Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Louvre me up baby.

The blisters were the size of your head and worth every bit of pain they inflicted.

The Louvre is massive, but you know that. It's one of the most famous museums in the world housing some of the most recognizable pieces of art known to mankind. Open since 1793, the Louvre's over 500,000 square feet of museum holds over 35,000 pieces of priceless art. From Antonio Canova's Psyche Revived by Cupid's Kiss to Da Vinci's Mona Lisa to the Venus de Milo, this place holds them all in a building that is art in and of itself. But I think it's the art in between that some people miss, and that which I treasure most.Napoleon  by Antonio Canova,  Apsley House, London

The first thing I hope everyone takes a moment to admire is the building itself. Born as a fortress to protect Paris from the Anglo-Normans, I'm not sure anyone could have known what it would become. Kings and queens occupied the great structure when in 1793 the Museum Central des Arts opened up in the Grande Galerie and the Salon Carré to the public. From then on, the art expanded through until 1882 when the Louvre was fully dedicated to art and showcasing it to the public. Walking through the halls and from great room to room you realize you are walking in the footsteps of kings. Look up the the ceilings to see intricate and amazing murals. Marble and tiled floors. Beautiful wrapping staircases with metal work that boggles the mind. Even the lighting seems that it was considered when they installed the windows. To live in such a place must have been something to behold.

One of my favorites was the huge Near Eastern stonework; simply breath taking! The Assyrian human headed winged bulls were so much larger than I had imagined from books and pictures. I was really looking forward to seeing the Code of Hammurabi but it was currently on a tour of Europe and Africa. And I have been in love with ancient Egypt since I was a child; what kid isn't fascinated by mummies? The stone monkeys and The Grand Sphinx was just too cool. Just imagining someone working on it roughly 2600 years before the modern era is baffling.

The marble statues were amazing. To stare into the eyes of a statue that has been in existence before my family lived in America, before English was a modern language, before so many things really puts my life into perspective.

Now here's the highly distracting bit. Modern art. I dig modern art, I do. It can be fun and quirky or dark and dramatic. And many times, very confusing. I love that though! I love a good mystery. I can sit there and let the wheels in my head turn and try and figure out what this person was saying, if anything at all. But right in the middle of soaking in Dutch and Flemish masterpieces, there in the middle of a very large, long room was a large, long pile of headstones. Entangled under and over them was a huge, hairy earthworm with a human face. And to top it all off, somewhere, hidden among the toppled tombstones, was a speaker emitting soft moaning and whispering fast phrases in french. (Did I mention the worm was hairy. I actually almost gagged...)

At first I was fascinated and disgusted by the groudy human-earthworm. How interesting! What does it all mean? Jan Fabre is famous for shocking his audience. (In 2005 he held an exhibition in which woman reveal there bleeding nether regions and men peed into bottles. Yum...) Certain reviewers of his latest work say that he has lost his provocative touch. I'm just glad I didn't step in human waste or get peed on. Regardless though, this giant work was sitting in the middle of a room housing some of the best German, Flemish and Dutch paintings in the world! After moving on, trying to look at some of the other paintings, I felt that I could not concentrate. I couldn't enjoy and ponder these while some creepy earthworm dude was moaning and whispering french at me. Sadly, I was forced to move on.

There is so much history here and controversy to boot. After WW2, thousands pieces of art were returned to France, although many did not have a clear owner. Many years later, pieces began filtering back to Jewish families who had lost them via the Nazis. (Don't even get me started on the devastating loss of so much irreplaceable art destroyed by those evil fuckers. Just seeing photos of Nazi officials holding The Coronation of Napoleon by David makes me so angry and disgusted... Check out the fabulous documentary The Rape of Europa if you want to know more about how curators, soldiers and everyday people saved so much for future generations to see. Heart-breaking is that many pieces are still missing to this day and may never be found. But that's a whole other blog...) There are still debates today about who owns what in the Louvre. Not just from WW2 but acquisitions taken by Napoleon and art taken from digs in Egypt and many other countries.

Mona Lisa or La Gioconda (1503–1505/1507)—Louvre, Paris, France
There is so much that's contained in a single piece of art. Not only the image and technique but it's life it has lived. For example, the Mona Lisa was completed at some point in 1503 and later sold to the King of France. After the French Revolution it was transfered to the Louvre and stayed there until Napoleon took it to decorate his bedroom. After he was banished, it returned to the Louvre. Fast forward to 1911 when it was stolen my a man who worked at the Louvre who CUT it from it's frame and ran off with it because he believed it belonged in an Italian museum. Two years later it resurfaced and was returned. During WW2 it was moved six times, once being transported by ambulance to conceal the true nature of it's cargo. It made it through the war only to have acid thrown on it's lower half and have a rock thrown at the upper left part of the canvas in 1956. Since then, good ol' Mona has been chillin, going on the occasional tour, but mostly behind bulletproof glass in the Louvre.

I really wish my brother had been there. I could have told him all the greek mythology I knew and try to recall all I could remember from my Art History and Art Theory class in college. He loved the hidden things in art that spoke about the piece more than just the overall painting, because like life, there is so much more hidden in the crevasses. (haha, insert dirty joke here. Thanks Jill...)

My favorite piece? Who can pick? There are so many I love. One of my many favorites is this one. Her. She is so beautiful, no?

Of course I have completely forgotten her name. I think she is Veiled Woman by Agostino Corradini. If I'm wrong, shoot me an email and let me know. (Behind her and to the right you can see Canova's Psyche.)

In 5 hours I saw almost every wing and room that the Louvre had to offer. My feet paid the price. So worth it.

I felt like I had travel through time and back and my mind was scrambled and tired after all of it. When asked about my day, all I could do was smile and drool. My brain was done for the day. As the sun sat on that lovely day I had broiled beef and margaritas, dragged my ass back home and passed straight out, images of Rodin and Degas floating in my dreams.

For more info on the Louvre, check out http://www.discoverfrance.net/France/Paris/Museums-Paris/Louvre.shtml

For more info on the Mona Lisa, read and relish
The Annotated Mona Lisa: A Crash Course in Art History from Prehistoric to Post-Modern by Carol Stickland

Creepy worm shot borrowed/stolen from

If you wanna steal my pics, it's cool. Just shoot me an email and mention me on your site.

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