Sunday, April 7, 2013

Paris - Day 2 - The Louvre

Ah, the Louvre. Once a palace, now one of the world's greatest art museums boasting a collection my friend Michelle, an Art History major, would kill for. Not to mention its role in The Da Vinci Code. And I got to see it. Which led to total nerding out. Oh! And guess what? Because of Mr. Hip (the otherwise established bane of my existence), I got free admittance into all of the museums and historical sites in Paris, as did Christa, for living in Europe, and Christa's mom, because little old disabled me might need assistance after all. If it weren't so dirty, I'd love this city.

Right, so geeking out...let's take this one total geek out at a time, shall we?

Way back in the twelfth century, the Palais du Louvre was born as as a fortress intended to aid in the defense of the banks of the Seine river against invaders from the north. Now the Louvre houses art, once it housed kings, but in the beginning, it housed weapons. Needless to say that over the coming centuries, extensive remodeling happened and the fortress became a palace and then, sometime after Louis XIV opted to relocated to Versailles, eventually a museum. Now, all that remains of that original fortress are a series of walls near the building's foundations. Want to take a wild guess what's in the background of the above picture?

Now, the Louvre has an art collection that includes pieces from all over the globe and throughout history. It's like the TARDIS of art museums. Ancient Egyptian sphinx? Check. Ancient Greek gods? Check. Alexander the Great engravings? Check. Ancient Roman busts? Check. You could spend a whole week in there...unless you were limited to forty-eight hours. Then you sort of have to limit yourself to a Greatest Hits tour and cross your fingers you'll get a second chance someday to return and go for more depth.

Which in no way stopped me from indulging in more than one just-for-fun pose. I mean, who doesn't want to let their inner goddess out now and again? And if you're going to mimic a goddess' pose, Athena's the way to go. She doesn't get kidnapped like Persephone or keep a strangle hold on her virginity or serve as little more than a god's prop. Nope, Athena's the goddess of wisdom, she who beats out Poseidon, a god second only to Zeus in power, for patronage of Athens, who showed up Arachne by first proving her wrong and THEN turning her into a spider, who helped guide numerous heroes to glory and fame, including Ulysses and Perseus. Provided you're willing to overlook the whole Medusa incident, Athena just rocks, plain and simple. And look at me, rocking her pose.

Perhaps one of the most famous statues ever, the Venus de Milo is a twenty-one hundred year old marble sculpture of Aphrodite, Greek goddess of love. Why is she called Venus de Milo you ask? Venus is the name of Aphrodite's Roman conterpart. The Milo is taken from where she was discovered - in the ruins of the city of Milos on the island of the same name in the Aegean. Her fame was born for two reasons. One, when she was discovered and claimed by the French, the Spanish had just taken back the Medici Venus that Napoleon Bonaparte had stolen once upon a time. As a result, the French went a bit crazy with the public promotion. Two, you may have noticed her lack of arms. She was discovered with fragments of her left arm and hand, the latter of which was grasping an apple, and an inscribed plith,  but no right arm was in sight. By the time she reached Paris, the plinth and what arm remnants there had been were lost as well, giving her an air of mystery. And here I am; wallowing in the mystery.

In my second...possibly third...semester of CEGEP, I had to take an Art History course. I hated it. For three hours I had to sit in a darkened basement room and look at slide after slide of various ancient sculptures, engravings, mosaics, architecture and so on while my professor - who had the most dreadful Eastern European accent - droned on. Fifty percent of our grade was made up of three exams that I totally flopped because, no, I did not remember the exact year this sculpture was carved or that building was erected or that mosaic was completed and I honestly could not care less. I do know what years Roman was founded and Alexander took the throne and Greece fought the Peloponesian War and Hannibal crossed the Alps. Events interest me, art for its own sake...I can appreciate its beauty, I can be intrigued by its subject matter, and that's where my interest ends.

The other fifty percent of the grade came from an essay. The professor provided a list of paired pieces and we had choose a set on which to write a comparative essay. I chose the Winged Victory of Samothrace and Nike Adjusting Her Sandal. Why? Because I liked Nike, thought the pieces were beautiful, and didn't think many others would choose them. I wrote the essay the night before it was due and, due to extreme indifference at this point, I basically just copied the instructions from the professor's handout and filled in the blanks with the relevant information.

Fast forward two weeks and the professor was handing out the corrected essays and, for the most part, everyone failed. I think the highest grade was 68. Given that until that point, my highest grade had been 63, my hopes weren't high. And then she gave me mine. I got 100. I passed that course with an 82 - the lowest grade of my Liberal Arts degree. I freaking LOVE Nike Adjusting Her Sandal and The Winged Victory of Samothrace.

Want to guess who's that standing behind me?

Oh. And you want to know what else is at the Louvre? This:

Leonardo da Vinci painted this little beauty between 1503 and 1506 and, from the day of her completion until the day da Vinci died, she remained his constant companion. After da Vinci's passing, it passed into the hands of Francis I of France and eventually became the property of the French Republic. She has been on display in the Louvre since 1797 and attracts crowds so dense she merits her own room. Getting to the front of said crowd to snap the photo required shoulders, elbows, and knees playing the offense and certain degree of flexibility to avoid getting the same in turn. I may have had to tear up a little at one point to get a bit of space for photo taking. I would have loved to have joined her in a picture, but I was lucky enough to get her solo as it was!


I'd like to take this opportunity to apologize to the lady's whose foot I stomped on to get her to move. In my defense, your elbow said hello to my ribs first. Not an excuse, I know, but not unjustified either. If anyone reading this plans to visit the Mona Lisa, think rugby and prepare accordingly. 

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