I had a really fun time exploring the mansion that is the Jacquemart Andre museum. Check out the floor to ceiling mirrors and all that marble!
I stumbled on the idea to visit the Jacquemart Andre museum by chance, having never heard of the place before this latest trip to Paris. Once I saw the pictures on the website, I knew I had to squeeze it in my trip itinerary. The mansion is located in the 8th arrondissement on the prestigious Boulevard Haussmann and is composed of five main ‘sites’ – the State Apartments, informal apartments, Winter Garden, Italian museum and private apartments. While the Paris Museum Pass isn’t applicable, I think the museum is unique enough that it’s worth the price of admission. I’m also the kind of person that loves open houses and historic mansions so I couldn’t wait to photograph this place.
The mansion dates back to the time of Napoleon III, when the Emperor drew up a vast urban development plan and entrusted Baron Haussmann to carry out a massive renovation of Paris, which called for building new boulevards, parks and public works. It’s mostly due to Haussmann that Paris looks as it does today. By the 1850s, the population of Paris had doubled for the start of the century and Napoleon III decided to redraw the city and improve its sanitation, water supply and traffic circulation. The Emperor installed an enormous map of Paris in his office, marked with colored lines redrawing various streets and boulevards and met each day with Haussmann to discuss the project.
For nearly two decades, Paris was one big construction site. Eugene Belgrand built a new aqueduct bringing in clean water from the Vanne River down in Champagne, rebuilt the Paris sewers and installed gas streetlights in the city. Haussmann tore down hundreds of old, crowded congested buildings and streets to build 80 km of new avenues and connect the central points of the city. Buildings along these grand boulevards were required to be the same height and all in a similar style , creating Paris’ signature, beautiful look of cream colored stone. During this time, the Gare de Lyon and Gare du Nord train stations were built (we came to Paris via the train station at Lyon) and Charles Garnier designed the signature landmark the Paris Opera. Meanwhile, the Bois du Boulogne and Bois de Vincennes parks were created on the sides of the city framing Paris. Smaller, older parks like the Jardin du Luxembourg were refurbished and replanted. Napoleon intended to have one park in each of Paris’ eighty neighborhoods so that no one was more than a 10 minute walk. The reconstruction of Paris’ city center is the largest public works project ever undertaken in Europe and something that I find remarkable.
To completely rebuild an intact city requires enormous planning and delicacy and I loved learning about Napoleon III, Haussmann and les Grands Boulevards during my Art History class in Paris as a study abroad student.
All of that history is to say that the Boulevard Haussmann is a very prominent street and one of the most famous in Paris. The mansion itself owned by a member of the Imperial aristocracy, Édouard André and his wife Nélie Jacquemart, who bought a plot on the newly designed Boulevard and commissioned architect Henri Parent to build the beautifully symmetric building. Parent, who had been passed over for the construction of the Garnier Opera in favor of his colleague Charles Garnier, set out to build a masterpiece of design and completed the project in just 6 years. Lucky for him, the opening of the residence in 1875 was the subject of an article in L’Illustration at the time and visitors heaped praise on the monument as they did on the Opera foyer.
Enough of the history lesson, I hope you enjoy the photos! More on the mansions owners, Édouard André and Nélie Jacquemart, in my next post Part II.
For my entire Paris trips and other museum sights, please check out my Paris Mini Guide.