Manageable Museums: Little-known Art Treasures in Paris, Part 2

Photo of Musée Nissim-de-Camondo from One Thousand Buildings of Paris


Blogathon June 15

Traveling back to the Nineteenth Century on a grand scale, visit the stylish private mansion of Édouard and his artist wife Nélie André, now Musée Jacquemart-André (, 158 boulevard Haussmann) in the 8th arrondissement near Parc Monceau. The collection is a fantasy trove of Brussels tapestries, objects d’art, antique furniture, fireplaces, and frescoed ceilings, all acquired (and transported back to Paris) during the couple’s worldly travels. You’ll also see work from eighteenth-century French artists such as Jean-Marc Nattier, Louise Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun, and Jean Honoré Fragonard.

To house their vast art collection Andre commissioned Architect Henri Parent to design and build an equally impressive hôtel particulier (private home) in a classical style. Recessed from the street, Musée Jacquemart-André arises from a stone circular driveway around the back where carved lion statues greet you. Enormous windows open onto a terrace that overlooks a fragrant courtyard. Inside, you’ll find a majestic double-spiral stairway leading to period rooms such as the music salon, a sculpture gallery, the tapestry salon, the bedroom chamber, the Madonna room, the study—all brimming with eighteenth century furnishings and Italian Renaissance art. A winter garden of greenery grace the restive space behind the music room. Ceiling frescos by Venetian Giovanni Battista Tiepolo (originally painted for an Italian villa) and domed sky lighting give you a celestial view of the wealth accumulated by this banker’s son. Nélie Jacquemart, bequeathed their home and collection to the Institut de France as a gift.

After your visit (or before), treat yourself to dessert in the museum’s elegant tea salon before heading to Musée Nissim-de-Camondo ). This spectacular mansion—home to the equally impressive eighteenth-century art collection of the Nissim-de-Camondo family—tells the tragic tale of a transplanted Turk and French patriot of Jewish origins. Comte Moïse de Camondo’s replaced his original 1866 home with a copy of the Petit Trianon of Versailles mansion from the Eighteenth Century.

In 1935, he bequeathed this house and gardens along with his entire collection of paintings, tapestries, objets d’art, and furnishings to the Union des Arts Decoratifs. Count Moïse de Camondo stipulated that the museum name honor his son, Nissim, killed fighting for France during WWI. Unfortunately, during WWII, the Vichy government conveniently forgot this act of patriotism and sent his family to Auschwitz where they perished.

Looking for an escape to modernity—though somehow never far from lingering WWII stories—look for to a hidden alley, near Luxembourg Gardens, to visit Musée Zadkine (, 100 bis, rue de Assas). A small sculpture garden remains just as Russian sculptor Ossip Zadkine arranged it. Zadkine lived and worked in this house and studio from 1928 until his death in 1967. His museum showcases 100 works based on Zadkine’s favorite themes: nature, the portrait, mythology and poetry.

During WWII, Zadkine, who was half Jewish, fled to the United States. His wife, painterValentine Prax, closed the house and buried ten of his bronzes under the cellars of different homes in the neighborhood. Returning after the war, Zadkine sued the tenants who occupied his home, but he did not regain it until 1956. After his death, Zadkine’s widow, bequeathed her husband’s entire estate to the City of Paris. Writing in her book, Avec Zadkine, Souvenirs de Notre Vie, Prax describes her memory of Zadkine in his garden, “There in the open air, Zadkine shaped the granite and the stone of Pollinay, as well as the hardest woods. He gave the impression of being a worker, with his suit of gray velvet and his brown suede cap. He also wore big glasses to protect his eyes from the shards of wood and granite.”

Though initially a figurative sculptor, Zadkine constantly experimented and reshaped his artistic life.  His sculptures exhibit influences of Cubism, pre-Columbian art, abstract expression—all evident in his open and bright atelier. Now this tiny garden jewel and gem of a museum is a reflective oasis in the midst of the chic 6th arrondissement.

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Museums, Paris

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