When the Louvre and the Musée d’Orsay are on strike or closed for a national holiday, is there any place you can visit in Paris besides the Luxembourg Gardens and the Eiffel Tower? Yes, indeed there is, and what’s more it’s the kind of place that is both awesomely beautiful and delightfully entertaining. Now that’s a tall order for an art museum, but then again, since the Jacquemart-André Museum was refurbished and brought back to life five years ago, it’s been the talk of the international art world. And even those die-hard Parisians who have never stepped foot into the Louvre, love the Jacquemart if only because it boasts the only restaurant where you can eat beneath an original Tiepolo ceiling.
A house-museum, whose five thousand works of art and antiquities range from the Lower and Upper Egyptian Kingdoms to the Italian Quattrocentro to the Dutch School of Old Master painting and the Rococo of Boucher, Fragonard and Greuze, is definitely in a class by itself. The sumptuous edifice, built in 1869 by the architect Henri Parent (second runner-up after Charles Garner to the Paris Opera) was commissioned by Edouard André, the sole heir to a colossal banking fortune. (It was so colossal that in 1871, he and the Baron Rothschild ponied up-in a single week–5 billion francs in gold as a war indemnity to Bismarck, a payoff that prevented the Prussian army’s occupation of Paris).