Edmond de Rothschild

Collection at the Louvre

© Louvre Museum, Department of Prints and Drawings
In 1935, the heirs of Baron Edmond James de Rothschild (1845-1934) and Baroness Adélaïde (1853-1935) fulfilled their parents’ last wishes by offering an extraordinary collection of old master prints, drawings and bound works to the Musée du Louvre. The gesture was ground-breaking not only in terms of the size and uncompromising quality of the works; its integration into one of the most prestigious cultural institutions in the world would challenge traditional classification systems and have a lasting impact on museum science.

Edmond James de Rothschild
1845 - 1934

The youngest of James and Betty de Rothschild’s four children, Edmond James was encouraged in cultivating his interest in the arts by his father, from whom he inherited a substantial number of prints and engravings which he continued to expand throughout his life. This specialized field had long constituted a privileged domain for antiquarians and erudite scholars, but had yet to find its place among museum collections.

As a connoisseur, Baron Edmond James benefitted from the guidance of experts and art historians, most notably André Blum (1881-1963), who would accompany the transition to the Louvre. A fund provided by the Baron’s three children, James, Alexandrine and Maurice, would ensure the installation and ongoing curatorship of the Edmond de Rothschild Collection at the Louvre.

In 1937, Blum prepared the first exhibitions at the Musée de l’Orangerie and the Jeu de Paume. For the first time, the works by Rembrandt, the incunabula and the finest drawings and prints were seen by the Parisian public. During the Second World War, the collection was removed for offsite protection, and only found its permanent home in the Pavillon de Flore at the Louvre in 1957.

© Musée du Louvre

Under the curatorship of Maurice Sérullaz, particular attention was given to early German and Italian prints and 17th- and 18th-century French engravings.

While the collection has been unceasingly protected, studied and exhibited according to the conditions of the donation, its integration within an institution still devoted almost entirely to painting and sculpture was not readily apparent at the time. Ultimately, in 1989, the Edmond de Rothschild Collection formed the basis of the Louvre’s newly organized Département des Arts Graphiques. 

© Musée du Louvre

Today, works are accessible through an online inventory of the Musée du Louvre. Pascal Torres, curator of the collection until 2014, retraces its history in a work published by the museum in 2011. Torres was succeeded by Séverine Lepape whose tenure extended to 2019 and marked a major renovation of the collection through the application of modern conservation techniques.

In the sphere or art history, Pauline Prévost-Marcilhacy’s seminal 2016 work, Les Rothschild: Une dynastie de mécènes en France, has formed the basis of an ongoing collaborative research project at the Institut National d’Histoire de l’Art. Much of this recent scholarship underscores the revolutionary nature of the gift made by Edmond James de Rothschild: beyond the intrinsic value of its works, the ensemble serves as a major document for understanding the foresight of a ground-breaking collector.

© Musée du Louvre - Albrecht Dürer (Nuremberg, 1471 – id., 1528), Lionne, 1521. Pen, brown ink and watercolour on vellum.
© Musée du Louvre - Albrecht Dürer (Nuremberg, 1471 – id., 1528), Adam and Eve (detail), 1504. Engraving.
© Musée du Louvre - Cristofano Robetta (Florence, 1462 – documented until 1535), Allégorie de la puissance de l’amour. Burin engraving.
© Musée du Louvre - Leonardo da Vinci (Vinci, 1452 – Amboise, 1519), Horsemen vanquishing a dragon, three horses walking and study of a horseman. Pen and sepia ink, sepia wash.
© Musée du Louvre - Raphael [Raffaello Sanzio], (Urbino, 1483 – Rome, 1520), Portrait of a Young Man (detail), ca. 1502-1504. Black chalk.
© Musée du Louvre - Albrecht Dürer (Nuremberg, 1471 – id., 1528), Costume of a Livonian Lady, 1521. Pen, sepia ink, watercolour.
© Musée du Louvre - Jacques-Louis David (Paris, 1748 – Brussels, 1825), Marie-Antoinette, Queen of France, Being Led to her Execution, 1793. Pen, sepia ink.