A Belle Epoque mansion, open to the public, still exists in Paris: the Jacquemart-Andre Museum. The wealthy banker Edouard Andre built it with and for his wife, Nelie Jacquemart. Work began in 1869 and was completed in 1875. The mansion on the Boulevard Haussman was a glittering social hub which contained the couple’s fantastic art collection in purpose-built rooms. It became a museum in 1913, after the widowed Nelie bequeathed it to the Institut de France.
My favorite room in all of Paris (at least the part of Paris that is open to a lowly tourist) is the Winter Garden, replete with marble, plants, and a skylight to brighten dreary Paris winter days.
The double-helix marble staircase in the Winter Garden is a marvel of engineering and architecture. And the visitor climbing up is treated to a Tiepolo fresco at the top. Nelie and Andre snapped up the fresco during one of their many art-foraging trips to Italy. (A fresco is not just a painting on a wall; the pigment is actually embedded in the plaster, so moving it requires carefully dismantling the entire wall. With the Andre banking fortune, this was no problem at all for Edouard)
Join me next time! I’ll be posting more about Jacquemart-Andre, one of the most beautiful and fascinating sights in Paris.