Jacques Jaujard ( 1895-1967 )
As Director of the French National Museums (Musées Nationaux) during the Nazi occupation of France, Jaujard was instrumental in the protection of thousands of artworks, including those from the Louvre Museum. He joined the Musées Nationaux as secretary general in 1926, was named deputy director in 1933, and by 1939 rose to director. In late summer of that year, he oversaw the evacuation of the Louvre and its paintings, sculptures and other objects d’art to various châteaux in the Loire Valley. Not content with only protecting state-owned artworks, Jaujard also provided safety for many private collections, including those of David-Weill, Jacobson, Levy, Hesse, and Bernheim, in national museum vaults. Some collections were confiscated by the Vichy government, however museums quickly acquired many pieces through their rights of preemption. Maurice de Rothschild’s collection was put up for a fictive sale, only to be reacquired by the National Museums and transported to unoccupied France for safekeeping. In some cases, dates on sale documents were even changed to state that artworks were acquired before the occupation. Jaujard used whatever means necessary to ensure the future of France’s cultural heritage. According to Christiane Desroches-Noblecourt, he “not only saved material treasures, but also saved numerous persons from the occupation forces [Nazis], at the risk of his own freedom and even his life.”
Jaujard also enlisted the help of Rose Valland, who was assigned to oversee activities at the Jeu de Paume, a small museum used at the time to store artworks stolen by the Nazi ERR. Valland meticulously tracked thousands of paintings as they were shipped across Europe, managing to escape the attention of the Germans working in the building. She faithfully reported her knowledge to Jaujard. At the end of the war, many artworks were easily restituted due to her work. On November 24, 1944, the French “Commission on Art Recovery” was established with the help of Jacques Jaujard, in order to ensure the proper restitution of French works of art.
In 1944, Jaujard was appointed Director of the French Order of Arts and Letters, and later Secretary General of the Ministry of State in charge of cultural affairs. He was awarded the Medal of Resistance and named Commander of the Legion of Honour for his extraordinary work during the war. In December 1955 Jaujard was elected to the Académie des Beaux-Arts.
Jaujard died unexpectedly from a heart attack in 1967 at the age of 72. A book of his philosophies was published posthumously in 1974, titled “Feuilles.”