Located in the hamlet of Passy, the Château de la Muette was dismembered and sold off in lots by the revolutionary government in 1790. Part of its former grounds were now occupied by the Ranelagh, a pleasure garden named after the Irish lord who had set this fashion in London. When Passy was absorbed into Paris in 1860, the land became municipal property and Baron Haussmann ordered that it be transformed into a garden, keeping the name Ranelagh. In the second half of the 19th century, the land giving onto this sixhectare park was prized by a wealthy clientele wishing to build mansions there. One of them was François Christophe Edmond Kellermann, duke of Valmy. Born in 1835, a diplomat, deputy, and man of letters, he purchased a plot of land between 20 Avenue Raphaël and 17 Boulevard Suchet on May 4, 1863 for the sum of 137,577 francs. The contract of sale stipulated the obligation to build there within the coming two years a bourgeois dwelling of at least 600 square meters. The duke’s plans were more ambitious, and in part speculative. Of the three townhouses he wanted to build, two were at the Boulevard Suchet end of the plot. The first, with a surface area of 282 square meters, was sold on July 13, 1866 to the painter Marie Paul Alfred Parent de Curzon, for 80,000 francs. The second, comprising a townhouse with a courtyard, a garden, and outbuildings, was acquired by one M. Lalande for 70,000 francs on November 27, 1866. Kellermann kept the third property, 2,020 square meters at 20 Avenue Raphaël, for himself. We know little aboutthis mansion except that the main building had a basement, a first floor and an upper floor, and was flanked by two pavilions, again with basements but with only one floor above. The property had a garden in the English style at the end of which, in the right-hand corner, stood an L-shaped building with a cut corner and comprising a ground-level and upper floor and a small inner courtyard with glazed surrounds. After the duke’s death in 1868, his wife and daughter could not afford to maintain the property and it was sold on June 7, 1882, to Jules Marmottan for 260,000 francs.
Born in Valenciennes on December 26, 1829, Marmottan came from a family in Le Quesnoy, northern France. After studying law he worked for a while with a Parisian stockbroker before taking up a position as director of Les Mines de Bruay in 1870. He made them into one of the leading mining companies in the Pas-de-Calais. As administrator of several French energy and transportation companies, he was also involved in their philanthropic activities. In 1879, he was made general treasurer of La Gironde. As an art lover, Marmottan took advice from Antoine Brasseur, a dealer who is remembered for donating sixty-four Old Master paintings and a sizeable collection of ceramics to the art museum in his home town of Lille. Through him, Marmottan acquired some forty paintings by pre-Renaissance artists from Italy, Flanders, and Germany, including an outstanding and rare Descent from the Cross by Hans Muelich. Polychrome wooden statuettes from Mechelen and tapestries of the lives of the saints Susanna and Alexander also illustrated his taste for medieval and Renaissance art. Acquired from a dealer long based in Cologne by an art lover who divided his life between Valenciennes and Bordeaux, these works would nevertheless end up decorating the Marmottan residence in Paris. When he died in Bordeaux on March 10, 1883, Jules left his only son Paul a substantial fortune and, by special bequest, the mansion in Avenue Raphaël as well as his collections.
Born in Paris on August 26, 1856, Paul Marmottan studied law at the University of Aix. On graduating, in 1880, he was attached to the office of the prefect of the Vaucluse and worked as a trainee barrister in the appeal court of Paris. He was made a councilor for the Eure prefecture in November 1882 but, when his father died, he asked to be given leave and renounced his career as a senior public servant. He moved to Paris and in 1885 married Gabrielle Rheims. They divorced, childless, in 1894, and the death in 1904 of Marie Martin, whom he had planned to take as his second wife, left Marmottan without heirs and inclined to a solitary existence. A man of independent means, he spent his time studying history and the art of the 1789–1830 period. He became a prolific author and a recognized specialist in the Consulate and Empire periods, helping to rehabilitate its often overlooked art. His research as a historian informed his acquisitions as an art lover working to emulate his father and build up his own collection. Paul Marmottan assembled his first acquisitions in the pavilion, which building he redecorated in the Empire style throughout. There he displayed effigies of members of the emperor’s family in Carrara marble. The carefully chosen furniture came, notably, from the Tuileries Palace, one of Napoleon’s residences, and the Palazzo Reale di Portici in Naples, which had been furnished for Napoleon’s sister, Caroline, the wife of Prince Murat. Marmottan also assembled a rare and representative collection of the still classical “petits maîtres” of the post-Revolutionary decades, whose landscapes were the subject of his book L’École française de peinture (1789–1830), published in 1886. This authoritative ensemble was hung in the pavilion at the turn of the 20th century. Among other canvases, landscapes by Jean Victor Bertin (p. 66), Étienne Joseph Bouhot, Louis Gauffier, Adolphe Eugène Gabriel Roehn, and Jacques François Joseph Swebach (known as Swebach-Desfontaines) were assembled around his outstanding pieces: six representations of imperial residences painted in around 1810 by Jean Joseph Xavier Bidauld in collaboration with Carle Vernet and Louis Léopold Boilly. Marmottan was a Boilly specialist and had written a landmark monograph on this painter. Some thirty portraits by the artist have always hung in the main house, and it is surely no coincidence that his name should have been given to the street laid perpendicular to Avenue Raphaël, alongside the collector’s townhouse, in 1913.
Around 1910, Paul Marmottan acquired adjoining land in order to build an extension of his home. Also at this time, he modified the part of the townhouse showing his father’s collection in order to present his own acquisitions as well. He redesigned several salons in the main house which, before this intervention, one commentator (Potin, 1907) had compared to the cabinet at Chantilly, both for the age of the artworks and for the density of their hanging. The bedroom on the second floor, the current dining room, and the two round salons on the first floor are among the spaces that were transformed. The décor was designed by Marmottan himself, author of an authoritative volume on Le Style Empire. The rotunda through which visitors now enter the museum served as a vestibule at the time and was decorated in the Empire style with niches and marble sculptures. The decoration of the round salon giving onto the garden was entrusted to Gaston Cornu, whose letterhead describes him as a “specialist of moldings of all kinds and polychrome artistic imitations” (Archives Paul Marmottan, Paris, Musée Marmottan Monet). The artisan made a series of pilasters with fluted bases, ionic columns (using a model provided by Marmottan) and a sculpted frieze of griffons and garlands in stucco with partial gilding. In each of these salons, and in the current dining room, special care was taken over the doors, these being decorated with antique dancers and crowned with elegant stucco figures in Greek drapes standing out against solid colored grounds. To furnish these spacious rooms, Paul Marmottan made a number of significant acquisitions, foremost among which was a bed that once belonged to Napoleon I, the Chandelier with Musicians, the desk bearing the stamp of Pierre Antoine Bellangé, the monumental Portrait of the Duchess of Feltre and Her Children, and a remarkable “geographic clock” in Sèvres porcelain.
Paul Marmottan thought of this townhouse with its Empire salons and its picture gallery that in some ways was reminiscent of the old cabinets of curiosities as part of his greatest achievements. As well as Nélie Jacquemart-André before him, like Moïse de Camondo, Marmottan bequeathed his home to a cultural institution in order to preserve it and open it to the public, a task he entrusted to the Académie des Beaux-Arts, which inherited the building and its collections at his death on March 15, 1932.
The Académie des Beaux-Arts, as it has been known since 1803, was founded in 1648 as the Académie Royale de Peinture to champion French art. Responsible for teaching and for organizing the Salon, it was devoted to preserving the national artistic tradition. The Paul Marmottan bequest extended its mission by making it the guardian of a significant part of the French heritage.
As one of the foundations of the Académie des Beaux-Arts, the Musée Marmottan opened to the public on June 21, 1934. In keeping with its founder’s wishes, the small or ancillary rooms (kitchens, bathrooms, etc.) disappeared in order to create bigger spaces and facilitate visitor circulation. Apart from this physical adaptation, other changes awaited the museum as the aura of the Académie des Beaux-Arts attracted new donations and bequests. The museum enriched its collections and opened a new chapter in its history.
The art of the second half of the 19th century entered the Musée Marmottan in 1938. The drawings donated by the son of William Adolphe Bouguereau, one of the most prominent academic painters of his day and a member of the Institut, and the studies bequeathed by the brother of naturalist painter Jules Bastien-Lepage (a former student of Alexandre Cabanel) were very much in line with the tradition embodied by the Académie des Beaux-Arts and championed by Marmottan. However, the donations made by Victorine and Eugène Donop de Monchy radically changed the situation. Victorine was born on April 15, 1863, the year the Duc de Valmy acquired the plot on which the townhouse was built at 20 Avenue Raphaël. With her husband, she was one of the first visitors to the Musée Marmottan. Childless, she decided to bestow upon it a large part of the collection she had inherited from her father, the doctor Georges de Bellio. War hastened her decision. Between 1940 and 1947, Victorine made several gifts by hand to the Académie des Beaux-Arts. These Asian objets d’art and paintings and drawings both ancient and modern illustrated the doctor’s eclectic tastes. And while The Drinker by Frans Hals and The Pipe Smoker by Dirck van Baburen were very much at home in Paul Marmottan’s former residence, the entrance of Impression, Sunrise along with ten other Impressionist canvases marked a major turning point. At a time when Doctor de Bellio was making a name for himself as one of the first supporters of Claude Monet and his friends, Paul Marmottan and the Académie des Beaux-Arts were fighting them. In his foreword to L’École française de peinture (1789–1830), Marmottan was unambiguous in condemning his contemporaries: “One does not draw, one sketches; one does not paint, one brushes. That is the most prominent tendency of the day. . . . This slackening comes above all from extreme ignorance or the indulgence of art lovers, who are happy to look merely for the impression” (Marmottan, 1886). For its part, the Académie closed the Salon to these young painters after 1870, with the result that they decided to organize their own exhibitions. It was during the first of these, in 1874, that Impression, Sunrise inspired the critic Louis Leroy to come up with the caustic term impressionniste. With the entrance into the museum of those eleven Impressionist canvases in 1940, the Académie was at last recognizing the value of Impressionism. Moreover, in doing so it had become the owner and guardian of the work that gave the group its name. The arrival of canvases by Monet, Berthe Morisot, Pierre Auguste Renoir, Alfred Sisley, Camille Pissarro, and Armand Guillaumin was duly celebrated. They formed the cornerstone of the Musée Marmottan’s Impressionist collections.
Thanks to Michel Monet, the Impressionist collection would soon become one of the museum’s great riches. The younger son of Claude Monet, and the only son after the death of his brother Jean in 1914, he was his sole descendant, heir to the house in Giverny and all the works it contained, when the painter died in 1926. He thus received the paintings and drawings by masters and friends that his father had collected, including Eugène Delacroix, Eugène Boudin, Johan Barthold Jongkind, Gustave Caillebotte, Renoir, and Morisot. Above all, Michel inherited his father’s late works. Most of these were part of an ensemble of monumental canvases of water lilies. Between 1914 and 1926, Claude Monet painted 125 large panels, a selection of which he donated to his country, France. Monet refused to let this gift be revealed during his lifetime and what we now know as the Water Lilies of the Orangerie were not seen by the public until 1927. The exhibition caused a scandal; Monet’s last work then went into art historical purgatory. Michel, who owned the largest part of what remained from this great ensemble, found he was the owner of an inheritance that was denigrated. His efforts to rehabilitate the big Water Lilies had little impact in France, and the national museums bought none of the works he put on the market. This is one of the reasons why he decided against bequeathing his collection to the state. Instead, the childless Michel made the Musée Marmottan his sole legatee. When he died, in 1966, over a hundred Monets, including a unique ensemble of large-format Water Lilies, were added to the institution’s collection. Since the salons of Paul Marmottan’s townhouse were too small to show works on such a scale, a new room was specially designed under the garden. In 1970, these canvases, most of which had never been shown, were put on display. They form the world’s biggest collection of works by Claude Monet. The home of Paul Marmottan had grown and was now also the home of the father of Impressionism. The museum became known as the Musée Marmottan Monet.
Several other descendants of artists followed Michel Monet’s example. In 1985, Nelly Sergeant-Duhem, adopted daughter of the Post- Impressionist painter Henri Duhem, donated a large number of works to the museum, including Taking a Walk in Argenteuil by Monet and Bunch of Flowers by Paul Gauguin.
Likewise, the Rouart family bequeathed to the museum the world’s leading collection of works by their forebear, Berthe Morisot. Living in the 16th arrondissement since 1852, the family knew the Musée Marmottan well. Berthe Morisot and her husband, Eugène Manet, moved into their family home near Étoile in 1883, the year Paul Marmottan moved in at Avenue Raphaël. Their daughter, Julie, her husband Ernest Rouart, their niece Jeannie Gobillard and her husband, Paul Valéry, later lived in the house, as would several of their children. It was as neighbors that M. and Mme Ernest Rouart and Mme Paul Valéry attended the inauguration of the Musée Marmottan (Le Figaro, June 30, 1934). The bond between the artist’s grandson, art historian Denis Rouart, and Daniel Wildenstein, a member of the Académie des Beaux-Arts, who were the co-authors of Édouard Manet’s catalogue raisonné, was no doubt conducive to this bequest. In 1993, twenty-five paintings by Berthe Morisot and a unique ensemble of prints, drawings and paintings by Manet, Edgar Degas, Jean- Baptiste Camille Corot and others come back to the museum. The portraits of Julie, Jeannie and her sister, Paule, sketched in the Bois de Boulogne and in the plush interiors of the 16th arrondissement, were very much at home when exhibited in the galleries of the Musée Marmottan.
Many other benefactors have enriched the museum since its creation. In 1981, Daniel Wildenstein offered the collection of illuminations that his father, Georges, had begun putting together at the age of sixteen. Between 1909 and 1930, the dealer had acquired many works of the first order at auction, in galleries and on the Marché Biron in Paris. Deriving from prestigious collections—those of Jean Dollfus, Édouard Aynard, and Frédéric Engel-Gros— this ensemble featured many masterpieces, including several pages attributed to Jean Fouquet, Jean Bourdichon, Jean Perréal, and Giulio Clovio. Completed by Daniel, the whole collection was placed in the Musée Marmottan Monet. The 322 miniatures by the French, Italian, Flemish, and English schools, dating from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance, constitute one of the finest collections of illuminations in France. An Empire-style townhouse and great center of Impressionism, the museum has also become a paramount site for the study of ancient manuscripts.