Sacred Stitches: Ecclesiastical Textiles in the Rothschild Collection
27 March – 27 October 2013
A sumptuous exhibition of eclectic religious textiles bought by Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild, the MP and art collector who built Waddesdon Manor.
The Rothschild family have been a banking dynasty since the late 1700s, and as a result have amassed a considerable art collection over the years. Thanks to the visionary Nathan Rothschild, who installed his five sons in different cities across Europe, they had direct access to the continent’s blue chip painters and craftsmen and now many of these works of art reside at the Rothschild’s estate, Waddesdon Manor.
Perhaps less well known is the collection of ecclesiastical textiles bought by Baron Ferdinand, Miss Alice and Baroness Edmond de Rothschild in the nineteenth-century. Exquisitely crafted robes, cassocks and altar frontals were purchased from across Europe and used as upholstery material for furniture or made into hangings or draft excluders. This is the first time these extraordinary objects go on display and reveal the radical tastes of the Rothschilds in an era when plush velvet was all the rage.
Not just a collection of pretty patterns, many of these textiles and embroideries depict saints and biblical scenes. Perhaps the goriest of which is an altar frontal made in Italy in the sixteenth-century of the beheading of John the Baptist. For many years it hung in the Smoking Room at Waddesdon Manor until it was recently removed for repair.