Poster of the exhibition The Splendour of the House of Camondo
Atelier Polymago ©RMN, Musée Nissim de Camondo
During the Season of Turkish Culture in France, the Musée d’art et d’histoire du Judaïsme presents from 06.11.2009 to 07.03.2010 an exhibition retracing the fate of the House of Camondo.
From Constantinople to Paris, from the dawn of the 19th Century until 1945, the extraordinary career of this then famous and now forgotten family, displays in the course of five generations, one of the most fascinating facets of a enthralling though tragically ending adventure: the integration of the Jews in France.
Bankers of the Ottoman viziers, the Camondos were actively involved in Turkey’s economic development. Philanthropists and admirers of the German and French Enlightment, they contributed to introduce the Jews to modernity through education and teaching of secular topics and sciences in French and in Turkish languages. With regards to the fate of Ottoman Jews, their part in the Alliance Israelite universelle (a French association founded in 1860 to educate and help the East European Jewry) was decisive. Moreover, their genuine support of the unification of Italy and of king Victor Emmanuel II was rewarded by the grant of the Count title.
After settling in Paris in 1869, the Camondo family took a large part into economic and cultural life in and outside France. The Camondos financed the Suez Canal, associated with the Pereire brothers, renowned bankers and undertakers, and administrated successfully many banks and enterprises.
From 1889 on, after the death of the two leading figures of the family business, the heirs, Count Isaac de Camondo and his cousin Count Moïse de Camondo, gradually ceased to develop the family bank and the Jewish community affairs. They strived and succeeded in becoming outstanding collectors and patrons to many important artistic projects.
Isaac and Moïse de Camondo collecting passion meant more than a mere integration or acculturation desire or a self assertion process; today still, it signifies aesthetic achievement and a full artistic performance. Paradoxically, they both paid tributes simultaneously to the aesthetics of the Classics and to the Avant-garde. More than anything else, they contributed in a still unequalled manner to the conservation and improvement of the French public collections. They willed their respective collections to France. Isaac’s legacy (more than 800 items, among which 159 drawings, pastels and paintings from the 19th Century) to the Musée du Louvre in 1911 will be later split between the National Museum of Asian Art - Guimet, Musée d’Orsay and Musée du Louvre. Moïse’s legacy to the Union Centrale des Arts décoratifs in 1935 was the creation of his own museum, named after his son killed in 1917, the Musée Nissim-de-Camondo. The death of the last Camondos (Béatrice de Camondo, her husband Léon Reinach, their two children Fanny and Bertrand) in Auschwitz during the Holocaust terminated the Camondo dynasty and their achievements then slowly sunk into silence and oblivion.
The exhibition displays 250 works of art and archives left by the Camondos. It associates family archives from the Musée Nissim-de-Camondo, religious objects from the Musée d’art et d’histoire du Judaïsme, 18th Century prestigious furniture and art objects from the Musée du Louvre, 19th Century paintings mainly from impressionist painters (Corot, Degas, Monet, Renoir, Pissarro, Manet, Sisley, Jongkind) from the Musée d’Orsay and art objects from China and Japan (Isaac left 418 of the best Japanese prints) from the Musée Guimet.
Some other loans come from the Musée Carnavalet – Histoire de Paris, Palais des beaux-arts de Lille, Musée des beaux-arts de Dijon, and various State archives.
A fully illustrated catalogue of 160 pages is published along with the exhibition, in co-edition with publishers Skira-Flammarion.
© Musée d'art et d'histoire du Judaïsme