Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Thursday morning at the Louvre, Part III

As I continue my travelogue about my recent trip to France, I would like to invite those joining this story in progress to read my previous posts here.

After seeing the Objets d'Arts and Art of Islam exhibits we had a little time to enjoy looking at beautiful art. What a concept!

I would have loved to have visited the Musée d'Orsay while in Paris because I love Impressionist paintings, but we had no time for that and none of that art was from the time of Charlemagne. Therefore, it remains on a list of things I still would like to visit "some day." So we had to make due with the Louvre. (I know, such a hardship.)

For those who have not been to the Louvre, it is massive. It would be impossible to see everything in a single day even if you simply walked past every item without stopping. If you did somehow traverse the entire monument in such a fashion, it certainly would not be pleasurable nor would you get any grasp of the importance of the exhibits you passed.

After looking over the map and seeing our choices, I chose to visit the Greek antiquities
and my husband chose Etruscan art. It is not a secret that I adore Greek mythology. For me those are the tales of my childhood. I preferred reading the heroic stories of Theseus, Perseus, and Bellerophon over Grimm's Fairy Tales or stories about princesses in tall towers.

My favorite of all the characters from Greek mythology was and is Athena. What is not to like about a deity tasked with the powers of wisdom and victory? I mean, why would anyone prefer Hestia the goddess of the hearth over Athena?

With that in mind, here are some photos of that excellent goddess.

Here I am standing in front of a statue of Athena which lost her arms over the years.
At least she still has her head.


Here is another statue of Athena which I prefer since it appears intact.


A close up on her serene looking face.


Here is a painting of her which looks Rubenesque to me. I do not think that I yet to come across a painting of Athena which I truly like. That medium for some reason makes her look too soft, even if she still holds weapons.



As we made our way through the Greek antiquities section we turned a corner and came upon a crowd of people busily snapping their cameras. It was as if we came across Paris Hilton and the paparazzi. I saw a statue from the side and said sarcastically, "What is it? The Venus de Milo?"

Turns out, it was. We did not take a picture of it, but in retrospect I wish we had. If only to demonstrate the insanity of trying to take a picture of an object with at least one hundred people in your way.

One thing that surprised me about the Venus de Milo was that when I looked at the statue from the side (or the angle of her left shoulder), it appeared there was a large hole. It reminded me of hollow chocolate bunnies. I wish I had taken a picture of that, but the swarms of people made me want to move forward quickly.

Edited to add: I found an image on the web someone took of the statue showing the left arm at an angle and you can see what kind of looks like a hole.

I have never been a fan of the Venus de Milo, so I had no real emotional pull to want to stand in front of it properly and drink in its beauty. Nope. That statue does nothing for me.

Then again, I never have been a fan of Aphrodite. Even seeing the world famous statue in person did not change my mind.

Neither did seeing the Winged Nike of Samothrace, a statue that my Humanities professor at Michigan State emphasized.

The Nike of Samothrace was placed in a prominent area near stairways and it was hard to miss. I have never cared for that statue. Perhaps if it was not decapitated, and I was able to see the look of triumph or determination or righteous indignation then I would feel differently.

Seeing Nike of Samothrace in person did not change my mind. I found it technically brilliant, but was unmoved.

Personally I prefer this statue of Artemis to either Nike of Samothrace or the Venus de Milo. The statue is complete and shows the same beautiful flow of garments to denote movement, et cetera. Perhaps it is simply showing a strong woman in action that pleases me.



Now onward to some Etruscan art. I believe this was a sarcophagus.



Then comes pottery with mythological imagery. Check out the griffins pulling the chariot.


Here is another view closer up. You can see that some of the winged creatures have the heads of eagles, while others have the heads and manes of lions.



Here is another view which does not have the same heroic appeal. This one appears to have a drunken satyr. If he is not a satyr, then the man is exceedingly hirsute and still requires the assistance of two grown men.




On another vase we find the iconography of Athena, the helmet, the spear, and the gorgon's head. This time she is accompanied by her owl.


After viewing the Etruscan art we felt obligated to see the Mona Lisa before leaving. We did not have the time to visit the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, nor the Champs-Elysées while in Paris, so we felt we had to at least see the Mona Lisa since we were at the Louvre.

As we walked through a gallery of Italian paintings, I became excited when I recognized a painting. Not because I particularly liked it, but I was able to dredge up dormant trivia from my mind placed there by my Humanities professor years before.

I pointed at the painting and announced its artist with confidence. Then lo and behold, I was right. Huzzah!

See if you can recognize who painted this before scrolling downward.




Yes, it is "Madonna and Child Enthroned" by none other than.....
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Cimabue.

That is right, Cimabue. (Pronounced CHEEM ah boo-ee).

Not the most famous of artists, in fact I doubt that he would make many top ten lists for favorite artists of anyone. I was happy to be able to not only resuscitate his name from my memory banks, but I dusted off the terms contrapposto and chiaruscuro that day as well.

I was happy when another tourist took a picture of that painting after we did. It was as if our actions inspired someone else to take another look to an important but most likely under-appreciated piece of art.

As we walked through the gallery, Scott found a painting that reminded him of the artwork of contemporary artist Alex Grey.


Unfortunately, we do not have the artist's name, but here is a close up of the image in the far right of the painting.


Fantastic.


We did see the Mona Lisa, but there were at least three hundred other people and cameras in front of it. I thought of a television commercial that ran when we lived in Southern California.

A squirrel eating a nut was shown in the foreground and then the camera pulled back to reveal fifty people taking a picture of the squirrel.

Chicka, chicka, chicka went the sound of the cameras.

The commercial decried the lack of solitude in the sea of humanity that is Southern California and invited people to take off to the mountains to avoid the crowds, or some such thing.

We walked by the Mona Lisa, got an idea of its true size and dimension and laughed as we said, "chicka, chicka, chicka."

It would have been impossible to get a good picture of the most famous painting in the world given the sheer number of people surrounding it. Anyone wanting a good image of Leonardo's masterpiece would be served by buying a post card in the gift shop than to use their own camera in order to get a picture of it obscured with heads, elbows and cameras.

Ah, but here is a large painting by Montauban's native son Ingres. More about him when I detail our trip to Montauban.



And, even though we were a wing with paintings, there were still statues to be found. Here is another statue of Athena. Her hands look like they had been grasping a spear and a shield, but have been lost over the years.





At that point, we were ready for lunch and take the Metro for the first time.

Linda
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