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William Rothschild, descended from the court Jew Mayer Amschel Rothschild in the Frankfurt Court of Landgraves of Hesse-Kassel, whose descendants inherited his wealth and were made nobility as Barons in Austria and England, was part of the family that held the largest collection of art in the world at one time. The art has since been distributed in large part to the world's major museums, the collections in each of which are attributed in large part to the Rothschild family.
Rothschild was a great collector of art. In addition, his son Lionel made many acquisitions.
The second English generation (of Rothschilds) began to move the family into traditional English upper-class patterns. Estates were purchased; Rothschilds were also becoming known for charity, art collecting, and hunting.
During the reign of Nazi Germany there was much art that was stolen, and after World War II, when paintings were retrieved, there were multitudes that had been stolen from Rothschild. For instance, one retrieved painting has written on the back R1171. This means it was the 1171st piece of art stolen from the Rothschild family, a wealthy Jewish family who was looted in 1941.
After the French Revolution the furniture of Versailles was sold and auctioned off; the Rothschild family purchased some of the furniture from Marie Antoinette's bed chamber. Decades later, a member of the Rothschild family noticed on a tour of Versailles that the pieces in Marie Antoinette's chamber were the same as some that the family owned. Graciously, these pieces were returned to Versailles.
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