Before I began to call Paris my home, when I visited once a year for a week or so, I made occasional pilgrimages to the Jacquemart-Andre museum. Like the Wallace Collection in London, the Frick Collection in New York and the Isabella Stewart Museum in Boston, the J-A has a wonderful permanent collection, certainly worth enjoying from time to time, with the excellent free audio guide and the lovely tea room with its frescoed ceiling by the 18th century Italian master, Tiepolo. Now that I am in Paris more or less permanently, I find myself going to the J-A more frequently. And why is that you ask ? The excellent temporary exhibitions, I reply. Mary Cassatt and Caravaggio last year, The Danish artist Hammershoi and the Alana Collection this year (through January 2020).
The Alana is a private collection of Italian Renaissance art owned by the Chilean billionaire, Alvar Saieh (in 2018 the 800th richest man in the world according to Forbes Magazine) and his wife, Ana Guzman. Alana combines their first names, Al + Ana., Interesting, no? The collection lives not in Chile, but in Newark, Delaware. Bizarre, no? While the Alana has occasionally lent a painting or two to a museum or gallery for a special exhibition, the collection, while known to art historians, has been largely invisible to the general public.
In the excellent video which accompanies the exhibition, the curator of the Jacquemart-Andre explains that Mr. Saieh told him that the only place he was happy to show his collection was the J-A. Mr. Saieh must surely consider himself and his wife to be the cultural/spiritual descendants of Nelie Jacquemart and Edouard Andre. The similarities are certainly there, a wealthy couple, passionate about art, who amassed a magnificent collection and who lent their names to their collections.
There are several marvelous paintings in the Alana, among them a 12th century panel showing Eight Scenes from the Life of Christ, my favorite of the 8 is Christ standing in a column of water waiting to be baptized; an Annunciation by the Sienese born, Florentine trained 14th century painter, Lorenzo Monaco in which the announcing angel’s wings are a glorious rainbow; a fabulous portrait of Cosimo Primo de Medici by the Florentine Mannerist artist, Bronzino, dressed in the most sensual of silks; and a painting of the Martyrdom of St. Apollonia by the Baroque artist Guido Reni in which the patron saint of dentists rolls her eyes as her torturer prepares to yank out her teeth. The excellent wall texts explain basic concepts of Italian Renaissance art which you can equally apply to the paintings and sculpture in the permanent collection and which I urge you to enjoy while you are there.
The two collections when seen together, can also offer insights into what discerning taste and lots of money could buy in the 19th century and can buy now, in the early 21st century.
Private tour of the museum and the Alana Collection