Paris in October – part 10 – Art

We’ll start with the Louvre museum. Here are some photos of the building itself. The Pyramid, the glass entrance structure that opens to the underground entrance lobby, is fascinating in itself for the geometry it creates and the possibilities for abstraction, and for the clash of modernity against 18th and 19th century architectural sensibilities that hallmark the rest of the building.

The Pyramid, from below
The Pyramid, from below
Pyramid, Boy
Pyramid, Boy

Under the pyramid there is a vast entrance plaza with a huge spiral stairs. In the center of the spiral stairs is the accessibility elevator, a cylinder that rises and falls to transport people to and from the plaza above, and looks like it should be a stage set from 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Spiral Stair, Louvre Entrance

Spiral Stair, Under the Pyramid
Spiral Stair, Under the Pyramid

The contrast, a Napoleonic-era entrance ramp and doors (see the N’s in the frieze above the windows and doors). This is empty because the courtyard is closed to the public and filled with construction equipment.

Courtyard, Louvre
Courtyard, Louvre

As you can see, the Louvre is a VERY busy museum. I don’t know if it is the most visited art museum in the world or not (I think it is), but it also has to be one of the largest if not the largest. I really only saw parts of one wing of the museum (there are three), and you could easily spend a half a day in there every day for a month and still not see everything.

The Grand Gallery
The Grand Gallery
Visitors, Napoleon crowns Josephine
Visitors, Napoleon crowns Josephine

The grand gallery is where the Italian Renaissance masterworks are held – the three non-Mona Lisa DaVincis are here, along with the Caravaggios – highlights of the collection that most interested me.

In the section with the 19th century French paintings, there was a painter with his easel set up, copying the famous painting of the cavalryman in the bearskin hat. I couldn’t resist taking this shot as much because of the “no photography” sign he had on his easel. I’ll justify it by saying that I think it had more to do with not wanting to be disturbed by flashes popping than anything else.

Copyist, Louvre
Copyist, Louvre

The Louvre has perhaps the very best collection of Michelangelo’s sculpture outside of Italy. Two of the Medici tomb sculptures are in the sculpture gallery, and are of intense interest to me because they are part of the “unfinished” pieces in style. There is still significant debate as to whether the “unfinished” pieces are in fact unfinished or if their appearance is exactly what Michelangelo intended. They are called “unfinished” because they have coarse textures in parts and tool marks are prominent over significant portions of the pieces, to the point that some portions of the pieces are in fact only roughed-in forms without complete features.

Michelangelo, Dying Slave
Michelangelo, Dying Slave
Michelangelo, Rebellious Slave
Michelangelo, Rebellious Slave
Michelangelo, "Unfinished" figure
Michelangelo, “Unfinished” figure

Finally, we have some other sculptural pieces from the Louvre. The Cupid with Butterfly is actually in a side gallery where touching is allowed.

Renaissance Bust, Louvre
Renaissance Bust, Louvre
Renaissance Bust, Louvre
Renaissance Bust, Louvre
Cupid, Butterfly, Louvre
Cupid, Butterfly, Louvre
Statue, Sculpture Gallery, Louvre
Statue, Sculpture Gallery, Louvre

2 thoughts on “Paris in October – part 10 – Art”

  1. Your photos really illustrate the essential dilemma posed by the Louvre–it is so huge and crowded that it can be overwhelming. I like the way that you chose not to concentrate on some of the top tourist attractions (like the Mona Lisa) and explored more closely some of my favorite pieces there, i.e. the Michelangelo statutes of the slaves. Finished or unfinished, there is no denying their beauty and the artistry of the sculptor. There is something really special for me about sculptures and their three-dimensionality. You can get such a different impression of them in different light and from different angles (it’s not the same as with paintings).

    1. I did take a couple of shots of the crowds around the Mona Lisa with my cellphone, if only to demonstrate the absolute insanity of trying to see the painting.You have to stand fairly far back from it to begin with since they have this curved bench in front that keeps you from approaching the bulletproof glass enclosure for it. And it’s also a fairly small painting – I suspect they put it in the same room with the largest painting on canvas in the world to highlight the juxtaposition. The shame is that that painting is spectacular in its own right but nobody ever really looks at it unless they’ve given up seeing the Mona Lisa out of frustration from all the phone/iPad wielding tourist jerks blocking the view of the Mona Lisa.

      The Venus de Milo down in the basement is similar – the crowds are so bad around it you can’t really see or look at it. By comparison, the Michelangelo sculptures are positively ignored, which was wonderful for me because I so admire his work. I’ve done some stone carving in my day and I have a great appreciation for what he did and his technique. I’m still trying to figure out how he balanced the smoothness with the texturing of his chisels.

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