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Musee Cognacq-Jay Museum In Paris

Set in the heart of the Marais district, in the Donon Hotel, the museum displays the collections put together by Louise Jay and Ernest Congnacq, the founders of La Samaritaine.

Built in 1575, the Hotel Donon in Paris has become the home of the Musee Cognacq-Jay and even though this residence dates back from the 16th century, its façade and annexe were only built in the 18th century and much of the collection is from the eighteenth-century.

Cognacq-Jay Museum

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Musee Cognacq-Jay Museum In Paris

Its decor reflects its past as a private mansion giving it a warm and authentic atmosphere and covering four floors surrounding a courtyard, the small rooms of this house display the delightful collection assembled by Ernest Cognacq.  But located in the Marais district of Paris near to the Musee Carnavalet and many others, it makes this one a bit less crowded than it might be if it were on its own or more widely advertised.

Ernest Cognacq and Marie-Louise Jay made their fortune in a decidedly 20th century way by selling mass-produced goods in the very modern La Samaritaine department store, which they themselves founded.   But when it came to their own shopping tastes, this incredible couple preferred the unique items that were one of a kind or custom made and their taste in art and furniture was far more old-fashioned.   And it was between the years of around 1900 through to about 1925 that they amassed one of the finest private collections of 18th-century painting and objets d'art from around the world, which the couple then donated to the City of Paris upon their deaths.

This charming museum has kept most of its original layout from when it was a private residence including the parquet floors and has a little passage leading to its garden and this French formal garden is so typical of the 17th century, but it is best seen from the windows of the upper floors of the house which gives the best views.

The exhibition focuses on 18th century works and in particular those of the Rococo style by French artists such as Watteau, Greuze and Boucher, but there are also works from English, Dutch and Flemish painters like Reynolds, Lawrence, Rembrandt and Rubens.

Yet some of the 18th century's most valuable decorative works are exhibited, which range from ceramics and porcelain to delicate cabinets and paintings by the likes of Canaletto and Fragonard to name but a few.  However, to some, the best displays are also the smallest, like the tiny enamel portraits showcased on the third floor, or the exquisite inlaid snuff boxes, sewing cases, pocket watches, perfume bottles, and cigar cutters that are on the top floor of this museum.  And like the rococo style itself, there are many hidden surprises here, so to fully appreciate this place, you should take your time when exploring each of the intimate rooms.

You can get to see and feel what daily home life was like before the Revolution with furniture and furnishings, such as a King Louis XVI chair covered with Beauvais tapestry, a stunning mantle clock by Sèvres, a bureau inlaid with ivory, and a royal bed, which once belonged to the Madame Adelaïde who was aunt to the king.

So as you can gather, a visit to the Musée Cognacq-Jay offers the experience of being transported back in time to a house whose occupants have momentarily left.  With the charming, intimate atmosphere it offers the visitor a glimpse of what life was like two centuries ago, in fact, for those of you who are interested in fashion history or how people looked, you can get the complete picture from this museum and it is another rare opportunity to see how cultured rich Parisians once lived.

There are information cards, but lots of these are only in French, although they can be incredibly helpful in understanding more about objet d'art, especially if you visit the odd flea market.

The museum is open from 10am to 5.30pm on a Tuesday through to Sunday, but is always closed on Mondays.


Address & Contact Details:

Musée Cognacq-Jay
Hôtel Donon
8 Rue Elzévir
75003
Paris

Telephone: 1 40 27 07 21


Musee Cognacq-Jay



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