The Rothschild couple passionately collected objects related to architecture, nature and art, as well as rare unique pieces. The baroness herself led an elaborate lifestyle. In the course of her career she collected French or non-European art of the 18th century. Many of her purchased collectibles were taken by train to the train station in Beaulieu-sur-Merbrought, and transported from there to the Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild. There was hardly any limit to her passion for collecting.
The Baroness Ephrussi de Rothschild made her Villa a true haven for art collectors with porcelain, furniture and paintings by the Great Masters. The Villa was decorated in the Rothschild style, i.e., with the best from each era, resulting in a somewhat eclectic mix.
Béatrice’s apartments. It is accessed via a boudoir decorated with neo-Pompeian woodwork serving as a backdrop to the happiness of the day signed Jean-Henri Riesener, cabinetmaker appointed by Queen Marie-Antoinette as well as to a small octagonal table attributed to Adam Weisweiler.
The bedroom forms an oval projection opening onto Villefranche bay. The ceiling is decorated with a Venetian painting of the middle of the xviii th century. On the ground, an Aubusson carpet of identical shape but slightly later. Along a wall, a Louis XV-Louis XVI commode, stamped Nicolas Petit.
Showcases arranged in the wardrobe expose French costumes xviii th century and a collection of clothing and small Chinese shoes of the 19th century.
The adjoining bathroom is a masterpiece of refinement; beneath a trellis of gilded wooden slats, the woodwork painted by Leriche at the end of the 18th century concealed the sink and storage.
Béatrice used the boudoir to write or to receive her closest friends. Beatrice de Rothschild’s room is accessed through a boudoir decorated with Neo-Pompeian-style wood paneling. It served as a room for a secretary by the cabinetmaker Jean-Henri Riesener. There is also a small octagonal table that is attributed to Adam Weisweiler.
The writing desk or escritoire. This small piece of furniture was used for writing and was designed specifically for women. It is signed Jean-Henri Riesener, one of the best-known cabinetmakers in the 18th century, and would have belonged to Marie-Antoinette.
The octagon base table. The polished tabletop, created at the Sèvres Manufactory, is decorated with bird feathers and insect wings. This tabletop with drawers is signed by the French master cabinetmaker Adam Weiswiler, who worked during the reign of Louis XVI.
The room has an oval ledge that opens onto the Bay of Villefranche. The ceiling is adorned with an 18th century Venetian painting. On the floor is an Aubusson carpet from a later period. There is a transitional Louis XV style chest of drawers on the wall. to Louis XVI. with a stamp by Nicolas Petit. There is an artistically designed bathroom next door.
Facing west towards the setting sun, the Baroness’s bedroom is furnished with a Venetian bed covered with Chinese silk embroidered with various flower and bird motifs. The Rothschilds were trading silk with China from 1838, hardly 4 years after the end of the commercial monopoly imposed by the East India Company.
The chest of drawers to the right of the bed is signed Nicolas Petit, one of the best proponents of the Transition style, marking the switch between the rococo of Louis XV and the neo-classicism of Louis XVI. On top of this, there is a portrait of Béatrice as a young girl, the only portrait to be preserved to this day.
The second part of the room, which is round in shape, looks on to the Bay of Villefranche.
The large oval carpet comes from the Aubusson Manufactory and dates from the end of the reign of Louis XVI. It echoes exactly the shape of the ceiling. The ceiling is decorated with a painting from the Venice school from the 18th century depicting the Triumph of a patrician family.
The Dressing Room
This part of the dressing room accommodates clothing that draws inspiration from China.
There are tiny shoes on show in a display cabinet. It was a traditional belief in China that a woman should have tiny feet. Béatrice tried to meet this requirement at the expense of great suffering: all of her toes, apart from the big toe, were bent under the foot and held there with extremely tightly tied strips of cloth. Another display cabinet exhibits grand Mandarin robes.
The collection of 18th century silks
In the second part of the dressing room, there are gowns, waistcoats and fabrics made from satin, taffeta, silk and velvet dating from the 18th century. All represent a very high level of refinement.
Béatrice’s bathroom is a masterpiece in sophistication. In a circular shape, its dome is covered in guilt chestnut slats forming a trellis. On the walls, the panelling, painted in the 18th century by Pierre Leriche, one of Marie-Antoinette’s painters, conceals small closets housing the washbasin, dressing table and bidet.
In the centre of the bathroom, there would certainly have been a bathtub supplied with running water. It no longer exists today.
Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild
Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild, also called villa Île-de-France, is a French seaside villa located at Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat on the French Riviera.
The villa was designed by the French architect Aaron Messiah, and constructed between 1905 and 1912 by Baroness Béatrice de Rothschild (1864–1934). A member of the Rothschild banking family and the wife of the banker Baron Maurice de Ephrussi, Béatrice de Rothschild built her rose-colored villa on a promontory on the isthmus of Cap Ferrat overlooking the Mediterranean Sea.
The Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild, a sumptuous residence surrounded by nine idyllic gardens in Saint-Jean-Cap Ferrat on the Côte d’Azur, was constructed during the Belle Epoque by Baroness Béatrice Ephrussi de Rothschild, an extraordinary woman, whose everyday life and taste for art are forever embodied in the villa.
The Baroness filled the mansion with antique furniture, Old Master paintings, sculptures, objets d’art, and assembled an extensive collection of rare porcelain. The gardens are classified by the French Ministry of Culture as one of the Notable Gardens of France.
The Villa is a collector’s residence, where porcelain manufactured by the royal Manufactory of Sèvres stands beside Gobelins tapestries, paintings by the masters and rare items of furniture. The nine gardens are decorated with columns, waterfalls, ornamental ponds, flowerbeds and rare species of trees.
On her death in 1934, the Baroness donated the property and its collections to the Académie des Beaux Arts division of the Institut de France and it is now open to the public. The role of the Académie des Beaux-Arts is to defend and highlight France’s artistic heritage and promote its growth in all its forms of expression.