Various times, I’ve written about wonderful exhibits and the terrific tearoom at the musée Jacquemart-André in the 8th Arrondissement. I just realized that I’ve never written about the history of this wonderful museum. Well, this is a perfect time to rectify my oversight as it’s the 100th anniversary of the museum.
In 1860, the village of Monceau was absorbed into the city of Paris. It was a time of vast changes under the direction of Baron Haussmann who carved vast boulevards lined with gracious houses. The Baron sold tracts of land around Parc Monceau to the rising class of bankers and merchants. One of those bankers was Édouard André who hired Henri Parent to build him a magnificent home. The house took six years to complete and its opening was the social event of the season. Walls between the principal rooms could be lowered into the floor below to open the spaces to welcome 1,000 guests. There was a minstrel gallery above the salon so musicians could waft heavenly music down to the swirling dancers.
André was a passionate art collector and he filled the house with objects of the type known as bimbeloterie (bim-bell-ah-ter-ee), pretty objets d’art, but with little artistic significance. When he sat for a portrait, the artist was the well-known painter Nélie Jacquemart. They married ten years after they first met, in 1881. She brought her training and taste to the pleasurable task of acquiring art and antiquities from around the world. Her particular interest was sacred art. Piece by piece, they amassed a world-class collection of art and furniture, but also of wood paneling, chimneys, tapestries, frescoes, and ceilings to ornament their magnificent home. After André died, his widow continued to enrich the collection. The mansion and its contents were bequeathed to the Institut de France and the museum that bears both of their last names opened in 1913.
No matter how often I visit, I avail myself of the audio guide that is free with admission. The rooms on the main floor consist of the public and private spaces of the art loving couple. Of all of their valuable works of art, my favorite is the painting by Élizabeth-Louise Vigée Le Brun that hangs in what used to be Nélie Jacquemart’s apartment. The staircase to the second floor is a work of art in its own right. The special exhibits are upstairs and are always worth a visit. Finally, no visit would be complete without a pleasant interlude in the wonderful tea-room, located in the former dining room of the mansion. I hope one of my favorites will soon become one of yours.
- Expo Review: Canaletto-Guardi et the Jacquemart-André Museum (ending 21 Jan 2013) (mfinocchiaro.wordpress.com)
- La table dressée (onequalitythefinest.com)
- What to See in 2013 (rendezvous.blogs.nytimes.com)