When visiting Paris, every tourist has The Louvre on his or her list, and musée d’Orsay often makes the cut, too. However, have you ever heard of the musée national Jean-Jacques Henner or the musée Cognacq-Jay? These tiny gems rarely make a traveler’s list, but they are well worth a visit.
One of my current classes is an art museum class. In this course, we discuss the many different periods of art, but we also get to visit several Parisian museums. One of the many perks of the museums here is the fact that they are all free for students. Some of the first couple visits with this class were The Louvre and the musée d’Orsay. However, we were also assigned to visit the musée Cognacq-Jay. This museum is located in a former mansion in the Marais, one of the best neighborhoods in Paris. This area is lined with local and worldwide shops alike, but there are also many museums with beautiful courtyards, and Cognacq-Jay falls into this category. This museum took around forty-five minutes to complete, and it is dedicated to the Rocaille art style. This movement occurred under the reign of Louis XV, and it drifted away from the strict rules of classicism under Louis XIV. One of my favorite aspects of this museum was the house itself. The quaint manor offered a needed brake from the bustling walkways of the Marais, and the tranquility was palpable. Without my current museums course, I would have never discovered this relatively unknown museum, but I would highly recommend it to anyone looking for a quick tour of the Rocaille movement while visiting Paris.
Luckily for me, my host-mother works at a smaller museum like Congnacq-Jay. She is a full-time employee at the musée nationale Jean-Jacques Henner, and it is located right by Parc Monceau. When my sisters and mother visited, we decided to visit this museum and explore the surrounding neighborhood. This was my first visit to my host-mother’s office, and it certainly did not disappoint. Located on a tranquil street, the French flag was beaming in the sunlight over the main entrance. Jean-Jacques Henner was a painter during the late 19th century, and he won every award available to a painter during that time, including the Prize of Rome. He also became a member of L’Academie de Beaux-Arts, and every French painter dreamed of being admitted to this extremely prestigious group. The museum currently resides in an old mansion, and many Americans visited this gem in the early 20th century. It recently underwent extensive renovations, and it now appears in its original form. Another smaller location, this museum did not take hours to complete. Through a guided tour, my family and I learned every detail of Mr. Henner’s life. After exploring three stories of paintings and chatting with my host-mother, my family set off for Parc Monceau. With the flowers blooming and a beautiful body of water, this quick stroll was the perfect end to a fantastic afternoon.
While you will not find many smaller museums on Lonely Planet, I highly recommend seeking out smaller, more personal experiences during a visit to Paris. I knew I found a local secret in both museums when the only language I heard being spoken around me was French. When visiting the Louvre, I felt like I heard everything but the local tongue. Whenever you are in Paris and craving a museum visit, but you can do without the lines and stress of the best-known spots, try to find a smaller manor to truly enjoy the cultural experience this city has to offer.
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<p>My name is Jonathan Skewes, and I am an advertising major at Pennsylvania State University. I have studied French for six years, and it is one of my true passions. I also enjoy playing soccer and discovering different cultures and countries.</p>