Musee Cognacq-Jay museum in Paris
The Musee Cognacq-Jay is home to an impressive former private collection of 18th century works including paintings, miniatures, furniture, miniatures, decorative arts and much more in a beautifully restored 17th century mansion house.
A bit of history
Ernest Cognacq and his wife Marie-Louise Jay were the founders of La Samaritaine, which was a large department store located by the River Seine overlooking the Pont Neuf bridge and the Ile de la Cite island.
And even though this was a decidedly modern approach to shopping, their own tastes were very different, and as there fortune grew over the years, they became avid collectors of 18th century art, objet d’art, sculptures and furniture mostly during a period between 1900 and 1925.
Plus Ernest Cognacq and his wife also set up the Cognacq-Jay Foundation, which included an orphanage, convalescent home, etc.
Yet with the art collections Ernest wanted to create a museum for all to enjoy, with the exhibits being on show within one of his own stores that became called Samaritaine de Luxe, which was the luxury store located on the Boulevard des Capucines close to the Palais Garnier opera house.
Unfortunately, Ernest Cognacq died in 1928 and his wife Marie-Louise Jay donated the collection to the city of Paris, and it was installed within a building next to the Samaritaine de luxe. It was inaugurated on 4th June 1929 as the Musee Cognacq-Jay in the presence of the French President Gaston Doumergue.
This museum continued to be housed on the Boulevard des Capucines right up until the activities of La Samaritaine ceased in 1981, and when it was sold in 1983, the City of Paris decided it was time to find a new location in a historical setting, and the building chosen was the Hotel Donon in the Marais area close to the Musee Carnavalet.
About Musee Cognacq-Jay
The beautiful and elegant mansion house called the Hotel Donon was fully restored between the years of 1986 and 1989, and in 1990 the Musee Cognacq-Jay opened its doors to the public once again, but in its new location in the 3rd Arrondissement.
The building itself has four floors and the permanent exhibitions, which include paintings and other art works, furniture, objet d’art, sculptures, miniatures, decorative arts and porcelain pieces from around the world, have been arranged on the first three floors set in themes relating to the 18th century. And on the top floor of the Musee Cognacq-Jay you can discover temporary exhibitions, along with the history of the collection itself.
Now as we have already mentioned, the permanent displays focus on 18th century works from around the world, but in particular there are those of the Rococo style by French artists such as Greuze and Boucher, but there are also works from English, Dutch and Flemish painters like Reynolds, and even one from a young Rembrandt.
And some of the most valuable decorative works from the 18th century are also housed within this museum in Paris, ranging from ceramics and porcelain to delicate cabinets and paintings by the likes of Canaletto and Fragonard.
You can discover small items like tiny enamel portraits showcased on the third floor, exquisite inlaid snuff boxes, sewing cases, pocket watches, perfume bottles, a stunning Sevres mantle clock, a china pot puree holder in the shape of an elephant, etc.
Plus there are larger pieces of furniture including a King Louis XVI chair covered with Beauvais tapestry, a bureau inlaid with ivory, a royal bed, writing desk, a commode and many other items including furnishings.
So as you can no doubt tell, this is a fascinating museum to discover, and you can get to feel how the wealthy once lived before the French Revolution, but in an intimate and warm atmosphere that never gets as crowded and some of the other museums in Paris.
But having also undergone some additional restoration work to the building in 2014, the Musee Cognacq-Jay reopened in November 2014, but has still maintained the original layout of the Hotel Donon mansion house with its parquet floors, wood panelling, etc, along with its small 17th century formal garden, with lovely views that can be enjoyed from the top floors.
Visiting the Musee Cognacq-Jay museum in Paris
You will find the Musee Cognacq-Jay located in the 3rd Arrondissement close to many other museums and tourist attractions in Paris such as the Musee Carnavalet and the Square Georges Cain.
The nearest Metro stations are the Chemin Vert stop via line 8, the Saint Paul stop via line 1 or the Rambuteau stop via line 11, however, the bus numbers 29, 69, 76 and 96 will also get you reasonably close by as well.
They are open from 10am through to 6pm on a Tuesday through to a Sunday, yet we would like to point out that they are always closed on a Monday and on all National French holidays, plus the ticket office closes a minimum of half hour prior, and unfortunately it is still not accessible to the disabled.