au Louvre

The Louvre isn’t an art museum, it’s a palace. I think this distinction is very important. The Louvre is a majestic and enormous building with a history dating back almost 1000 years (although more like 500 in its present state). The building that stands there now lies upon the site of a medieval castle and each of its wings were born from distinct periods of French history reflecting changes in architectural style and political influence.

Museums are often empty vessels that only take on true meaning from their contents. Certainly there are many museums that are beautiful buildings and brilliant architectural pieces, the Natural History Museum, the new MOMA and the Met in NY as well as the Art Institute in Chicago with is lion guards. Yet, each of these buildings isn’t quite whole until one considers the wonders they hold. The Louvre is something else; one might easily choose to wander its halls even if all the art was stripped from its walls. While many of the galleries have been modernized with bare white walls and overbearing lighting, so much of it still stands as it did long ago. Rooms are painted in deep rich colors, or crowned with gilded ceilings, or spread on intricate marble floors.

Taking photographs in the Louvre is restricted in many wings. I think this likely has less to do with the museum’s concern with security or limiting its exposure than it does with protecting the artwork. I’m going on a whim here to guess that repeated camera flashes would expose the works to high levels of UV light, causing pigments to degrade and colors to fade. So, I don’t have a lot of the Louvre to share with you, but luckily photography in the sculpture garden (my favorite art form) and elsewhere in the palace is allowed. So let me take you on a little tour of the Louvre.

La Louvre and L’Arc de Triomph lie at two points at the end of a line along which runs the infamous Champs Elysees and le Jardin des Tuileries, the sculpture garden that forms the lawn of la Louvre. A proper visit to the Louvre should start with a walk through le Jardin des Tuileries from the Obalisque at Concorde. It was pretty cold on the day we decided to go, so we cut the stroll short and entered halfway from the Tuileries Metro stop. Still, there was no shortage of fantastic sculptures for us to dawdle on as we walked to the glass pyramid that now marks the entrance to the palace.

A tidy row of trees along the north wall of the Jardin.

An amazing sculpture of a man about to trash a minotaur set against an ominous dark stormy sky, made all the more menacing by a cute little white bird perched at the top.

The Louve in the distance, Zaritsa in the foreground.

This sculpture was so terrifying. The man is protecting his children, who are clutched to his legs, from a serpent that has wrapped itself around his arm.

A view back across the Jardin towards Concorde and the Obelisk. L’Arc de Triomphe is visible in the distance, a straight shot at the end of the Champs Elysees.

One of the Napoleonic arcs built for one of his many victories.

Almost at the entrance, located at the glass pyramid that was installed in the 80’s at the start of massive renovations still taking place.

We made European paintings and sculpture the focus of our visit and managed to cover most of the wings that contained that shit. Our first stop was the Mona Lisa. Zarita was intent on catching a glimpse, while I was completely cynical and disinterested (for those of you who know me well, for the same reasons I scoff at Harry Potter … or for that matter, the Da Vinci Code). Amazingly, this time my cynicism was vindicated. The Mona Lisa is carefully preserved between two layers of plexi-glass or something bulletproof, and held safely at bay a few feet from the reach of any curious tourist. Just removed enough so that even if you managed to squeeze by the jerks pushing ahead to see it, you’d be hard pressed to make out any detail you couldn’t otherwise distinguish from a postcard. As I stood in awe [sic] of the masterpiece, a complete beast of a woman was snapping photos like a maniac while a security guard repeatedly called for her attention. Well, this little lady and her camera were somewhat roughly escorted away from Mme. Lisa. That was amusing.

There was plenty more to my liking than the Mona Lisa. I think I fell in love with Delacroix, the French revolutionary painter famous for the topless lady liberty leading the revolutionary bourgeois through the streets of France brandishing the flag in one hand and a rifle in the other. We’ve all seen that iconic painting, but as is true for so many things, the original was far more impressive, complimented by the brilliant red wall it was hung from. Another amazing painting, in the same room as the former piece, was the coronation of Napoleon by Jaques-Louis David. The painting was something like 20 feet by 30 feet and the people depicted were nearly life size. It was glorious. There were many beautiful Ingres (Turkish Bath) paintings and a number of really cool Ribera’s (Club Footed Boy). Then there was all this Christian crap. I mean no disrespect for the religion, or the painters expressing their devotion, but after 500 “Madonna and Child”, “Jesus Ascending”, etc. paintings, I don’t know what other word to use but crap. I swear, at least 95% of the paintings were directly related to something biblical and I lost my patience for it within a few minutes.

A hall of Greek sculpture.

Zaritsa and I call him, the “IPOD Guy”.

A pretty cool sarcophagus on a very cool marble floor.

Me at the base of some impressive stairs. At the top is a famous Greek statue of a winged woman at the helm of a ship. I forget the name of it, but its cool.

Lots of this type of stuff, lots of it.

Me and Venus.

A view from inside the Louvre of the pyramid and down the Jardin to the Obalisque and L’Arc de Triomph beyond.

Zarita looking quite small superimposed against a massive painting of the ascension of the Virgin Mary … we think.

My favorite part of the Louvre was the sculpture garden. It was a wide-open, marble-terraced room inside the Louvre, with a skylight channeling sunlight from several stories above you. Sculptures haphazardly occupied the space and surrounding galleries. I don’t know what it is exactly that I love about sculpture; I think it’s the action. Of course paintings and prints, photographs and movies can be very active, but somehow sculptures beat them all. It’s like a frozen moment, but in total 3D. Also, since most sculpture is of men or women, you often find them in situations you could only cook up with Hollywood special effects. I most love when things get grotesque. The look on a suffering man’s face, the pain inflicted by an attack, stress, fatigue, anguish. For this reason, Rodan has to be my favorite sculptor. He takes grotesque to another level, where every part of the body can be made hideous or overbearing. I can’t wait to go to La Musee de Rodan!

What looks like a Roman soldier removing a spear head from his leg, ouch.

Hercules battling that serpent thing he had to kill.

HAHAHAHA, so French.

Something about these sculptures of women, appearing so casually in front of a window overlooking a busy street lined with shops amused me. It was almost too real.

A man being ravaged by a lion. Only a sculpture could capture something so gruesome.

After the Louvre, we rushed home to eat a little dinner, clean and pack and get ready for our trip to Brussels and Amsterdam. Next time on Bobby Goes to Europe ... "woah, what's in these space cake things ... dude, you're head's purple and growing bunnies."

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