In June 2003, a masked gang stole over 100 gold boxes and high-value items from Waddesdon Manor, including this French bonbonnière featuring a miniature of a woman with a basket of roses on its lid. ‘The 2003 theft was deeply traumatic for everyone at Waddesdon – I remember it vividly,’ says Pippa Shirley, Director of Collections, Historic Properties and Landscapes at Waddesdon.

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Nineteen years later, most of the stolen items – mainly 18th-century French and English pieces – remain missing. However, this particular gold box recently came up for sale at a UK auction house and was subsequently brought to the attention of the Art Loss Register (ALR).

After confirming its identity, the box was returned to its rightful place at a particularly fitting moment; this year Waddesdon celebrates Alice de Rothschild’s contribution to the collections with a series of exhibitions called ‘Alice’s Wonderlands’, and it was Alice herself who acquired the bonbonnière.

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The box is now on display at Waddesdon in ‘A Rothschild Treasury’. ‘I am absolutely delighted that this box has returned, and very grateful to the Art Loss Register for its part in its successful recovery,’ continues Pippa. ‘This feels such a positive outcome and gives us hope that the other boxes may yet come back to us.’

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