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.

Related Publications

Bildung beyond borders: German–Jewish collectors outside Germany, c.1870–1940

READERS of the Journal of the History of Collections may reasonably ask why a special issue should be devoted to expatriate German–Jewish collectors in fin-de-siècle Europe, on the face of it a rather niche theme.

John Hilary


Tom Stammers

John Hilary, Tom Stammers, Introduction: Bildung beyond borders: German–Jewish collectors outside Germany, c.1870–1940, Journal of the History of Collections, 2022;, fhab059 

Key Events in this Research Strand
Polesden Lacey
'Jewish Stories and the National Heritage': a workshop held in December 2019 in partnership with the National Trust. Read more about the workshop here.
jewish collectors conference group
'Jewish Collectors and Patterns of Taste (1850-1930): this workshop took place in June 2022 and explored the networks and cultural horizons of Jewish collectors across Europe, examining their contribution to key artistic trends. Read the workshop report here.
william orpen/ otto beit in his study at belgrave square

'Jewish Dealers and the European Art Market (1850-1930). This workshop, held in partnership with the Gilbert Collection at the V&A, examined 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.

montefiore thanet orphanage visit

Jewish Philanthropy: Solidarity, Antisemitism and Cultural Heritage 

This conference explores the objectives, consequences and diverse national cultures of Jewish philanthropy in Britain and Europe in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. 

This conference is for invited participants only.