Where in Paris can you take in some Dutch masters including Rembrandt, ceilings by Tiepolo, medieval Venitian and Florentine works (Uccello, Botticelli), a Vigié-Lebrun portrait and watercolors and oils by JMW Turner ? The Louvre of course, but there’s a better place. More intimate, less crowded, very personal and just the right size for a couple hours visit without wearing you out is the Musée Jacquemart André. This museum is an art history text book in one concise and pleasant space. Swoon.
Nélie Jacquemart and Edouard André were Parisian art collectors in the mid-19th century. The heir of a protestant banking family, Edouard André devoted his fortune to buying works of art to exhibit in his new mansion on the Boulevard Haussmann, which was completed in 1875. In 1881, he married a well-known artist, Nélie Jacquemart, who had painted his portrait in 1872. This marriage would be central to the creation of the Museum. In fact, Nélie Jacquemart was fully involved in Edouard André’s projects and had a firm hand in the arrangement of the collections. It was on the newly designed boulevard Haussmann that Edouard André bought a plot on which to have his mansion built. It was completed in 1875.
Nélie Jacquemart introduced her husband to the Italian Renaissance. Every year, the couple would travel to Italy amassing, along the way, one of the finest collections of Italian art in France – sound judgement was used to carefully select rare works. The Andrés were advised by a well-informed inner circle, made up of the greatest museum curators of the time. The Andrés were always keen to highlight the magnificent works in their collection and were always arranging their home to show the works off to their best advantage, sometimes even to the detriment of their own comfort. Initially designed only for Edouard André’s acquisitions, the mansion had to be re-arranged to make room for Nélie Jacquemart’s acquisitions after their marriage.
Visitors, then and today, quickly sense this unique place is not only a museum, above all it is a home. Moving through the house, visitors feel the warm atmosphere of a home and the owner’s personalities. There is a certain eclecticism. The couple had no descendants and thus left their entire, carefully selected, collection and their hotel particulier to the Institut de France. It is thus intact as it was when they died and it was converted into a museum. They spent their lives collecting exquisite pieces of art from all over Europe. Nélie and Edouard didn’t just bring home the easy to transport tableaux and souvenirs form their voyages. They also sought out and transported sculpture, furniture, wood paneling and ceilings and installed them in their sumptuous home. Imagine doing that when steam trains and ships were the best modes of transport to work with! The permanent collection is a real bijoux and contains priceless works. Swoon.
The museum holds temporary exhibits as well, roughly two each year. Currently the Tate Collection of Turner Paintings and Watercolors is on display. Some of these have never before been exhibited in France. JMW Turner is incontestably the greatest painter of the golden age of English watercolor painting. No painter makes more people swoon than Turner. People sigh and gasp in front of his paintings. The set of paintings on display come from Turner’s bequest to the Tate in London and they show the development and audacity of Turner’s painting. They also present his many travels in Europe to Venice, but also along the Seine. The Turner expo runs until 11 January and then will be followed by Signac in March 2021.
The museum also has a lovely indoor/outdoor salon de thé where you can have lunch of quiche and salad or lovely pastries from the best pastry chefs in Paris : the historic Pâtisserie Stohrer and Michel Fenet’s Petite Marquise. They serve brunch on Sundays too. The café is housed in the mansion’s former dining room and they call it the “most beautiful tea room in Paris”. One more swoon!
Open 365 days a year!
158 bd Haussamnn 75008 Paris
www.musee.jacquemart.andre.com Reserve your time slot and buy tickets online. In the permanent collection you will not have to worry about crowds, however in the Turner temporary exhibit there’s quite a few people despite the time slot resrvation system. Luckily mask wearing is required and they enforce keeping it up over your nose too.
Franz-Xavier Winterhalter, Portrait d’Edouard André en uniforme des guides de la garde impériale © Institut de France / Christophe Recoura
Nélie Jacquemart, Autoportrait © Institut de France / Christophe Recoura