Maison Jacquemart-André Museum, Paris, Boulevard Haussmann.
It was on the newly designed Boulevard Haussmann that Edouard André bought a plot on which to build his mansion. He entrusted the project to Henri Parent, a specialist in traditional architecture. In just 6 years, from 1868 to 1875, Parent completed a vast and beautiful building, with a perfectly symmetrical design and façades which took much of their inspiration from classical models. Passed over for the construction of the new Opera in favour of his colleague Charles Garnier, Henri Parent was to surpass himself in the design and then the construction of this mansion. The opening of the residence in 1875 was the subject of an article in “L’Illustration” and visitors heaped praise on this monument as they had on the foyer of the Opera.
When you step into the Jacquemart-André Museum, you are crossing the threshold of the private residence of collectors who devoted their entire lives to collecting these works of art.
Heir of a Protestant banking family, Edouard André spent his fortune on acquiring works of art which he exhibited in his new mansion, built on Boulevard Haussmann and completed in 1875. In 1881 he married a well-known artist, Nélie Jacquemart.
This marriage was to be crucial to the creation of the museum, as Nélie Jacquemart fully supported Edouard André’s plans and presided over the development of the collections with a firm hand.
The collection that Edouard André had begun in the 1860s comprised what was known at the time as “bimbelots”, or knick-knacks, in other words charming items of gold or silver work, jewellery, ceramics, portrait miniatures and tapestries.
He owned contemporary paintings: landscapes and genre paintings by Delacroix, Orientalist painters and landscape artists of the Barbizon school. We know that he sold this part of his collection in 1887 for charity. But he also had some old paintings which he kept: Guardi’s Venetian portico for example, a portrait by Rembrandt and French paintings from the 18th century.
The couple were often away; Edouard and Nélie travelled all over Europe and particularly in Italy, for pleasure trips or stays in spas for their health, which were always the opportunity for visits to auction rooms and antique dealers. They also went on a number of journeys to the Middle East: Cairo, Luxor and Aswan, returning via Beirut, Constantinople and Athens.
The mansion acquired furniture and the collection grew. They took advantage of their absences to have conversion and improvement work carried out in Paris. The works that Edouard and Nélie continuously purchased needed to be accommodated, and they did not just limit themselves to paintings or sculptures that could be easily moved. There were also panels, fireplaces, tapestries, frescos and ceiling paintings.