Where To Marry In Paris (part 1)

Even though Paris is only a 6 hour drive from where we live, we never actually go to the trouble of finding a hotel and driving up there. Until now. It’s been 27 years since I last spent some time in Paris–more time than the average hour it takes to drive through it when we’re on our way to the south of France. 27 years, that’s more than anybody should have to wait to return to Paris. So we finally found a decent hotel (see map below: marker A) and arrived after a smooth enough ride through the streets of Paris (thanks to Eva, who for some reason wanted us to take a scenic route off the highroad when we entered France, but thankfully got herself back on track as soon as we reached the city).

The choice of where to go and what to see is a travel in itself. First of all, we decided not to go to the Louvre. Although we were tempted to go see the flocks of tourists armed with a copy of the Da Vinci Code, crowding around the Mona Lisa and the Last Supper, I believe that a museum of this size, like the Vatican Museum and the Uffizi, deserves a whole 3-day mini break to itself. An opinion M. does not share. So that will have to wait for later. Instead, we visited the more compact Musée d’Orsay, which houses art from the impressionist period (map: marker B). I’ve come to appreciate Monet as one of my favorite painters from this period, and the Musée d’Orsay has some of his best works on display. Like two of the 30 paintings he made of the same subject, the Cathédrale Notre-Dame of Rouen, all at a different time of day, with different lighting. Which is what impressionism is all about for me: it’s not about the subject that is painted, but about how the painter saw the subject.

Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Rouen, Claude Monet, 1893
Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Rouen, Claude Monet, 1893

I could have stared at these single paintings for hours, trying to decipher each individual brush stroke and how they all work together to form shapes, colors, light–but M. tore me away to go see the Art Nouveau rooms that this museum also has: filled with furniture and other stylish objects from this mysterious period at the start of the 20th century. Ordinary household items like beds, desks and cabinets decorated with plant- and flower-like forms, but without abundance. Incredible amounts of work must have gone into the wood carving alone. Today it should be possible to mass-produce things like these for a fraction of the cost–but for some reason these forms never got back into fashion. I for one wouldn’t mind seeing some of them at my local Ikea.

Art Nouveau interior at the Musée d'Orsay, Paris
Art Nouveau interior at the Musée d’Orsay, Paris

The next day, at the Musée Jacquemart-André, I was amazed not to find any connection to impressionism and Art Nouveau at all. Husband André and wife Jacquemart lived at the end of the 19th century. They were rather wealthy and collected art for a hobby, two things that resulted in an impressive little museum, housed in an impressive estate at the (then new) boulevard Haussmann, now one of Paris’ main shopping streets (map: marker C). This is definitely a museum worth visiting if you are in Paris; not just for the art collection but maybe even more for the house and the story behind it (which is delivered through a handy audio guide). The house was opened as a museum a year after Jacquemart joined her husband in death; and the collection contains numerous items whose real value was only discovered years later; which goes to show how much vision the couple must have had. (She only died a year after my grandmother was born. That, together with actual photographs of the couple that were on display, as well as an old telephone that they must have used, brings everything a lot closer to our own time).

Still, they collected most items during the 1880s-1890s, the period when impressionism blossomed; and Jacquemart got to live and see Art Nouveau come to life. And yet there is no trace of either throughout the house. Stunning. There’s a revolution going on in art and you, one of the country’s major art collectors, choose to completely ignore it. Of course I know well that the impressionist paintings didn’t exactly get a warm reception in their own time. But even so. It shows that the couple’s grand vision on art did have a limit at some point.

Entrance of Musée Jacquemart-André, Paris
Entrance of Musée Jacquemart-André, Paris

(Continue reading part 2)

2007-04-01. 3 responses.


  1. […] Danny’s Blog Pondering Programming and Poetry « Where To Marry In Paris (part 1) […]

  2. if i were you, i would prefer to have my wedding vow at Musée Jacquemart-André