Artist or maker:
c 1890
Place of production:
Paris?, France
gold, enamel, diamonds and rubies
Type of object:
pendants (jewelry)
Accession number:


Regal lion pendants were popular both with 16th-century nobles and 19th-century forgers. Copied from a jewel published in 1886, this was collected as an original example. The dealer who sold it to Baroness Mathilde de Rothschild, the sister of Waddesdon’s creator Ferdinand, may have emphasised the crossed arrows on the shield, reminiscent of her own family crest.

Original Renaissance pendants with heraldic lions feature in several German collections, for example the "Palatine Lion" made in the 1570s for a member of the Bavarian Wittelsbach family (Munich Residenz Schatzkammer, inv. no. ResMü Schk 643). Mathilde’s brother-in-law, Mayer Carl von Rothschild (d. 1886), a prolific collector of Renaissance jewels, owned a heraldic lion similar to the Palatine Lion (F. Luthmer, “Der Schatz des Freiherrn Karl von Rotschild”, 1885, vol. 2, pl. 40). Mathilde must have been familiar with these pieces.

The late 19th-century forger Frédéric Spitzer (1815-1890) encouraged his associates to make many lion pendants (Y. Hackenbroch, ‘Reinhold Vasters, Goldsmith’, Metroplitan Museum Journal, 19/20 (1984/85), p. 186). One of these associates, Reinhold Vasters (1827-1909), sold several things to Mathilde’s husband, Wilhelm Carl (1828-1901), as Renaissance originals (Hackenbroch, ‘Reinhold Vasters’, pp. 266-267).

Given this context, it is not surprising that Mathilde was also targeted with a forged Renaissance lion pendant. Sometimes Vasters made items that were aimed at Jewish collectors, for example with imagery of Queen of Sheba or Moses (Charles Truman, personal communication, August 2014). It may be that an enterprising jeweller like Vasters saw the connection between the coat of arms on the original jewel and the Rothschild device of five arrows and made the jewel specifically to appeal to the jewel collectors of this family.

The original jewel on which this pendant is based was exhibited in 1884 in Budapest and is now in the National Museum of Hungary (acc. no. 1879.114.35). Growing interest in Hungarian identity culminated in several grand exhibitions of medieval and Renaissance artworks in the late 19th century. A catalogue of the exhibition, with lithograph illustrations and commentary, was published in Paris in 1886. It was written by three scholars including Émile Molinier (1857 – 1906), an associate of Spitzer. An illustration of the original jewel appears in the catalogue ( "Chefs-d’œuvre d’Orfèvrerie ayant figuré à l’Exposition de Budapest décrits par ... E. M., décrits par Charles Pulszky, Eugène Radisics et Émile Molinier et reproduits par l'eau-forte, la chromolithographie et l'héliogravure". 2 vols. (Paris: Librairie centrale des beaux-arts, 1886), vol. 1, pp. 120-122).

The original lion, said to be 16th-century Italian with a later coat of arms of the Balassa family, is almost the same as the Waddesdon pendant. However, the shield is black and red, and there is a fox seizing a cockerel beneath the lion. On the lithograph this detail is slightly confused; probably as a result, the copyist has simplified it into a band of rubies on the Waddesdon version. Given these differences, it seems more likely that the Waddesdon jewel was fashioned on the lithograph published in Paris, rather than by a craftsman with direct access to the original exhibited in Budapest.

The Balassa lion pendant was not the only jewel to be copied from the 1886 catalogue. A pendant depicting Minerva was reproduced with considerable additions sometime before 1912, when the copy was published as an original (see Anna Somers Cocks and Charles Truman, “The Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection - Renaissance Jewels, gold boxes and objets de vertu” (London, 1984), pp. 160-161). It is not clear where the jeweller responsible for these copies was based. However, there is some similarity between the patterning of regular gold bars on white enamel on the Waddesdon lion and the ‘Europa and the Bull’ pendant ascribed to the Parisian jeweller, and Spitzer associate, Alfred André (1839-1919). This work belonged to Maurice de Rothschild (1881 – 1957) (Washington National Gallery of Art, inv. no. 1942.9.304 [C-29], R. Distelberger in “Western Decorative Arts, Part I” (Washington, D.C., 1993) pp. 288-291). Given this comparison, it may be that the Waddesdon lion was also made in Paris.

Living in Frankfurt, Mathilde was an accomplished pianist, composer, philanthropist and supporter of the arts. She amassed an important, but little known, collection of Dutch, French and English paintings, sharing the taste of her brother, Ferdinand, Waddesdon's creator (see M. Hall 'Hannah Mathilde von Rothschild (1832–1924), Eine stille Sammlerin' in "Die Rothschilds. Der sensationelle Aufstieg einer europäischen Bankiersdynastie" (Damals, vol. 8, 2006), pp. 38-41). Like her male relatives, she was also attracted to Renaissance jewels. This was also a type of object often collected by women.

The fact Mathilde was buying at a time when true originals were scarce on the market is also revealed by another jewel from her collection: a mermaid pendant which she acquired from Lord Canning (1812-1862) in 1863. Despite the illustrious provenance, it is now believed to have been made around 1860 (see Clare Vincent, in “The Jack and Belle Linsky “, (New York, 1984), pp. 196-8 no. 117). That said, Mathilde did own at least one fine original Renaissance pendant now at Waddesdon (acc. no. 862).

Phillippa Plock, 2015

Physical description

Dimensions (mm):
95 x 62 x 12; weight 74g.


Acquired by Baroness Mathilde von Rothschild (b.1832, d.1924); by descent to her daughter Adelheid, Baroness Edmond de Rothschild (b.1853, d.1935); by descent to her son James de Rothschild (b.1878, d.1957); accepted by The Treasury Solicitor in lieu of taxes on the Estate of Mr James de Rothschild in 1963; given to Waddesdon The Rothschild Collection (The National Trust) in 1990.
Waddesdon (National Trust)
Accepted by HM Government in lieu of inheritance tax and allocated to the National Trust for display at Waddesdon Manor, 1990



Kirsten Piacenti, Renaissance and Baroque Jewellery, Apollo, 105, 1977, 422-427; p. 425.; as 17th century.
Phillippa Plock, Rothschilds, rubies and rogues. The 'Renaissance' jewels of Waddesdon Manor, Journal of the History of Collections, 2016, doi: 10.1093/jhc/fhv043; fig. 9.

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