Did you know?
The mansion’s ingenious construction
The building was built on earthworks, and the mansion’s façade overlooking the boulevard is set back from the other façades, creating a gap which attracts the attention of passers-by.
Another interesting peculiarity is the entrance to the mansion. Visitors had to use a partly covered ramp that slopes gradually upwards in a semi-circle. As you may have done yourself (or will one day), they were then surprised to arrive at the façade of the main courtyard. The horse-drawn carriage which had brought them would then leave by descending a symmetrical road on the other side. Which meant no traffic jams at evening receptions !
The opening of the Hôtel André
On the opening of the Hôtel André in 1876, an article in the magazine L'Illustration reported: “amazement at the enchanting ball given by Mr André. There is no more admirable setting. All the famous names from the world of fashion and elegance were there [...] They all shone with the same brilliance."
“Nothing was lacking to make Mr André’s ball one of those sensational events whose magnificence marks our era. The walls of the two entrance rooms, the cloakroom and the vestibule, disappeared under a scented curtain of violets and camellias. The gold decorations of the double ballroom flowed, sparkling under the blaze of a thousand candles."
Édouard André and Napoléon III
As a collector and art-lover, Edouard André was asked by Napoleon III to participate in the Universal Exhibition of 1867, as organiser and lender in the fine arts section. He received a medal for his contribution.
The Jacquemart-André couple: how they met
In 1872, Edouard André decided to sit for his portrait and called on a renowned young artist, who enjoyed a reputation as a successfully portraitist, having painted people like Duruy or Thiers. Her name was Nélie Jacquemart. Nine years later they were married, and Nélie came to live at the mansion on Boulevard Haussmann.
Theirs was a marriage of convenience, entered into by two very different individuals: he was a Bonapartist Protestant, she a Catholic living in royalist circles. Their union turned out to be a genuine success and their shared attitudes and tastes made their thirteen years of life together very happy ones. Childless, they dedicated themselves completely to their joint work: this art collection.
The couple’s love of travel
Insatiable travellers, Edouard’s fragile health curbed the couple’s enthusiasm. In 1888, a tour that was planned to go as far as Moscow and Kiev was cut short in Saint Petersburg. In 1893 they had even planned to go all the way to the North Pole !
The Jacquemart-Andrés and French museums
Although the Andrés had an indisputably sound taste in art, they often sought the advice of art historians and museum curators such as Louis Courajod and Eugène Müntz from the Louvre or Wilhelm von Bode from the Berlin museum. This may surprise us today, but in France in the 1880s and 1890s, the national museums had an annual budget of barely 200,000 francs (in the money of the period of course). Over the years, the budget that the Andrés spent on their collection varied from between 223,000 and 514,000 francs a year. As a result, the curators were only too pleased to be associated with the ventures of amateur collectors. The couple also told them all about their projects. Thus, on the eve of a sale, the Andrés received a letter from Eugène Müntz: “It is up to you to make up for the lack of funds of our great museum and obtain the two Donatello bronzes for our nation.”
However, the Andrés were very careful not to damage the acquisition policy of the Louvre, to which they made numerous donations. For the purchase of “Syndic” by Van Dyck, which came up for sale in Paris while they were travelling, they wrote to their personal secretary not to push up the prices against the French museums.
The collection of Italian paintings
The collection of Italian paintings includes 82 works from the 14th and 15th centuries, as well as some fifteen from the 16th century. The majority are Florentine works. For the most part, both the secular and religious themes present the Virgin and child. It is clear that a scholarly curiosity presided over the collection of these works which, very quickly, attracted the interest of researchers. As early as 1889, the historian Eugène Müntz wrote to the Andrés: “I had heard of the existence of a group of first-class works in the mansion on the Boulevard Haussmann, but had I guessed that you had managed to create a museum of such riches in so few years, I would never have had the temerity to write a history of art during the Renaissance without having first asked your permission to examine these treasures.” Research has continued ever since: themes of paintings are identified, new attributions are discovered, connections are made with works belonging to other museums.
This collection, which is such a joy for visitors, remains a fertile field of research for art historians. Its exceptional richness makes it the most beautiful collection in France after the Louvre.