Waddesdon Manor was designed by Gabriel-Hippolyte Destailleur (1822–1893) and pays homage to French Renaissance châteaux. Built for Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild (1839–1898), from the Austrian side of the Rothschild banking dynasty, today it houses several Rothschild collections. Together they combine the highest quality of French decorative arts of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries – including some fine pastoral scenes by Watteau, Lancret and Pater – with Dutch and Flemish Old Masters such as Pieter de Hooch, Metsu, Terborch and Aelbert Cuyp.
Many of the paintings are an intrinsic part of the architectural scheme and are integrated alongside the British eighteenth-century paintings, many of which hang as Ferdinand originally intended. He was drawn to themes of masquerade, fancy dress and performance as seen in the striking and unconventional portraits of actresses, singers and courtesans by Romney, Reynolds and Gainsborough.
Ferdinand bequeathed Waddesdon Manor to his sister Alice de Rothschild (1847–1922), a collector of early Renaissance religious paintings, notably Bernaert van Orley’s exquisite ‘Virgin and Child Enthroned’. She left it to her French great-nephew, James de Rothschild, who also inherited part of the collection from his father, Edmond de Rothschild (1845–1934). James bequeathed Waddesdon to the National Trust, with a life interest remaining to his widow. The endowment, bequeathed to Jacob (b.1936), 4th Lord Rothschild, is managed by a committee headed by a member of the Rothschild family. Lord Rothschild continues to be closely involved in the conservation and enrichment of Waddesdon’s collections, including introducing modern British artists, such as Lucian Freud, and the notable 2007 acquisition of the ‘Boy Building a House of Cards’, which pays homage to a lost, but incomparable, Rothschild collection of Chardins.
Waddesdon, near Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire HP18 0JH England
Before making a visit, check opening hours with the venue