Saturday, May 18, 2013

Paris, Part 4

Unfortunately, I woke up with a cold (probably something I caught on the plane--oh the wonders of modern travel) on Wednesday morning, which did not put me in the best of moods, but I was determined to enjoy Paris as much as I could, so I headed over to the Louvre, anyway.

I had high expectations for the Louvre, and perhaps for that reason (along with the cold), I was a little disappointed in my experience there. Don't get me wrong, the Louvre is a fabulous museum with an amazing collection of art, it's just that it's ENORMOUS, overwhelming, and not particularly well-organized. Perhaps I have become accustomed to the more modern way of organizing a museum, where the rooms are arranged with a particular idea tying them together, there is just one painting per block of space, and there is background information printed right next to it. But most rooms in the Louvre have row after row of paintings, so that your eye is just bombarded with artwork. It also makes it difficult to see the artwork that is hung higher up on the wall.

In addition, unless I wanted to purchase an audio guide (I HATE audio guides. I want to be able to read about my artwork, not hear about it), I found very little information on the paintings. Each of them had some basic info in French right next to them (artist, date, a one-sentence description), but nothing in any other language and very little background. Each room had a laminated, 8.5x11-size paper printed on both sides in different languages that chose a few of the paintings in the room and went into great detail about them and their significance. Unfortunately, I found those to be too much information (to the point of being dull, in my view) about too few paintings. What they needed was something that presented less detail (but more than was written on the inscriptions) on more paintings, especially telling the viewer the often dramatic events and characters depicted in the paintings. It's pretty frustrating to see what is clearly a very dramatic scene and characters, but to have no idea what's actually going on or why, or why that painting is important enough to be included in the Louvre. Fortunately, I had downloaded the iPhone app for the Louvre, which had exactly that kind of information, just on a smattering of works. In retrospect, I would have loved some sort of expanded form of that iPhone app, even if I had to pay a few dollars. I think there might be some out there.

Also dampening my spirits slightly was the fact that I tried to use my music teacher status to gain free admission, but I failed. I should have said I was an ART teacher! Thankfully, the Louvre ticket gives you reentry, so you can leave the museum and come back, which was a lifesaver. I really needed a break from the art for a little in order to enjoy it for longer! What would really be ideal would be to become a member of the Louvre and just go visit it almost every day, but see it in small chunks. If one lived in Paris, of course! At any rate, I used my lunch break to meet up with another very old friend from Connecticut (well, she's from NYC), actually from good old Camp Asto Wamah, my beloved summer camp. Michelle is now working at the Sciences Po, the university for political science in Paris. It was wonderful to catch up with her after so many years (15?!?!), and we made plans to meet again later in the week for dinner and drinks with more friends. After lunch (tuna nicoise salad), I returned to the Louvre. Here are some highlights.

The famous glass pyramid of the Louvre entrance. I think it works. Other people don't. At least it's interesting.

An early double reed instrument and case! Billed as a primitive "double oboe."

Winged Victory of Samothrace. Beautiful and ancient.

I actually didn't take too many photos at the Louvre. Frankly, I don't see much point in taking photos of famous artwork. Almost any piece of art is now readily found via Google image search if you wish to view it from the comfort of your home, and I don't really see a point in taking a picture of yourself beside something as what, proof you were there? The point of a museum is to enjoy the visceral effect great art has on a person, not to photograph it. Which leads me to: the Mona Lisa. That painting deserves a much better experience. It's protected with bullet-proof glass that changes its colors. Visitors are prevented from stepping closer than about 10 feet from the painting. There are throngs of people, most of them trying to get a picture (again, why?), in front of the famous painting at all times. Because of all these things, I couldn't really get a good feel for it. Oh well.

Anyway, I saw loads of art, from Botticelli to DaVinci to Etrucsan sculptures to Egyptian mummies to Greek and Roman marble (including, yes, the Venus de Milo). Like I said, the Louvre is pretty overwhelming.

After the Louvre, I met up with Dawn to go to her knitting group at a very cute little cafe/tea/knitting place owned by her friend Aimee, L'OisiveThe.  We had a bit of a picnic dinner of meat, bread, and cheese in a park near the shop and then joined a large group of women to knit and chat.  There were a few English speakers from various parts of the world, and it was nice to meet them and enjoy a warm cup of tea before heading home to bed.

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