Tag Archives: King Henri III Being Welcomed to Villa Contarini

The Golden Age is Now

"Rouen Cathedral," Claude Monet, 1894, Public Domain

“Rouen Cathedral,” Claude Monet, 1894, Public Domain

Nelie and Edouard Jacquemart-Andre only pursued art from the 18th century and earlier. Monet, Manet, Renoir, Sisley, Degas, and Morisot were all active in the 1890s and later.  Presumably Nelie and Edouard agreed with the conventional wisdom that the Impressionists were a flash in the pan, destined for the dustbins.

On the other hand, Nelie and Eduoard bought for the future; they always intended their home to end up as an art museum.  And each had a keen eye for a bargain. They could have picked up Impressionist pieces for a song, and at least stored them away in a closet in case they ever amounted to anything.

Today, arcoss the Seine at the Musee d’Orsay, people shuffle through packed galleries and stand shoulder to shoulder to gaze at priceless Impressionist paintings.  The Musee Jacquemart-Andre is never crowded; most tourists never set foot in it. Nelie and Edouard had impeccable taste for the treasures of the past, but they must have closed their minds to the artistic innovations going on right under their noses.


The glorious Tiepolo fresco “Henri III Being Welcomed to the Contarini Villa” was commissioned by Contarinis 200 years after the historical event, to commemorate one of the proudest and happiest events in their family’s history.


When Nelie and Edouard installed the Tiepolo fresco 200 years later in their Winter Garden, they were also gazing backward into a golden time they might have preferred to their own time.


The tourist wandering the Musee Jacquemart-Andre today is gazing backward through the Parisian Belle Epoque of the 1890s, at a fresco painted in 1745 to depict a historical event from 1574. Much as I love history, I do try to live in the moment. What am I overlooking in my own contemporary world?

Join me next time for more explorations in the art and history of Europe!

Tiepolo for Two at Jacquemart-Andre


When Nelie and Edouard Jacquemart-Andre were planning their Paris mansion, they visited Venice in 1893. They were delighted to snap up a fresco by Giambattista Tiepolo. In fact they felt that it was just sitting there waiting for them, and  to this day it remains the crown jewel of all their art collecting.  The fresco had been painted for the Villa Contarini around 1745, when the great artist was at the height of his powers. The title is “Henri III Being Welcomed to the Contarini Villa.”  It depicts an event that actually happened in French history:  in 1574, the very young King Henri III, who was of Italian descent through his mother, Catherine de Medicis, stopped on his way to Paris to claim the throne. He was the fourth in line and had not been expected to reign.  His brother,  24-year-old Charles IX, had died unexpectedly.

I don’t know why the fresco (and a companion ceiling, which the Jacquemart-Andres also bought) were up for sale.  Presumably the noble Venetian family that had commissioned them had fallen on hard times.  In any case, the French “Gazette des Beaux-Arts” rhadsodized about the fitness of this exquisite fresco for a grand French home:  “No other Tiepolo can be closer to our heart; one would say it was made for us. The last great Venetian painter and a part of the history of France: is it not the most beautiful blend of Venetian and French?”


The colors are clear and delicate; the figures are arranged in a grand tableau that is also entirely natural. The king and his retinue of guards and ladies, dwarves and servants are climbing the stairs of the villa, ready to greet the Contarinis.


Faces look calm and dignified, as though greeting a king were an everyday occurence.


Just across the canal are beautiful palaces and gardens.


The occasion is grand, but gracious and informal. There’s even a little dog making the king feel welcome.


An attendant’s foot extends out of the outline of the painting.  No problem!  After all, Nelie and Edouard built an entire Belle Epoque mansion around this fresco. They just made a place in the marble frame for the errant foot.

There’s much more about the fresco, and about the mansion, at museejacquemart-andre.com.  Vive la France!