Daniel Astruc (1863-1950) was a descendant of “a Sephardic family who had lived in Bordeaux for several generations.” A major collector of 18th-century prints and engravings, he had expressed his intention to donate his artworks and antique furniture to the city of Bordeaux as early as 1921. His remarkable collection comprised “240 engravings in black and white and in color, from the 18th century and early 19th century. All are framed, most in Louis XVI-style gilded and sculpted wooden frames dating from the period.”
This collection was acquired in exchange for the lifetime use of an apartment in the Hôtel de Lalande. Astruc was granted the title of Administrator of Fine Arts of the city of Bordeaux and moved into the ground floor of the townhouse. The apartment spanned ten rooms on the ground floor of the main building and the servants’ wing, comfortably equipped with central heating, electric lighting, gas in the kitchen and bathroom, a telephone and electric pushbutton call bells. As part of the agreement, the collector made his print collection available to the public two days per week.
Soon thereafter, Astruc expressed his wish that the “objects belonging to him be protected.” He requested that an underground passage be built from the cellars of the main building, which still housed a police station in the servants’ wing, to the jail at the rear of the property, so that prisoners could be taken to their cells without passing through the townhouse! Indeed, instead of commanding a view of the Hôtel de Lalande’s former gardens, the collector’s rooms overlooked the paved rear courtyard, where the police vans parked.
In three wills dated 1938, 1947 and 1949, Daniel Astruc stated his desire that his “faïence and porcelain pieces, silverware, furniture of all types, chairs, tapestries, screens, curtains, rugs and draperies, objets d’art, marbles, bronzes, clocks, chandeliers, two bookcases, books, weapons collection, and lastly all of the art effects that have brought a bit of pleasure into [his] troubled life, be preserved at the Musée d’Art Ancien, to contribute to the edification of [his] fellow citizens, from the most fortunate to the humblest.” But when he died in 1950, his heir, a daughter born out of wedlock in 1923, had his collection impounded. An inventory after Astruc’s death lists more than 400 objects and furniture pieces, “nearly all of considerable value.” The “inheritance scandal” made headlines in the local press. A court order in 1953 reduced the value of the initial bequest, and a public auction, with his daughter taking the profits, was held in May 1953, resulting in the dispersion of the collection.
Today only his prints are preserved at the madd-bordeaux, along with a side table and about a dozen objects.