A couple of collectors

Edouard André and Nélie Jacquemart

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 history of the collection

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.