It’s a tale as old as time: millionaire banker playboy spends fortune on world class art collection, builds mansion-sized bachelor pad in upscale Paris neighborhood. Has his portrait painted by a female artist one day, decides to marry her 10 years later. They travel the world, stuffing their home with priceless art souvenirs, agreeing that when they die the whole thing will be turned into an art museum.
Then they do…and then it is.
People often ask me for a lesser-known museum experience without all the tourist elbows to the ribs. Should anyone ever ask you for such a recommendation, the answer can always be the Musée Jacquemart-André.
The playboy mentioned above, Édouard André, began construction of his dream home in 1869. It was during the Second French Empire when livin’ was easy if you had a few extra zeros on the bank balance. After his marriage to artist Nélie Jacquemart, the two spent their lives creating one of the fanciest abodes this side of Versailles.
They were the power couple of 19th century Paris, using their home as an art gallery and hosting sumptuous galas worthy of the Emperor himself. Today as you work your way around you can sense that air of upscale whimsy and almost taste the Veuve Clicquot on your lips.
This museum offers a double dip of charming period rooms plus a darn good collection of art. You’ll come across pieces by Rembrandt, Botticelli, Fragonard, Chardin, Van Dyck, and other masters you’ll be happy to acquaint yourself with. (A tip from an art nerd: seek out the paintings of Canaletto!)
One of the most pleasant rooms is a winter garden flooded with natural light. Its illustrious staircases are the work of the architect who got 2nd place in the competition to build the Paris Opera House. So no surprise that they’re magnificent.
On your way out, don’t forget to treat yourself to what the museum modestly calls “the most beautiful tearoom in Paris”. It’s the mansion’s former dining room, decorated with Belgian tapestries and an Italian fresco on the ceiling.
Next time in you’re in Paris keep this rather hidden museum in mind. It’s a glimpse into a bygone era and an easy way to pretend, at least for an afternoon, that your bank balance has a few extra zeros on it.
The Musée Jacquemart-André is located in the 8th arrondissement at 158 Boulevard Haussmann. Open every day 10am-6pm, with a late opening until 8:30pm on Mondays. Admission is 13.50€.