Charlotte de Rothschild (May 6, 1825 – July 20, 1899) was a French socialite, painter, and a member of the prominent Rothschild banking family of France. She was born in Paris, the daughter of Betty von Rothschild (1805–1868) and James Mayer de Rothschild (1792–1868). Charlotte de Rothschild was raised by very wealthy parents who were at the center of Parisian culture. They patronized a number of major figures in the arts community including Gioacchino Rossini, Frédéric Chopin, Honoré de Balzac, Eugène Delacroix, and Heinrich Heine. As an acknowledgment of the many years of support extended by Baron James and his wife Betty, in 1847 Chopin dedicated his Valse Op. 64, N° 2 in C sharp minor to Charlotte.
In 1842, she married her English-born cousin Nathaniel de Rothschild (1812–1870) and in 1850 they moved to Paris where he went to work at her father's bank, de Rothschild Frères. They were the parents of:
- Nathalie de Rothschild (1843-1843)
- James-Edouard de Rothschild (1844–1881)
- Mayer Albert de Rothschild (1846–1850)
- Arthur de Rothschild (1851–1903)
While Charlotte de Rothschild and her husband would always live in Paris, in 1853 they purchased the Château Brane-Mouton vineyard that they renamed Château Mouton Rothschild. In 1878, Charlotte bought the Abbaye des Vaux de Cernay in Cernay-la-Ville in the Vallée de Chevreuse, at the time only a ruins of a Cistercian abbey built in 1118. She undertook extensive restoration work and new construction to make the lakeside property into a country home. The property remained in family hands until 1945 when it was by sold by her grandson Henri James de Rothschild to aircraft manufacturer Félix Amiot.
Like her father, Charlotte de Rothschild was a collector of art and grew up around his artistic friends. As an adult, Charlotte would count amongst her friends the likes of Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot, Henri Rousseau, and Édouard Manet. Her art purchases included works by Henri Fantin-Latour, Louis-Léopold Boilly, Anthony van Dyck plus a number by Rococo painters Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin, Giovanni Battista Tiepolo and François Boucher. However, Charlotte de Rothschild's interest in art went beyond collecting. Talented in her own right, she studied with Nélie Jacquemart (1841–1912) and would earn respect for her landscape paintings, watercolors and engravings, enough so that she is recognized in the Benezit Dictionary of Artists. In the 1860s, she exhibited at the annual salon of the Société des aquarellistes français, then in 1872 at the Paris Salon as well as at an 1879 exhibition in London. Although a minor artist, her work has been on display at the Musée du Luxembourg in Paris and other museums around France. Her illuminated Haggadah of Pesach is in the Braginsky Collection.
Charlotte de Rothschild's interest extended to music, entertaining musician friends such as Georges Bizet and Camille Saint-Saëns.
Tragedy struck her family in 1881 when she lost her eldest surviving child, thirty-seven-year-old James-Edouard. An attorney in the Rothschild bank in Paris, James-Edouard de Rothschild had served in the Garde Mobile during the Franco-Prussian War and suffered from a number of illnesses, including depression that led to his suicide.
Charlotte de Rothschild's lifetime of involvement in art and music would greatly influence her offspring, producing writers, actors and playwrights.
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“Here was a little of everything in a small compass to satisfy the wants and the ambition of the woods,... but there seemed to me, as usual, a preponderance of childrens toys,dogs to bark, and cats to mew, and trumpets to blow, where natives there hardly are yet. As if a child born into the Maine woods, among the pine cones and cedar berries, could not do without such a sugar-man or skipping-jack as the young Rothschild has.”
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