Storing and Staging: Baron Edmond de Rothschild’s Boxes given by Juliet Carey

A talk on Waddesdon Manor’s surprising collection of storage boxes.

This talk explores the beautiful boxes in which some of Waddesdon Manor’s collection lives when out of the public eye. Baron Edmond de Rothschild (1845-1934) commissioned them for his Sèvres porcelain, small sculptures and antiquities. Their unusually sophisticated fabrication relates to bookbinding, covers of scientific instruments, etuis for princely treasures, and longstanding Parisian expertise in the protection and transportation of precious things. Far from being neutral or invisible spaces, these boxes construct new ways of experiencing their contents – from boxes that help to study and categorise vases, Roman glass, and even furniture, to a box that transforms into a stage, creating a private drama of enclosure and revelation around a little marble nymph. For all their aesthetic and tactile appeal, the protective role of these boxes is underlined by the turbulence of the times that they survived, from revolutions and siege in 19th Paris to the Nazi occupation. A work by Edmund de Waal in response to this aspectof the story offers an intriguing postscript.