Tag Archive for Louvre

Simplicity

Les Très Riches Heures du Duc du Berry

Les Très Riches Heures du Duc du Berry

I spent the month of July this year in Paris. In summer, Paris is very exciting with the Fête de la Bastille parade, the Bal des Pompiers, the Tour de France, and many other festivals all happening simultaneously. The city crackles with excitement. Yet with two thousand years of history, what is a little missing in the summer sun are Paris’s subtler sides.

I have a deep love for the quietude and timelessness of Medieval thought. I’ve always admired the multi-panel manuscript Les Très Riches Heures du Duc du Berry for its depiction of simple life…and that blue, blue sky that seems to bear witness to a timelessness now so rare. Part of the book depicts everyday life throughout the year (it’s a book of hours afterall). What I never knew was that in the October panel, the castle is a real one and that it still exists—in part. It is the original Louvre.

Over the centuries this old castle, with its many ardoise turrets, was gradually erased and replaced by successive regimes bent on modernizing it and putting their stamp on it. But in 1989 when excavations were made to build the Carrousel du Louvre (the pyramid), the original Louvre was rediscovered.

One bright and hot day, I followed the self-guided tour that takes you down to the foundations and origins of the Louvre. On the walking tour, you can now walk through the original moat and the substructure of the walls and donjon (keep). There’s nothing much else remaining, just simple stonework, yet my eyes set these stones high against that azure Medieval sky. And stared.

Upstairs, the Mona Lisa, the Venus de Milo, and a thousand other art treasures awaited, and yet I stood mesmerized by these unadorned stones. It’s not what you’re looking at so much as what it evokes.

Après-Louvre

It was only after I got up extra early, ate a good breakfast, packed some water and trail mix that I realized I was using my Whistler skills to negotiate my way around the Louvre. You see, the Louvre is huge—it’s really huge—it’s bigger than Whistler and Blackcomb combined (even including Creekside!). And the similarities don’t end there.

When you enter through the glass pyramid, there are four ‘lifts’ that, once you show your pass, carry you up to the galleries. Colour coded maps are provided to make it easier to find your way around, and a smart art connoisseur knows to take lunch early in one of the museum restaurants or face huge lunchtime crowds. To take the metaphor just a little further, I would re-organize the Louvre in the following fashion:

All paintings that are not French or Renaissance would be classified as Green run (Colline de Lapin). These would include Flemish masters, any prints and drawings, and all art from the Middle Ages. Add to this, works from Mesopotamia, Persia, the Levant, and anything ‘oriental’ that is not Egyptian.

Blue runs would include Greek, Etruscan, Egyptian, Roman sculpture, French paintings of the 18th and 19th Centuries with the possible exceptions of works by Delacroix and Jacques-Louis David which would be classified as Blue-black.

Black Diamond runs would include the Venus de Milo, The Winged Victory of Samothrace, anything relating to Napoléon I as well as the Napoléon III apartments. The reigning Queen of Mogles would be, of course, the Mona Lisa. Only experienced art lovers could be expected to make their way through these galleries and anyone able to view all in one day would probably be Olympic material.

Mona-Lisa-At-The-Ski-LodgeAfter all the jostling, photo taking, gawking, and the like, the fun part would begin Après-Louvre when everyone would descend from the galleries down to the surrounding cafés, put their sore feet up, order rounds of beer, slap themselves on the backs in a congratulatory manner, and swap stories of their art-bum adventures.