Rue Jacob is a fashionable street in the Saint-Germain-des-Prés quarter of Paris, with a number of art galleries and such, but it is actually not very pleasant because of the narrow sidewalks and the parked cars on both sides of the street. As nearly everywhere in Paris, the car drivers have to pay to park here — the former mayor, Bertrand Delanoë, claimed to have eliminated all free on-street parking — but that is not much consolation to us pedestrians who have hardly any room to walk around.
There used to be a famous cabaret on rue Jacob, the “Echelle de Jacob”, which was where singers like Jacques Brel began their careers in the 1950s. This cabaret later turned into a fairly ordinary cocktail lounge, which was shut down for good on Wednesday, December 18, 2013.
This building at 12 rue Jacob used to be called the Hôtel de Saxe because for a while it was the residence of Maurice de Saxe (1696-1750), the dashing military officer who was Count of Saxony and Marshall of France during the reign of King Louis XV. We opera fans know Maurice de Saxe as one of the main characters — the lead tenor role, in fact — in the opera Adriana Lecouvreur by Francesco Cilea (1866-1950).
(See my Baden-Baden post Eleven times as marvelous?)
Now at 12 rue Jacob there are several galleries including the Galerie Nathalie Motte Masselink, featuring “Old Master and Contemporary Paintings and Drawings” and the Nakaniwa Gallery, which specializes in handmade products made in the “Honmono” tradition in Japan. They explain that Honmono “is a Japanese concept describing a product or experience creating a subjective impression of authenticity, historical and technical depth and sincerity on the part of all those involved in the creative process.”
The entrance doors at 12 rue Jacob are usually open, so you can go into the courtyard and have a look around.
On your left as you enter the courtyard there is a curving stone staircase of the type that was common in Paris in bygone centuries. (And there is a motorcycle of the type that causes huge amounts of noise and air pollution in the 21st century.)
In the courtyard you can find this boutique called La Compagnie du Kraft, which claims to be “the least productive producer of notebooks in the western world.” They say they have been “making notebooks for professional forest rangers and butchers since 1930. For guys with the hands of a lumberjack or killer. So our notebooks aren’t meant to be handy, practical or ‘user friendly’. They’re made for bruisers. But if you’re looking for a tough tool that almost nobody else has or uses, and your patience is as limitless as your love for life off the beaten track, then our indestructible notebooks are for you.”
On the other side of the courtyard is a gallery called David Ghezelbash Archéologie, which “presents a selection of archeological artworks specialized in the Mediterranean basin: Greek, Roman, Egyptian and Oriental art.”
Next door at number 14 is where the German composer Richard Wagner lived from October 1841 to April 1842 — not a very successful period of his life.
A bit further up the street there used to be a Catholic girls’ school called Cours Desir, which today is best remembered for the fact that Simone de Beauvoir was a pupil there for many years. Though she later rebelled against the school’s religious and elitist ideology, she seems to have received a fine education there, at least it didn’t prevent her from becoming one of the leading French authors of her generation.
My photos in this post are from 2014 and 2019. I revised the text in 2019.
See also: Dina Vierny’s art gallery at 36 Rue Jacob.