Collecting and Material Culture

Jewish country houses embodied a certain vision of the world and the place of Jews within it; this vision was expressed through architecture, through interiors and especially through art collections, assembled by Jewish and non-Jewish intermediaries. Differing considerably in scale and style, all these houses nonetheless articulated notions of civilisation, cultural identity and nationhood through material culture. 

This research strand will ask what these houses reveal about pan-European networks of collectors, antiques dealers and taste-makers? What was distinctive about Jewish forms of collecting in the country house; what trends did it follow, which periods did it favour, which styles did it emulate, and in what areas did it innovate? Moreover, what does the formation of country house collections reveal about how Jews conceived of their relationship to national pasts, the history of art and the progress of civilisation?

To date, the study of Jews as collectors has fragmented into the study of specific dynasties or individuals. By considering Jewish dealers as a transnational cohort, linked together by a web of Jewish intermediaries and dealers, the project will connect the emergence of Jewish country houses to the wider consolidation of Jewish artistic expertise.


Key Events in this Research Strand

19th December 2019, Polesden Lacey

'Jewish Stories and the National Heritage': a workshop in partnership with the National Trust. 

date to be announced, Paris

'Jewish Collectors and Patterns of Taste (1850-1930): this workshop will explore the networks and cultural horizons of Jewish collectors across Europe, examining their contribution to key artistic trends
william orpen/ otto beit in his study at belgrave square

2021 dates to be announced, London

'Jewish Dealers and the European Art Market (1850-1930). This workshop, held in partnership with the Gilbert Collection at the V&A, will examine the social and commercial connections of Jewish dealers across Europe, the hostility they encountered, and their role in the development of the global art market.


'Things Jewish: Objects, Knowledge and Identities'. This conference will include panels devoted to the collection of Judaica and Jewish museums, the Jewish contribution to the circulation of antiquities from Rome, Greece and Egypt, and the genre of ‘Jewish portraiture’.