A Jacobean and Victorian house known for its superb collections of Chinese porcelain and Dutch and Flemish seventeenth-century cabinet pictures, formed principally by Baron Lionel de Rothschild (1808–1879). These were inherited by his grandson the banker and philanthropist Anthony de Rothschild (1887–1961), who, after a late 1930s remodeling, gave Ascott and most of its collections to the National Trust in 1949.
Lionel tended to buy pictures en bloc from collections with a distinguished provenance: Meindert Hobbema’s Cottages in a Wood belonged to Alexander Baring; Adriaen van Ostade’s Peasants carousing Infront of an Inn and Milk Girl by Nicolas Maes were from the well-known collection of Willem van Loon; and several of the best Dutch pictures at Ascott, including the Frans van Mieris portraits and Jan Steen’s Itinerant Musicians, came from the collection of Charles Heusch. The Ludolf de Jongh, A Lady receiving a Letter, was purchased as a Pieter de Hooch by Lionel de Rothschild and by its previous owner, George Hammond Lucy of Charlecote Park. Only when the picture had been cleaned and the signature on it discovered, prior to its exhibition at the Royal Academy in 1938, was the actual artist revealed. Lionel’s son Leopold de Rothschild (1845-1917) made some additions to the picture collection, including the Jan van der Heyden caprice and the Frans Snyders’ Still Life with Fruit and a Cockatoo, but it was Anthony de Rothschild who made the significant purchase of View of Dordrecht from the North by Aelbert Cuyp, recognized as one of the artist’s supreme achievements.
Alice Rylance-Watson, Assistant Curator of Pictures and Sculpture, with contributions by other National Trust curators and staff members (April 2022)