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The Waddesdon Bequest at the British Museum

The British Museum in London was established in 1753 and is home to around 8 million objects from around the world. Opened in 1759 the museum comprises of items ranging from early stone tools to Egyptian mummies and from Parthenon sculptures to twentieth century art prints. The museum is huge and the exhibits are beautifully presented. We went on a day visit and as expected it was impossible to cover much. If you love museums, you could spend days at this museum and soak in all that it has to offer. If you are short on time and visiting London for a short duration, keep at least a day aside for this museum.

The British Museum

Even though we were there for just one session, we had the pleasure of browsing some of the exhibits
leisurely at our own pace. I have loads of photographs to share and did not want to cram all of them into a single post. So, I will be sharing pictures over a series of posts. First up is the Waddesdon Bequest. Housed in Room no. 45 of the museum, the Waddesdon Bequest is the collection that was bequeathed to the museum by Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild, M.P., when he died in 1898.

The collection was built up by Baron Ferdinand and his father and is made up of rare and precious pieces of jewellery, plate, enamel, carvings etc. The collection of precious art objects from Renaissance Europe was originally housed in the Smoking Room at the Waddesdon Manor (home to Baron Ferdinand) and stayed there during his lifetime. Baron Ferdinand died aged 59 in 1898 and thereafter the collection of Renaissance objects d'arts was bequeathed to the British Museum as the 'Waddesdon Bequest'.

I was deeply interested in this collection because of the exquisite craftsmanship. Each piece on display was superb. If I go back to the museum, I will definitely be spending more time in this section. I would also definitely recommend this part of the museum if you are visiting. In the meantime I share with you some of my favourite artefacts from the Waddesdon Bequest.

Waddesdon Bequest at the British Museum

Waddesdon Bequest at the British Museum

Waddesdon Bequest at the British Museum

Waddesdon Bequest at the British Museum

This exquisite shell shaped cup made from dark green jade caught my fancy. It originated either in Milan or Prague and looked in good shape even though it was made in the early 17th century. The cup is mounted in gold, enamelled and has a very interesting handle - human male torso, human arms, and a serpentine twisted tail. That's a really contorted and weird but interesting handle(structure).

Waddesdon Bequest at the British Museum

This beautiful gold enamelled pendant with an 'architectural' form features 'Charity' carrying a small
child in her arm while two other children stand on either side. On the outer side of the supporting column (to the left)is 'Faith' while on the opposite side is 'Hope'. You can see Cupid on the top playing a musical instrument. The pendant is set with diamonds, rubies and emeralds.

Waddesdon Bequest at the British Museum

Another pendant that I absolutely loved was the gold enamelled jewel pendant of a hippocamp with a female rider(pictured below). A hippocamp is a mythical creature that is a part horse and part fish. The front portion is a horse while the hind quarter is scaly like a fish with fins and tail.  I loved the detailing on the head and mane of the hippocampi and also the use of enamel, pearls and emeralds to add further beauty to the pendant. Excellent.

Waddesdon Bequest at the British Museum

I was blown away by the collection in the 'Waddesdon Bequest'. Like I mentioned earlier, if I go back to the British Museum, I can spend the entire day looking at just this collection. There is lots to see in
the British Museum and it would be advisable that you visit their website prior to a visit, so that you
can decide which exhibits you want to see. Audio guides are available at the museum and can help you get the most from your visit. This is definitely one of the best museums in the UK. Check back later for other posts on the British Museum.

British Museum | Great Russell Street, London, WC1B 3DG
Tel: +44 (0)20 7323 8299

Entry is Free
Open daily from 10.00am to 5.30pm and Fridays until 8.30pm


  1. The British Museum are representing the Waddesdon Bequest in a new ground floor gallery opening in June. It will be well worth a visit to see these spectacular pieces in their new home. Waddesdon Manor, the original home of Ferdinand de Rothschild's Renaissance Museum is open Wednesday-Sunday each week between March and October for details see www.waddesdon.org.uk

    1. Thanks for the information, Waddesdon team.


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