Going Places, Picture Perfect

Mildly Enthusiastic Review: Musée Jacquemart-André

Our recent trip to Paris deserves at least one more post and this time I want to focus on a slightly lesser-known tourist attraction we managed to visit,

Museum Jacquemart-André


Category: Places

Find it in: Paris, on Boulevard Haussmann (some 10 minute walk from Champs-Élysées)

What it is:
It’s a quite unique little museum that boasts a few impressive works of art – including Rembrandts and Botticellis – which, even more interestingly, is housed in the original location: a residence of the museum founders. A couple of filthy rich art collectors (no really, they were insanely rich, if you think of it), Édouard André and Nélie Jacquemart, spent their lives buying works of art that caught their fancy and, dying childless, bequeathed the collection together with the house to the state to make it into a public museum.

How I found it:
It was actually our second visit to the museum, though the first one without a temporary exhibition so that we could focus on the permanent collection. During our honeymoon stay we saw an interesting exhibition of less-famous Pre-Raphaelites there and when our plans to go to Amiens fell through this year, we decided to revisit Jacquemart-André instead.

Summary judgment:
Obviously you can see more impressive art collections elsewhere in Paris but the building itself and the story of the museum make for a lovely visit.

Best things about it:
I loved seeing the building with a lot of its original 19th century decor preserved and, as we took the audioguides, we learnt a lot about the historical background, which also fascinated me, particularly the details of the life of people who could entertain every fancy and never worry about money.

Worst things about it:
The gift shop doesn’t come up to the standards of gift shops in other museums. And if you think that’s minor, I understand why, but visiting gift shops is one of the reasons we travel. It is what it is.

Other pluses (and yes, bullet points):
✤ Feminist skew. The whole story you hear on the audiobook focuses on Nélie, her rise to fortune and her life as an art buyer. You barely learn anything about Édouard – except that it was really his dream at first. I found it refreshing.
✤ Also, let’s not overlook the art. There might be so much more to see in the Louvre, Orsay and other places but if we had a museum like this here, everyone would be clamoring to see it. Some pieces the museum hosts are really worth seeing.
✤ Charming courtyard through which you enter the museum is well worth sitting in for a few minutes, preferably with a croissant or a pain au chocolat. (And we did.)
✤ Details of presentation allow the visitors to easily imagine the life of the married couple. These are really small things, like music in the ballroom but they improve the experience.
✤ Last but not least (I dislike this expression), I value the overall optimistic feeling of the exhibition. It’s nice to think of people who did live leisurely and followed their passions (well, Nélie did anyway). History is too full of gloomy stories.

Other minuses:
✤ That’s in no way the museum’s fault but we came too late to see the cafe.
✤ Uccello’s painting was being renovated – again, just our bad luck but a pity, too.
✤ Some commentary on the audioguide concerning some paintings (e.g. Chardin) basically listed things that the painting showed. Thank you, that’s all very useful and superfluous, but how about a little analysis?

How it enriched my life:
The visit proved both educational and charming. It was also my first time ever using an audioguide which I’d always considered pointless, and it convinced me of their usefulness, even though they prolong a visit extensively.

Fun fact:
It might be obvious to those of you who know more about history of architectural inventions than I do, but the house had pneumatic walls that you could let down and combine three rooms into one gigantic ballroom. How steampunk is that?!

I will probably not return soon for a regular visit but it’s a lovely place for a temporary exhibition and I will be happy to check out any that I might come upon.

Recommended for:
People who love history, Paris or art. People who dream about spending their lives leisurely and with tons of money so they could buy the biggest painters in history.

★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Next time: 10 Things I Hate about You



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