Three lives, one palace.
That’s what I’ve named the Palais Gaillard, isn’t that fabulous? The Palais Gaillard is a jewel of neo-gothic, neo-Renaissance Parisian style, which, to the best of my knowledge, has no equivalent in the capital. The building, which gives onto the road is impressive in its stature and radically different style.
As it so often does in the Monceau plain, the story of the Palais Gaillard starts under the impulse of a collector, who was also a banker, at the end of the 19th century.
As it so often does in the Monceau plain, the result is magnificent. The Palais Gaillard is part of the neighborhood architectural constellation made up of the Rothschild, Cernuschi, Camondo and Jacquemart-André townhouses.
That being said, some notable differences exist between Gaillard and the other stars in the constellation.
The nature of the collections and therefore of the architectural style chosen is the first difference. Thus, when Emile Gaillard leaves his palace’s construction between the hands of the architect Jules Février in 1878, he tasked him with creating the perfect setting for his paintings from the Middle-Age and the Renaissance. The other collectors were more adept of modern art (except for Jacquemart-André, which is a primitive Italian museum). Hence most of the townhouses being built in a neo-classical style and certainly not in a neo-gothic or neo-Renaissance style.
Second notable difference is that whilst the great mansions were generally hidden below a great porch and a courtyard, Gaillard’s entrance gives straight onto the street, which was cutting-edge.
At the time, the press was disconcerted: “Should we call the splendid construction Mister Jules Février has just erected for Mister Gaillard, a banker from Grenoble, a hotel, a castle or a palace?”, wrote the journalist Claude Périer in “The Weekly Builder”.
(I’ve decided, and I am certain you have noticed, that such a magical place can only be a palace).
The construction is inspired by the Blois castle, which was built during the 15th century and quickly became an architectural reference due to its mixing of both gothic elements and Renaissance innovations.
The Palais Gaillard’s construction lasted two years, and the architecture is as destined to pomp as it is to family life. To celebrate the inauguration of the Palace, a small selection of 2,000 people were invited to a Henri II themed fancy dress bal.
Two years after the death of Emile Gaillard, in 1902, the family bank was sold to the Crédit Lyonnais bank, and its broke heirs endeavored to sell the collections. Over 1,000 pieces were thus separated and sold, including to several museums.
Up for sale since 1904, the Palais Gaillard wasn’t bought by the Bank of France until 1919, for the laughable sum of 2 million francs, when the construction alone had cost 11 million francs.
The Palaces second life begun. In 1923, after four years of constructions and renovations, it became a branch of the Bank of France.
A spectacular, monumental treasure room is dug, with a brand new security system: a five meter deep moat protects it and one can only access it with a drawbridge.
Art Nouveau blended perfectly with the existing architectural style and the architect in charge of the construction, Alphonse Defrasse was – Thank God – keen to respect Jules Février’s masterpiece. The latter, as you can imagine, expressed his deep gratitude.
The branch of the Bank de France closed its doors in 2006.
The Palace’s third life may begin. Now listed as a Historical Monument, the idea is to create a museum dedicated to the economy within the building.
The first challenge was to purify the building, which had too many architectural additions, which were not interesting enough to keep and hid the different layers of architectural style created by Février and Defrasse.
The great architectural innovation was the creation of an interior terrace that is invisible from the outside. It offers a haven of peace in the open and allows one to take a close-up look at the magnificent original roof work.
The new museum, Citéco, which is the French abbreviation for the City of Economics and Mint, is destined to become the first interactive European museum of Economics, open to school groups and families, to novices and experts.
Citéco was built with the hopes of making economics accessible to everyone and offers a visit organized around several economic modules – Exchanges, Actors, Markets, Instabilities, Regulations and Treasures. The whole is explained with numerous videos and both individual and collective interactive games.
There is a plethora of options: cultural, historical, architectural and economic. It is certain that everyone will find a piece of happiness there.
It opens mid-June 2019, so get planning!
June 7, 2019