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Art & History

The Collector’s Haven: Musée Marmottan Monet

On the western edge of Paris, the Musée Marmottan Monet combines one of the world’s best collections of Impressionist paintings with a window on Paris’s elegant past.

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Musée Marmottan Monet

In Paris’s 16th arrondissement near the Bois de Boulogne, upscale Passy feels like a village within the city. The neighborhood wasn’t absorbed into Paris until 1860, and with small and thriving markets, bakeries and cafes lining the main street, it still can feel like a rather chic provincial town. If you think of Passy as a town apart, the Musée Marmottan Monet is its palace.

Nestled at the edge of the rue de Passy in the former grounds of the Château de la Muette, the Musée Marmottan Monet looks out over the lush jardins of Ranelagh, laid out in the 18th century to imitate a British pleasure garden.

Most people come to the museum for its Impressionist art — including the world’s largest collection of paintings by Monet (and a stunning selection of his Waterlilies) and the largest collection of works by Berthe Morisot, the most prominent female Impressionist. When they arrive they also discover a part of Paris, away from the tourist center, that seems frozen in time.

“It’s a face of Paris that is really interesting to discover for its provincial charm,” says Ingrid Held, our storyteller for this Journey. “It’s less ancient than the center of the city, of course, but it has a great charm.”

And then there is the museum itself, housed in a stately 19th-century mansion. “You have the illusion that you are invited into a bourgeois house from this time, a former private world offering itself to the public.” Ingrid says.

Built by the duke François Christophe Edmond Kellermann in the 1860s, it was purchased by Jules Marmottan, a rich industrialist and art collector. Paul Marmottan, who inherited the property on his father’s death in 1883, dedicated the rest of his life to transforming the townhouse into a museum, filling it with artwork and decorative items including a bed once slept in by Napoleon and a clock from famed porcelain house the Manufacture de Sèvres.

Entering the cavernous dining room, one is so struck by the magnificent furniture, statuary, and decorative details that the paintings by Monet, Morisot, and Renoir almost fade into the background. Marmottan, a specialist in Empire-era decorative arts, designed the room himself. Some of the furniture in the mansion came from the Tuileries Palace, one of Napoleon’s residences, and from Napoleon’s sister’s lavish home in Naples.

When he died, Marmottan left the building, and all of its furnishings and art, to the Académie des Beaux-Arts. Another generous donation, from Claude Monet’s son Michel Monet, increased the size of the collection and gave it its name. A highlight is Monet’s groundbreaking “Impression, soleil levant” — the painting that gave Impressionism its name.

Secret Journeys’ guests visit the museum after hours, when it’s closed to the general public, providing an exclusive, intimate ambiance to experience both the remarkable surroundings and the rich collection.

Read more about this Secret Journey

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