century artists, Renaissance treasures...and a few contemporary surprises.
Mayer Amschel von Rothschild began as a dealer in antique and precious coins. In the early years, family members acquired items made of precious materials which were beautifully crafted. This tradition of collecting had its origins in Renaissance cabinets of treasures and is best seen at Waddesdon in the Smoking Room. Ferdinand left the collection he had assembled in the Smoking Room to the British Museum where it can be seen as The Waddesdon Bequest.
As they began to build and furnish luxurious houses, their collections expanded. Similar tastes united the family and the resulting style became known internationally as the ‘goût Rothschild’ or Rothschild taste. They were to the unparalleled quality of French 18th century decorative arts, such as furniture, porcelain and textiles. These objects were collected as works of art but also served as useful furnishings alongside 19th century furniture. The interiors were created to complement to the collections, using historical panelling and architectural elements.
Dutch 17th century paintings were also a common interest. In addition, Baron Ferdinand bought many British portraits by Reynolds, Gainsborough and Romney. Baron Edmond created a collection rich in works by French 18th century artists in Paris. His collection of drawings and engravings was one of the largest ever made.
What you see at Waddesdon are the collections of Baron Ferdinand and his sister Alice. Some of the works of art that belonged to Baron Edmond came to Waddesdon as the inheritance of James de Rothschild, as did many textiles that had belonged to Baroness Edmond.
Today, Lord Rothschild continues to add to the collection. He is very interested in contemporary art and has added sculptures by Stephen Cox, Angus Fairhurst and Sarah Lucas to the collection. He also acquired some exceptional 18th century works of art. Paintings by Chardin, Labille-Guiard, Panini and Callet are recent additions as is the silver service made for George III,and the contemporary chandelier by Ingo Maurer.