March 4, 2013

I Actually Louvred It

This day was a long time coming.

Spiral stairs inside the pyramid 
I started visiting Paris in February 2011, then moved to the lovely suburbs later that year in August. I have walked by and around the museum monolith countless times - but never inside - until yesterday.

The Louvre was understandably intimidating, and I did not want to be negatively overwhelmed with walking, crowds, and more than enough art I may not appreciate. But in regularly putting off my date with one of the largest museums in the world, anticipation replaced the initial dread I had experienced. It slowly changed from a tourist chore to an absorption of culture (it helped that I changed from tourist to expat, also). I'm so glad I waited until I was ready.

Stairs inside the Sully (oldest) wing
First misconception: the Louvre is a museum.
Truth: the Louvre is a collection of CASTLES. I fell in love within seconds of grasping this new reality.

Second misconception: it's impossible to find anything.
Truth: the maps and room markings are made for dummies; I never got lost, and I found everything I wanted to easily.

Third misconception: the Richelieu wing has nothing interesting.
Truth: Only if you despise the history of humanity.

Fourth misconception: it takes a full day at insane speeds to see what you want to see.
Truth: Two hours, leisurely pace.

Some Art:
Venus de Milo (Greece, ca. 100 B.C.)
In a word: peaceful.

Mona Lisa (Leonardo Da Vinci, 1500s)
Everyone always complains about how "small" the painting is - it really isn't as tiny as I thought it was going to be. It's just a normal painting, about life-size. It maybe appears smaller because it has its own entire wall space?

The Coronation of Napoleon (Jacques-Louis David, 1800s)
This is the zoomed in version so you can see what's at the center of the action. The glowing woman on the left background is actually Napoleon's mom, and he had David paint her there even though she wasn't at the ceremony. In the middle is Napoleon crowning his wife, Josephine, the empress. And behind him in the red cap is the angry pope because Napoleon had just previously taken the crown from him and placed it on himself. I don't think Napoleon told David to paint the pope mad, so maybe it was his way of retaining some reality in the piece.

Madame Juliet Récamier (Jacques-Louis David, 1800s)
In a word: elegant.

Winged Victory of Samothrace (Greece, ca. 190 B.C.)
This statue is so beautifully intense! It apparently used to stand on a mountaintop, celebrating a war victory at sea. It is huge, dramatic, and owns a great top-of-the-staircase location in the museum.

(Liberty Leading the People by Eugène Delacroix was unfortunately out on loan to another museum.)

Some Awesome History:
Apollo Gallery

"The Louvre Museum, founded September 16, 1792, by decree of the Legislative Assembly, was opened August 10, 1793, in execution of a decree rendered by the National Convention."

The Apollo Gallery is lined with ornate portraits of sculptures, architects, writers, and other French art contributors.

Also in the gallery were some of the crown jewels from the French royal family, "dishes" (more like the crown jewels than something from Ikea), and abalone shell goblets.

The well-traveled wings of the museum are Sully (east, perpendicular to the river) and Denon (south, next to the river). But the Richelieu wing had two things I really wanted to explore, the first being Napoleon's apartments.

An excellent decision.

The rooms were loaded with every royal fancy, and the only thing missing was an elaborate library. Every inch of the place was decorated; ceilings, walls, doors, windows, corners, floors, furniture, handles, lights, you name it! It still stands to wonder why on earth Louis XIV "needed" to remodel Versailles.

Hammurabi's Code (Babylon, ca. 1760 B.C.)
This was the other grand and fabulous item in the Richelieu wing. I always remember something about this set of laws from the few rounds of world history I took throughout school because every book started with the "Cradle of Civilization," Mesopotamia...and Hammurabi's Code.

The best part is that I had no idea this was in the Louvre, let alone existing, and I nearly dropped my museum map when I read it had been here all along. Seeing this ancient form of government and humanity precisely drawn into rock from thousands of years ago? This is not an exhibit that can be skipped over! I spent more than a few moments here, and this was far and away my favorite "piece of art."

The font-size 6 cuneiform inscribed stone
Some Unexpected Highlights:
The Line I Didn't Stand In
Thanks again to Rick Steves, I entered instead through the underground mall, waltzing right through security and into the rooms. The entrance these people are waiting for is on the opposite side of the pyramid, and another hour or two away.

How tourists spend Free Museum Days
The Ceilings

Someday I want to return to the Louvre and just look up the entire time. These ceilings are just the ones that came out best with my iPod camera - there were too many to count. The shapes, textures, materials, colors, and designs all combined for some epic 3-D room toppers.

The Louvre was filled with surprises, and almost all of them (the only exception was the missing Delacroix masterpiece) were perfect!

As if I didn't have enough to smile about already, this guy TOTALLY made my day. This is definitely the most entertaining thing I've ever seen in any museum anywhere.

The Great Museum Detective

In a word: MAGNIFIQUE!

Final misconception: I would hate the Louvre.
Truth: I can't wait to go back!

Linking up with Phoebe at #AllAboutFrance! Congrats on 1 full year of awesome link-ups!

Lou Messugo