Thursday, April 06, 2006

Musée du Louvre

I finally took a deep-breath and threw myself into the Louvre. It's only taken 3 months (spread out over 2 visits to Paris) for me to finally get around to this visit. I have memories of trying to conquer the Metropolitan Museum on a visit to New York in 1988 that also included essays of the Guggenheim, Frick, and Museum of Natural History and getting completely overwhelmed - especially as the Met was hosting the first Western exhibition of treasures from the Hermitage since WWII.

I had wanted to visit the Museum of Natural History's dinosaur collection since I was a proto-palaeontologist. However I got sidetracked by the rock & mineral collection (once having been a budding geologist) and the planetarium ( actually having got through three years of physics with an aim of being an astrophysicist ), before realising that I had to make a date downtown for lunch. So I ran up to the hall of dinosaurs, and literally sprinted from one end to the other, murmuring triceratops ... allosaurus ... iguanadon ... dimetrodon ... as my head swivelled from one side to the other ... and then down the stairs and out to the subway.

Today however, I didn't have a Colombian ballet dancer holding me to a luncheon date, so I took a more leisurely stroll around parts of the Louvre. My strategy - as experienced flaneur - is to wander from room to room concentrating on one or two items in each. I spent about 3 hours in all, and probably got to no more than a third of the rooms available. Still, no matter whether you're looking at voluptuous courtesans on canvas, Roman statuary or Grecian-urns, they all say one thing about the Louvre: nice jugs.

The line into the Louvre via the pyramid was thankfully very short today. Getting through there and down into the central underground plaza is free: it's not until you go off to one of the three exhibit wings that you have to show your day-pass. I bought mine (€8,50) at a vending machine, returning enough coinage from a €20 note to set off every metal-detector in the 1st arondissement.

As spacious as the Louvre
is, you have to have your wits about you to avoid being trampled by tourists on a mission. A swarm of Korean tourists with state of the art camera equipment nearly trampled me around the Venus de Milo, and paid no mind to my request to flock off: peering intently through view-finders they are completely oblivious to the fact that they have both elbows raised and are sticking them in other people's faces.

The Mona Lisa was a bit bigger then I expected, although it is difficult to get close to - and even then th
e very reflective glass subtracts greatly from the experience. "La Joconde" seems to be getting bags under the eyes from watching thousands of people move around the room everyday. While it's quite something to see familiar works in their true scale (notably the Wreck of the Medusa), I think I enjoyed some of the displays from the Arab world and classical Greek period. I was studying a beautifully decorated document with wonderful 'arabesques' of lettering for some time, and found a little later that it was actually an imperial decree. It's part of a small exhibition "From Cordoba to Samarkand", however a new wing opens in 2009 with 10,000 pieces of Islamic art.

[The problem with Roman noses]

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