The year 2013 was the 100th anniversary of the opening of the Musee Jacquemart-Andre on the Boulevard Haussman in Paris. Nelie and Edouard had built the palatial mansion and stuffed it with priceless art with this very purpose in mind, once their glittering lives of art collecting and high-toned socializing were over.
What they achieved was an exquisite melding of architecture, decorative arts and fine arts. The museum is not covered by the Paris Museum Pass, and most tourists pass it up in favor of the ever-crowded Louvre and Orsay Museums. It’s well worth the price of admission, though. The audioguide is lively; music ushers the visitor into each of the grand state rooms as though a party were just beginning. In fact, there is a musicians’ gallery where Nelie and Andre used to station a small orchestra when they entertained. The rooms have been left just as they were when Nelie died in 1912.
Nelie herself created a very distinguished bronze bust of Edouard in 1890 (if I’m reading the caption correctly). She certainly had every reason to honor Edouard. Her life changed the minute she landed the extremely rich bachelor. One day she was a struggling painter, trying to get society portrait commissions; the next she was traveling the world with a handsome, dashing gazillionaire. By all reports, she made him very happy. After Edouard’s death in 1894, she continued to build their collections. When Nelie died in 1912, she left their mansion–and her own country chateau, also stuffed with art–to the Institut de France. Both Nelie and Edouard lived out their lives in the glamorous bubble their wealth created. They never had to deal with the terrible events of the Great War, or with the wrenching changes that war brought to their world.
Join me next time for more explorations in the art and history of Europe!