Exactly where did Edgar Degas' uncle, Michel Musson, live Uptown before he moved to Esplanade Avenue?
Edgar Degas spent just five months in New Orleans from October 1872 to March 1873, many years before he became a famous French Impressionist painter. Though his stay here was brief, locals still share stories of the months he spent in New Orleans, the works he painted during that time and his family connections to the city.
Degas' maternal uncle, Michel Musson, figures prominently into many of those stories. A native of the city, Musson was lauded by The Daily Picayune in his 1885 obituary as having had a "career of great public usefulness and unblemished honor." Musson was at one time the postmaster of New Orleans and a businessman in the insurance and cotton trades. He shows up in one of his nephew's most famous paintings: A Cotton Office in New Orleans. It's one of about two dozen works painted or inspired while Degas visited New Orleans.
According to Jim Fraiser's book The Garden District of New Orleans, in 1853, Musson built a grand Italianate-style mansion at 1331 Third St., at the corner of Coliseum Street. He was one of the first Creoles to move into the Garden District, which at the time was a neighborhood of wealthy Americans. The stately eight-bedroom home, which still stands today, was designed by architect James Gallier Jr. It is well-known for its pink facade and beautiful lace ironwork, though the latter was added to the home by a subsequent owner.
It is unlikely Degas ever stayed at the Third Street home, since Musson was forced to sell it after the Civil War. In 1869, Musson moved his wife, children and members of the extended family into a mansion at 2306 Esplanade Ave. It is here where Degas stayed during his visit. You can learn more about his New Orleans legacy by visiting the Degas House on Esplanade, which today is a bed-and-breakfast and offers tours of both the home and the neighborhood in which Degas and his family lived.