While Ernest Cognacq and Marie-Louise Jay owed their considerable fortune to factory-made goods (he founded the department store La Samaritaine in 1869), their personal tastes were anything but modern and middle-of-the road.
They preferred the 18th century, and spent an impressive amount of time (around 25 years) and corresponding coinage amassing their collection. Works by French Rococo artists La Tour, Fragonard, Van Loo, Boucher, Greuze, and Watteau decorate the beautifully restored 16th-century Hôtel Donon.
Twenty rooms, over four floors, chart the aesthetic acumen of the couple. There are Louis XVI chairs, paneling from the Château d’Eu (King Louis Philippe’s summer residence in Normandy), and paintings by Rembrandt alongside works by lesser-known artists such as Lavreince. A gallery of sculptures features Rococo works by Falconet (a favorite of Madame de Pompadour), Houdon, and Clodion, along with porcelain from Saxe and Sevrès.
There’s also a remarkable royal bed, with coiling leaves and garlands carved into its posts, and lavish folds of damask descending majestically from an ornate crown; a writing table inlaid with ivory, conjuring up images of perfumed letters and wax seals; and display cabinets brimming with everyday objects such as snuff boxes, and pocket watches.
Address Hôtel Donon, 8 Rue Elzévir, Marais;
Getting There Métro: St-Paul, Chemin Vert, Rambuteau; bus: 29, 69, 76, 96.
Opening Times 10am–6pm Tue–Sun.