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Mayer (Alphonse) de Rothschild (1827-1905)

Mayer Alphonse de Rothschild, (known as Alphonse) was the eldest son of James de Rothschild. He was born in the rue Laffitte on 1 February 1827. Alphonse married his cousin Leonora at Gunnersbury Park on 4 March 1857. He was a vivacious man, and enjoyed outdoor pursuits, particularly horse racing, and he was a perennially familiar figure on all the leading courses, if only because of his fine moustache.

Alphonse was educated to take his place at the head of de Rothschild Frères, and spent time in the other Rothschild houses in Europe, learning his 'trade'. In 1848, he was sent to the United States, from where he sent back enthusiastic reports about the prospects for a Rothschild House in that country. It was not to be. In France, Alphonse felt secure, that 'notwithstanding the many new banking houses, the governments always turn to us'.

There were difficult years. Alphonse led the handling of France's war indemnity in the wake of the Franco-Prussian war of 1870-1871, making it possible for the country to pay off the sum two years early and free France from Prussian troops. Alphonse weathered the anti-Semitic 1890s, in spite of serious physical threats.

Alphonse inherited Ferrières on the death of his father in 1868. Here and at his Paris home on the rue Saint Florentin, he developed his collections of paintings, favouring Dutch and Flemish masters, Rubens, Rembrandt, Frans Hals, and acquiring Vermeer's The Astronomer. He was one of many members of his family who formed precious collections of Sèvres. In 1885, Alphonse was elected a member of l'Académie des beaux-arts.

Archive sources

The Archive holds no private papers of Mayer Alphonse. See also Leonora (Laury or Lally), Baroness Mayer Alphonse de Rothschild (née de Rothschild) (1837-1911).

Mayer Alphonse de Rothschild, portrait engraving, c.1890

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Black and white engraving taken from Revue Illustré of Baron Mayer Alphonse (Alphonse) de Rothschild (1827-1905). date unknown but c.1890.

Mayer Alphonse de Rothschild: reports of letter bomb attack on the Paris house, 'Le Petit Journal - Supplement Illustré' and 'Le Journal Illustré, 1895

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Press reports of the letter bomb attack on the Paris house in the rue Lafitte in 1895, which seriously injured the chief clerk of de Rothschild Frères, M.Bernard Jodkowitz, when he opened a latter bomb intended to assassinate Alphonse de Rothschild (1827-1905). According to contemporary press reports, a large letter arrived at rue Laffitte addressed to Baron Alphonse de Rothschild; the envelope was marked 'personal' and 'please forward'. As the Baron was ,away, the letter was opened by one of his trusted men, Bernard Jodkowitz, head clerk. Immediately there was a violent explosion and Mr Jodkowitz was seriously injured in the face and hands. The pince-nez he wore fortunately saved his sight and he eventually recovered from his ordeal. Forensic testing later revealed that the letter was full of mercury explosive.

  • Le Petit Journal - Supplement Illustré, No. 251, 8 September 1895, reporting the letter bomb attack on the Paris house;
  • Le Journal Illustré, Sunday 8 September 1895, with an illustration by Henri Meyer depicting the letter bomb attack on the Paris house. 

Mayer Alphonse de Rothschild, catalogue of collections, 'Art Le Baron Alphonse de Rothschild', 1905

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Photocopy of an original publication, L'Art Le Baron Alphonse de Rothschild (Paris: Libraririe de L'Art, 1905). This volume was produced as an special edition of L'Art, revue mensuelle illustrée, about the art collection of Alphonse de Rothschild (1827-1905). Over his lifetime Alphonse put together a massive collection of artworks. He was an avid collector of the Dutch Masters as well as an important assembler of Islamic works of art. In 1885 he was made a member of the Académie des Beaux-Arts and donated and/or bequeathed approximately 2,000 pieces to many different museums.