Musée Cernuschi – A Journey Through the Artwork of Asia

A photo looking up at the large bronze Buddha of Meguro at the Musée Cernuschi.

Back in the fall, I wrote about how I tried (and failed) to visit several exhibitions in the museums of Paris. One of those museums was the Musée Cernuschi, the museum of Asian art. Their latest exhibit, Journey Along the Kisakaido, had just opened, and I wanted to see it before we all went back into lockdown. Unfortunately, tickets were completely sold out, but the permanent collections were still open. And since the Musée Cernuschi is part of the Paris Musées museum collective, entry is free. Who could resist that? Not me, that’s for sure.

The Musée Cernuschi is the legacy of Henri Cernuschi, an Italian born naturalized French citizen who made his fortune in banking and commerce. In the 1870s, he travelled to Asia, and spent the next several years travelling throughout the continent. Along the way, he amassed a large collection of artwork, which he periodically shipped back to Paris. Several years and hundreds of shipments later, he returned to France and built a house that could display his collection. Henri Cernuschi died in 1896, and he bequeathed both his house and artwork to the city of Paris. In 1898, the Musee Cernuschi officially opened in his former home, just off of Parc Monceau.

Today, the Musée Cernuschi is the second largest museum of Asian art in Paris, holding over 12,000 pieces. That may sound like a lot, but the museum is brilliantly laid out, and as a result, it never gets overwhelming. I particularly loved how the path you take guides you through the history of Asia in chronological order. The museum does a fantastic job of explaining the historical context of the artworks, and you get to follow the evolving artistic styles of various countries throughout the centuries.

A photo of the great hall of the Musee Cernuschi, with the large Buddha looking down over the incense burner.

One of the most prominent pieces is the large Buddha of Meguro that is displayed in the main hall. It’s a Japanese bronze from the 18th century that is from Henri’s original collection, and it cuts an impressive figure. The great hall is beautiful in and of itself, but with this piece watching over you, it’s particularly impressive. That being said, my favourite piece was the incense burner located below the Buddha. The detailing of the dragon is simply incredible, and as it is on the main floor, you can see those details up close.

A photo of the dragon incense burner at the Musée Cernuschi.

The Journey Along the Kisakaido exhibit was originally scheduled to close on January 17th. That being said, given that museums haven’t been able to open their doors since the end of October, I’m hoping that that date will be extended. I still want to see the exhibit and see more of what the museum has to offer. However, if I’m really unlucky and tickets are sold out again, that’s fine. I’ll happily spend another couple of hours taking in the permanent collections of the Musée Cernuschi. Once was not enough for these beautiful works of art.


Laura Moore is a professional storyteller who loves history and the many stories that make Paris one of the most fascinating cities in the world. Join one of her signature tours to learn the story of a city.