In the July 30, 2015 issue of CoinsWeekly, Ursula Kampmann discusses the Rothschild collections in the context of the proposed
German cultural property laws. -Editor
Most likely you all know the story of the Jew Mayer Amschel Rothschild who opened a coin shop in the ghetto of Frankfurt around 1764 that
supplied the European high nobility with numismatic rarities. His descendants were collectors themselves. A part of the collection of Ferdinand,
Freiherr von Rothschild (1839-1898), is currently on display in a new permanent exhibition in the British Museum.
Ferdinand de Rothschild was born in Vienna. He had relatives throughout Europe and became an elected member of the British Parliament.
Such an extent of urbanity aroused suspicion among the nationalists of the 19th century. Unsurprisingly, the Rothschild dynasty became the
target of many a conspiracy theory and anti-Semitic hate campaign.
Nowadays, Ferdinand de Rothschild would not have to defend himself for his faith. Nowadays, he would have to explain why he exported
national cultural property – and I am sure he did not have an export license. Just take the reliquary to house the thorn of Christ’s Crown
of Thorns, created for Duke of Berry in the 1390s. Or think of the Cellini Bell of Wenzel Jamnitzer from Nuremberg for which he took living
animals as silver molds (today, this would spark off a riot and cause many a petition, animal rights activists are much better organized
Of course, those objects are not discussed anymore, because the descendants of the Rothschild dynasty have donated them to the British
people, via the British Museum. Now, they are English cultural heritage which, of course, can no longer be exported.
All those national issues seem unreal to me when I see from which countries the people come who support the petition against the new
German law on the Protection of Cultural Heritage. Not only Germans are signing, but collectors from all European states, from the United
States, from Canada and further afar. Collectors from Albania, Argentina, Bangladesh, Brazil, Cambodia, Chile, China, Columbia, Ecuador,
Egypt, India, Iran, Lebanon, Malaysia, Mexico, Morocco, Pakistan, the Philippines, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South-Africa, Trinidad,
Turkey, the Ukraine, Uruguay, Vanuatu, Venezuela, and many, many more countries are supporting the German collectors in their fight against
a nationalization of the art trade.
After all, the collectors’ world is still an international one, and the collectors’ horizon reaches far beyond their own, national
culture. It is hardly surprising that collectors make the ideal scapegoats when it comes to blaming somebody for destroying cultural
heritage. It would be too embarrassing for the representatives of the national states to speak it out that the lion share of their cultural
heritage is destroyed due to their own neglect and indifference.
To read the complete Rothschild article, see:
A Rothschild Renaissance: Treasures from the Waddesdon Bequest
Wayne Homren, Editor
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