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Musee Nissim de Camondo

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Sometimes you just aren't in the mood to deal with the crowds and enormity of the collections at major museums. It's time to specialize, and Paris offers a multitude of choices when it comes to more intimate art experiences.

One museum which is not ordinarily at the top of the big hits list, but which delivers great bang for the buck, is the Musee Nissim de Camondo. You have to be into 18th century French art and antiques, and if you are, welcome to Comte Moise Camondo's home.

A banker born in Istanbul, Camondo was keeper of a great fortune. His passion was collecting the best works of art from the 18th century, including furniture and objects, to be housed in the mansion he was building near Parc Monceau in 1911.

Although Comte Camondo took great pleasure in his collection and the decoration of his palace-like abode, his personal life was filled with heartache. His wife left him, and his marriage ended in divorce. Moise Camondo's son, Nissim, for whom the museum is named, was killed in aerial combat in World War I. Upon Comte Camondo's death in 1935, the house was deeded to the state and became a museum. Sadly, Camondo's daughter, her husband and her two children perished in a Nazi camp during World War II.

From the state of the art kitchen to the salons and living quarters on the floors above, each room is aesthetically, impeccably appointed. Lavish, yet comfortable, opulence rules alongside practicality. It is quite obvious that this home was meant to be lived in and enjoyed. Many museums contain artifacts from a certain period, collected and assembled to represent that era, but today we tour the Musee Nissim de Camondo exactly as it was, when it's owner put each precious piece in its place.

How precious, you ask? Camondo was able to acquire such rarities as Savonnerie carpets woven in 1678 for the Grande Galerie of the Louvre, Orloff table silver commissioned by Catherine II of Russia, Sevres porcelain service with a bird theme, designed in the 1780's and virtually a house full of exquisite examples of the finest artistry and craftsmanship of 18th century France.

When you're done, have a picnic lunch in the nearby Parc Monceau.

Musee Nissim Camondo
63, rue de Monceau
8th Arrondissement
Metro: Villiers, Monceau
Closed Monday and Tuesday

Comte Moise de Camondo

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