The Jacquemart-André is a beautiful small museum located just off the Champs-Elysées in the tony 8th arrondissement.
The museum lacks the typical white or gray walls you’re used to seeing in a museum. Instead, it’s a feast of art and architecture, with a treasure trove of old masters.
You can admire in situ masterpieces in an exuberantly theatrical Belle Époque setting. There are plush interiors, tapestries, gilded frames, and porcelain that all compete for your attention.
As such, the museum offers a glimpse into another era of elegant high society living and collecting. It’s easy to imagine the sumptuous parties held here, with up to 1,000 guests.
Because of this, the museum is often compared with the Frick Collection in New York City. It also reminds me of the Borghese Gallery in Rome, the Wallace Collection in London, and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston.
History and Overview of the Jacquemart-Andre
The gorgeous classical mansion dates to Baron Haussmann’s massive renovation of Paris in 1875.
Edouard Andre was from a prosperous banking family. He commissioned the architect Henri Parent to build him a classically inspired hôtel particulier.
Brought up with the finer things in life, Edouard began to carefully outfit the mansion’s rooms with sculpture, furniture, and objets d’art. It was officially inaugurated in 1875 to much acclaim.
In 1881, Edouard married Nelie Jacquemart, a successful young artist who had just painted his portrait. Nelie supported all his projects and had a sure eye for decoration.
The pair never had any children. Instead, a shared passion for art made them a formidable collecting couple. They set about purchasing magnificent art works and renovating the mansion to showcase the pieces in themed period rooms.
In 1892, they created their own private “Italian Museum” on the second floor. It held their collection of Venetian and Florentine works from the 15th century.
When Edouard died two years later, his relatives sued Nelie to try to steal back his fortune. But Edouard had drawn up an air tight will that left everything to his wife. She won the court battle.
After her husband’s death, Nelie became the richest independent woman in France. She expanded the collection until her own death in 1912.
Upon her own death, Nelie bequeathed the mansion and its contents to the Institute of France. Her only conditions were that the institute use them to found a public museum and leave the art works in their exact locations. The museum opened in 1913.
Today the pair’s remarkable collection includes Italian Quattrocento paintings, French Renaissance portraits, Dutch Golden period paintings, 18th century furniture and drawings, and Oriental art.
And there are some real masterpieces. The museum has works by Rembrandt, and Van Dyke. It also has a large collection of 14th and 15th century Italian art, including works by Tiepolo, Chardin, Mantegna and Botticelli.
The museum also holds two major temporary exhibitions each year.
Guide To Musée Jacquemart-André: What To See
At the Jacquemart-Andre, you’ll find a series of formal and informal rooms, a section filled with Italian works, a glass-topped winter garden, and luxurious private apartments.
Here are the rooms and masterpieces you’ll see along the museum path.
The first room you’ll enter is the Vestibule. There’s a large mirror, an elaborate Gobelins tapestry, and commanding portrait of Edouard by Franz-Xavier Winterhalter.
The Picture Gallery is an antechamber of the Grand Salon, and marks the beginning of the formal rooms. It’s filled with 18th century French art.
You’ll see a pair of Bouchers, two Chardin still lives, and two Canaletto paintings of Venice.
The most outstanding painting in the room is Jean-Marc Nattier’s Portrait of Mathilde de Canisy Marquie Dentin. Nattier was a famed portraitist of society women during the reign of Louis XV.
This is one of his most graceful and tender paintings. It has a strong composition and the drapery and garland of flowers are beautifully rendered.
The Picture Gallery leads to the wood-paneled Grand Salon, which has a semicircular shape that was fashionable at the time.
This was where the couple would receive guests. The Rococo room could be enlarged by moving partitions from the Picture Gallery and the Music Room.
A series of half columns are placed around the rooms with busts of famous figures set atop them.
Tapestry Room & Study
These were informal rooms used by Edouard and Neli to conduct business. The Tapestry Room contains works produced by the Beauvais factory and reflect the era’s fascination with Orientalism.
There are paintings by Fragonard and Guardi and a magnificent Louis XVI chest of drawers with bird’s eye mahogany and a slate marble top.
The study is an intimate space filled with Edouard’s favorite decorative objects. 18th century paintings hang on the walls, including works by Fragonard, Chardin and Greuze.
A Louis XV writing desk is in the center, with a small portrait of Nelie. The ceiling is decorated with The Triumph of Hercules by Tiepolo, one of three of his frescos in the mansion.
The Boudoir consists of two bedrooms decorated with furniture in the gilded Louis XVI style. The ceiling is decorated with a Tiepolo fresco, the Allegory of Justice and Peace.
There is a masterful painting by Jacques-Louis David, Portrait of Count Antoine Frances de Nantes. It’s an example of David’s distinctive style of “heroic realism.”
In contrast to that, there’s a lovely painting by Vigee-Lebrun, who was the favorite court partner of Marie Antoinette. It’s a beautiful portrait of a woman in flowing green robes that practically glows with luminosity.
The red-toned library was where the duo would plan their future art purchases.
It’s decorated with 17th century Flemish and Dutch paintings, including works by Franz Hals, Antony Van Dyke, and Philippe de Champaigne.
Of most note are three Rembrandts that span his career — Portrait of Doctor Tholinx, Portrait of Amalia van Solms, and Supper at Emmaus.
Supper at Emmaus is one of the museum’s masterpieces. The painting evokes Caravaggio, with extremes of dark and artificial light that give it a dramatic intensity.
Winter Garden & Grand Staircase
Edouard and Nelie wanted a winter garden, an area roofed with glass and lined with exotic plants. The idea was to allow guests to socialize in an airy and cooler setting.
In building the twisting grand staircase, the architect was trying to outdo the architect of the Opera Garnier, Charles Garnier.
At the top of the marble staircase is a massive 1745 Tiepolo fresco titled Henri III Being Welcomed to the Contarini Villa. It was brought to Paris from a villa outside Venice. The Jacquemart-Andre is only museum in France with frescoes by the Venetian master.
The work consists of one central fresco and two side panels. The frescos depict spectators on balconies viewing Henri III’s arrival in Mira Italy, where he visited Federico Contarini in 1574.
At the top of the stairs, you enter the Italian Museum where you’re greeted by a bronze bust of Pope Gregory XV by Gian Lorenzo Bernini.
The Sculpture Gallery boasts a rich collection of Italian sculpture, including works by Florentine artists Donatello and Lucca della Robbia.
Donatello is known as the inventor of Renaissance sculpture. The museum has a small sculpture and bronze bas-relief of The Martyrdom of Saint Sebastian.
The Florentine Gallery is next. Initially, Nelie intended to use it as an old school “cabinet” to collect small objects. Later, she transformed it into a picture gallery.
Uccello’s painting of St. George and the Dragon is found there. It’s deemed one of the greatest achievements in Italian Renaissance art and is the jewel of the Jacquemart-Andre. It hovers between the flatness of medieval art and the new theories of perspective of the early Renaissance.
Nelie also loved the works of Florentine painter Sandro Botticelli and went out of her way to purchase a pair.
Botticelli was the greatest painter of the early Renaissance period. His work was groundbreaking — pure visual poetry and elegance.
Virgin and Child is an early Botticelli work that was originally attributed to his master Verrocchio. The madonna has Botticelli’s usual sweet demeanor and elegant composition. Flight Into Egypt is from the tail end of his career and more severe in style.
The third room of the Italian Museum is the Venetian Gallery, which I think is the most stunning room. Edouard loved the Venetian school and arranged the paintings during his lifetime. At the time, the Florentine school was all the rage, so Edouard’s unique selection is quite remarkable.
You’ll see stunning works by Giovanni Bellini, Andre Mantegna, and Vittore Carpaccio.
Mantegna was a hugely influential masterpiece from the Early Renaissance and a pioneer of spatial illusionism. His works reflect a perfectionist love of detail.
His Ecco Homo has his usual highly finished surface and reflects his admiration of classical art. Yet, it’s still imbued with a sense of humanity.
In Bellini’s Virgin and Child, a signified Mary sits on a royal throne. The painting has the luminosity and daring simplicity of detail characteristic of Bellini.
Carpaccio is best known for his narrative cycles created for the Venetian scuolas. Edouard purchased the Visit of Hippolyta in Austria and intended it to be one of his major acquisitions.
There are very few Carpaccio works outside Italy. The subject matter is unclear, but appears to be a carnival procession of some sort. The paintings has Carpaccio’s distinctive tone of red.
Practical Guide To The Musée Jacquemart-André:
Address: 158 boulevard Haussmann. You enter along a driveway that passes under the house into a formal courtyard at the rear of the building.
€ 12 for permanent collection. € 17 for the permanent collection and special exhibition.
Click here to book a skip the line ticket. You must print your ticket at home or present it on your smartphone. No changes or refunds are permitted.
Hours: Daily 10:00 am to 6:00 pm, late hours until 8:30 pm during special exhibitions
Metro: Miromesnil or Champs-Elysées Clemenceau
Plan to spend about 2+ hours at the collection. If you are attending a special exhibition, you’ll need to book your ticket well in advance.
I advise getting the audio guide to understand the collection properly.
The museum cafe is in the former kitchen. It’s one of the most beautiful tea rooms in Paris, boasting a renowned dessert cart.
There’s a Tiepolo fresco on the ceiling. You can see characters lean over the balustrade, seeming to almost fall out of the painting. There’s also a small self-portrait of the artist.
In nice weather, you can enjoy a table on cafe’s enclosed terrace, overlooking the garden.
Is The Jacquemart-Andre Worth Visiting?
If you think the Louvre is too large and crowded but want to see art of a similar quality, the Jacquemart-Andre is the museum for you. It’s not your typical museum experience.
It’s an intimate museum that provides a rare step back in time experience. Plus, because the museum is somewhat pleasantly lost (except for locals) among Paris’ sea of amazing museums, you may have the serene place mostly to yourself.
I hope you’ve enjoyed my guide to the Musee Jacquemart-Andre. You may enjoy these other Paris travel guides and resources.
- 5 Day Itinerary for Paris
- 3 Day Itinerary for Paris
- 2 Day Itinerary for Paris
- Tips for Planning a Trip to Paris
- Tourist Traps To Avoid In Paris
- Top Attractions in Montmartre
- Top Attractions in the Latin Quarter
- Top Attractions in the Marais
- Best Museums In Paris
- Hidden Gems in Paris
- Best Things To Do in Paris in Winter
- Guide to the Opera District
- Secret day trips from Paris
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