After setting off from the Musée d’Orsay just before lunch, we made our way from Place de la Concorde along Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré towards Boulevard Haussmann. This is one of the more magnificent streets in Paris, suitable for those with large bank balances and expensive tastes, as you pass by stores with names such as Hermès, Longchamp, Prada, Chanel and Sotheby’s. You also pass various high-end hotels, foreign embassies and even the French President’s official residence, Le Palais de L’Élysée.
As we neared Boulevard Haussmann, we scanned the streets for somewhere inviting enough to eat that wasn’t going to set us back the National debt, eventually stumbling on a tiny little bistro, L’idéal Bar, that did a surprisingly good entrecôte steak. From there it was a short walk to the Musée Jacquemart-André, a privately run museum inside a 19th century Parisian townhouse.
I have to admit, we sort of stumbled upon this museum by accident – I’d been looking for a museum that I’d read about that had been owned by a Jewish banker whose son had died during World War I and whose daughter and family had then been deported to Auschwitz during World War II where they died. As it turns out, that was actually the nearby Musée Nissim de Camondo, (which was closed Mondays anyway), whilst this one happened to have been owned by another banker, in this case the Protestant Édouard André and his wife Nélie Jacquemart, both notable art collectors and prominent members of French society.
The garden is quite large for a Parisian townhouse, and very formal – apparently it used to stretch through to the next street and housed a very fine set of stables, but it has since been reduced in size and now ends at this very impressive wall.
Inside, the house is a magnificent example of what French high-society life would have been like at the end of the 19th century. Ceiling frescoes abound, and the Winter Garden is simply breathtaking with its marble spiral staircase – it was designed by Henri Parent, who was seeking to surpass Charles Garnier, the builder of the then new Opéra Garnier.
I won’t go into a lot of detail here, but if you’d like to read more on this remarkable couple and their art collection, there is a very handy Wikipedia reference explaining more. The collection itself features works by many notable French, Italian and other European artists including Rembrandt, Donatello, Ducreux, Boticelli, Bellini and many others.