Why had I never heard of this couple before? In spite of her modest background Cornelia Jacquemart (1841–1912) received a good education. Talented in arts, she managed to develop into a professional and appreciated portrait painter in high circles of society. At the age of 31 she made a portrait of Edouard André (1833–1894), one of the wealthiest men in Paris. And a bachelor. They shared a passion for art, but it took nine years later berfore they got married.
The year they had met, 1872, André had eventually devoted his life and money into arts, leaving all his military duties. The mansion he had commissioned from the architect Henri Parent was nearly finished, ready to accommodate his art collections. In addition to the breathtaking collections, the house itself is delightful.
Behind a small winter garden an unusual staircase of marble, iron and bronze is beautifully lit by a ceiling fanlight and reflected by mirrors. On the top of the stairs the visitor is met by a large fresco by Tiepolo, which was imported from Venice. The couple travelled a lot in Italy looking for new masterpieces to their collections. Their own ”Italian Museum” is located on the first floor. It comprises sculptures, furniture and paintings from the 14th, 15th and 16th centuries.
But Jacquemart and André also entertained in their mansion. The walls between the ground floor salons could be slid aside by a hidden mechanism, a great achievement of the contemporary engineers. Their parties were popular, no wonder. Who would not want to be invited to a house like this?
Today this former home is one of the loveliest art museums I have seen. When Nélie died in 1912, the mansion with its collections was donated to the L’Institut de France.
The museum also arranges temporary exhibitions. During my visit I could admire ”Les fêtes galantes”; about 60 works from the early 18th century by Watteau, Fragonard and some others. The paintings depict cheerful and amorous scenes, where nicely dressed ladies, gentlemen and shepherds are having a good time in nature, often by some water.
After all the pleasures for the eye, we enjoyed excellent cakes of the Jacquemart André Tea Room, surrounded by Belgian tapestries and a fresco by Tiepolo. I recommend this any Paris visitor. Unlike Louvre, this museum is manageable, less crowded and yet it offers a lot to see.
I visited Musée Jacquemart-André, 158 bd Haussmann, Paris.
Information sources: The web site of the museum; “Le Musée Jacquemart–André. Guide officiel. Culturespaces, 2012. ISBN978-2-9538062-0-5; other blogs and Wikipedia.