Built in 1854, the Musson House (also known as the Degas House) is a destination for art lovers and historians alike. Located at 2306 Esplanade Avenue in the Bayou St. John neighborhood, the house was built for architect Benjamin Rodriguez, an important local figure in the development of the Esplanade Ridge area. In the early 1860s, the home was rented by Estelle Musson (daughter of New Orleans cotton baron Michel Musson) and her husband, Rene Degas.
Degas and Musson were first cousins, and Rene was the brother of famous French Impressionist master Edgar Degas. It was here that Edgar Degas lived with his brother’s family for several months during 1872-1873. During this time, Degas created at least 22 paintings, including a painting from the back door of the home that depicted the home of Rene and Estelle’s neighbor Judge Olivier. In time, Rene created a scandal for the Degas family by leaving his wife and children and heading to France with the young Creole wife of his neighbor Olivier. Estelle gave up the Degas name and Rene’s descendants are named Musson.
In the 1920s the original house was cut into two, forming two separate residences. At this point, the Italianate details that adorn the mansion today were added. The main house eventually restored and turned into a Bed and Breakfast. This portion of the mansion contains both Degas’ bedroom and the studio in which he worked. The other half of the home is currently undergoing restoration. An hour-long tour will give you an interesting glimpse into the life and mind of the famous Degas, and a walk through his only residence and studio that is open to the public is sure to inspire. Appointments for the tour are recommended, as is a trip to the nearby New Orleans Museum of Art, which contains several works by Degas.