Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Courtney's Summer of Museums: Musee Nissim de Camondo

For my second week of museum-hopping I made a reservation in advance to the Museum of Nissim de Camondo. I was really excited about visiting this museum as I have been wanting to go there for about three years!

I got to the museum too early so I went to the corner to have a coffee and croissant. Delicious!
    And now, my thoughts on the visit:
  • The house was built between 1912 - 1914, modeled partially after Petit Trianon. Initially it was constructed in the 1800s by Moises de Camondo's father, whose brother also constructed a house right next door, which is now home to JP Morgan. 
The story of this family is so tragic:
Nissim (the grandfather) moved to Paris with his brother, Isaac, to open their very successful Ottoman Empire bank in Paris. Isaac died with no family and thus bequeathed his impressive art collection to Le Louvre museum. This collection included Monets, Manets, Pissaros and other substantial impressionism works.

Nissim had one son, Moises, who had a son (Nissim) and a daughter (Beatrice). Moises did not really work on the family business. He preferred to spend his time studying and acquiring 18th Century art and furniture. His brief marriage to Irene Cahen D'Anvers, a woman from a prominent French family, ended after she left him for an Italian count, Count Sampieri. Moises loved his children dearly and devoted his time to raising them,  spending time with them at their weekend estate pursuing activities like horse-riding and acquiring 18th Century art and furniture.

His son, Nissim, served in WWI as a pilot, but died tragically in a plane crash during active duty. Moises was so devastated he closed the bank and closed himself up in his home, comforting himself with his artwork.

Béatrice, his daughter, became an accomplished horsewoman, married Léon Reinach and had two children: Fanny and Bertrand. They lived in Neuilly, a suburb of Paris, where they could all practice their love of horseback riding. As the Nazi threat intensified in France, she wrongfully believed that considering her brother died for their homeland, and her family’s wealth and position, she would be safe. Unfortunately, she and her whole family were deported to the Drancy concentration camp and subsequently murdered in Auschwitz.

There are no surviving family members of Moise de Camondo. So sad!!!!

sigh. After a respectful pause, here are further comments on the house:
  • Parts of the house were built with specific architectural details consistent with 18th century traditions, and Moises even planned some room dimensions to exactly match some of the objects in his collection.
  • The gallery was beautiful--it was a large spacious landing area and "terminal" between many of the rooms on the main reception floor. Of course there were impressive pictures and sculptures, but I was impressed by the layout of the house.
  • The dining room was nice with one wall all mirrors and the opposite with a large red marble shell fountain. I learned that the dining room didn't really come into being until the reign of Louis XV. Before then, people apparently ate in bedrooms or antechambers. Since the introduction of the dining room, courses could have 50 - 100 dishes!
  • The small study had an actual working clock, ticking away! It was so sweet. Made it really feel like you were in someone's home. Nice touch.
  • The Blue Drawing room was initially Beatrice's bedroom. It was the biggest bedroom in the house and jutted out into the garden. It was so beautiful! I loved the calmness of the room, made possible by the deep turquoisey-blue walls and deep yellow silk curtains and big beige lampshades on the chandeliers and desk lamps. The blue was originally a peacock blue but since they leave the house as-is, light has faded it to be a lighter green-blue. 
  • The library was really nice. Hexagonal. My favorite thing were the semainiers (weeklies), which were leather strips with golden "slots" with the days of the week engraved on them. They were to hold the week's invitations in each day. Like an old-fashioned mail/bill holder. But so elegant!
  • The small passageway between the Library and Moise's bedroom: I love all the "hidden" doors that were for servants to use and/or led to shortcuts/passageways through the house. Even in Versailles I am always really struck by these. It's like another untold history alongside the published narrative.
  • The carpet in Moise's bedroom wasn't as impressive as the history behind it. It was made in 1760 from a Savonnerie manufactory for Louis XV's daughters. And it was only to be used in the chapel at Versailles and on religious days. Whoa. Neat.
  • I also liked the silken cord with tassels, hidden behind the nightstand in Moise's bedroom. Nearly hidden, you could tell this was his communication system to notify staff when he needed something. 
  • The bathroom: it smelled like my Grandmother in there! What a great moment to be enveloped by her sweet, cottony, clean smell. It didn't smell like astringent. It was a soft, cotton, baby powder, woodsy combination.