Thursday, May 21, 2009

jour no. 21 - The Louvre.

Well, I did the Louvre, and have the blister to prove it (I'll spare you a photo of that).

I wanted to post images of the works that I most enjoyed, amidst the sheer overwhelming mass of ART in this place, but the Louvre website is a disaster, and despite mad searching, I couldn't find the Caravaggio I loved, or the Titian, or the Parmigiano, or any of the dozens and dozens of "Interieure d'Eglise" in the Flemish section (I love those interiors - you can see how ecstatic those painters were to have discovered perspective).

So just so you know: I started in Sully, checked out the Egyptian section, which was impressive, if only for the amount of lugging Napoleon's guys must have done to get all this stuff up to Paris. And I loved the intimidating statues of the gods.

Then I went up to the Flemish / Dutch / German / etc. section, which involved walking through lots of 17th- and 18th-century French paintings. Let's just say it was a relief to get to the Richelieu wing and see trillions of austere, relatively muted Dutch paintings. I don't think trillions is an exaggeration: some rooms (like the one I've got here) had the paintings hung one on top of another, and there are 40 rooms in the section. One of the two Vermeers was in Tokyo, but the other, The Astrologer, was a highlight for me. And the aforementioned church interiors.

The Rubens room was a kick. Marie de Médicis, widow of Henri IV, regent for her son, Louis XIII, commissioned Rubens to paint a series of works depicting the big events in her life. They don't make vanity like this any more; there she is, being educated by the muses, and there's Jupiter and Juno, smiling as Henri IV swoons at his first sight of Marie's portrait, and then there's Marie and Henri's wedding, where they've become Jupiter and Juno, etc. Basically, the gods and angels are rejoicing left and right, as Marie quashes Envy, Ignorance, and Want.

Then it was off to the Italian paintings, over in the Denon wing. The grand hall of Italian paintings starts in the 15th century and works its way down to the 18th, and, well, when you first enter, you think, "No. Way." You can't even see the end of it all.

It was worth battling the crowd to get a glimpse of Mona Lisa, smiling serenely (and maybe a bit ironically) behind her bullet-proof casing. But it's even better to stand along in front of one of the other Leonardos, like the beautiful "La Vierge aux rochers." Or the Raphaels. Or the Titians. Or the Boticellis and Fra Angelicos and Caravaggios...

I love looking at the early Italian religious paintings, each one about half paint, half gold leaf. I've always liked them, but more since 9/11; one of the first things I did in the week after that day was meet Nicole at the Met so we could look at really beautiful things that had been around a really long time. It helped a bit.

I went up to a terrace cafe after that, which looked like a great option (outside on a lovely day, not a bad menu) and turned out to be the first dreadful food experience of my trip (pre-packaged sandwich brought to my table in its packaging, awful bread that reminded me of Wonder, the world's most aggressive pigeons who couldn't take their beady eyes off of all the bread I couldn't eat, and an Italian guy smoking stinky brown cigarettes). I fled.

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