Ten years ago today – still Paris

by DaniGirl on August 22, 2005 · 1 comment

in Uncategorized

The penultimate entry in my great Canadian Eurotour 1995 travel journal.

9:15 pm, 21 August 1995
Pont Neuf (again)

Here I am, setttled in at my favourite Parisian perch, the Pont Neuf, watching the sun set.

Had an amazing day today: spent 9.5 hours (from 10:30 am until 8 pm) in the Louvre – I loved it! I became completely enthralled with some of the galleries and totally lost track of time. I really paced myself, even took breaks occasionally to keep my perspective fresh.

My favourite gallery, I think, was the one exhibiting Jacques Louis David and (?) Ingres. David’s “Coronation of Napoleon” is breathtaking – it’s absolutely massive! My audio-guide quotes Napoleon as saying “It’s not a painting – you walk right in.” It’s true! I’ve never felt so drawn into a painting before. The vibrant red of Josephine’s cloak, and the shimmering movement of it; the light and shadow on the teal-blue steps; the imperious expression on Napoleon’s face – it’s incredible, even moreso that it’s so alive so many years later. The same room also houses two paintings called “The Rape of the Sabines” and “The Oath of the Horatii”. I knew both of these from my prior studies, but was shocked by the sheer size of them, especially “The Oath”. Huge doesn’t cover it, and a textbook reprint doesn’t do it near justice. I read somewhere that “The Coronation of Napoleon” took David three years to complete, and a guide for a tour passing through said David had an entire layout of miniatures made up and positioned to keep his memory of the event clear. Amazing.

In the same gallery were a series of paintings by Anne-Louis H something or other. I’d seen a pciture of one of them before and if I could remember the damn title this would be much easier. I have it back home. Anyway, I found this painting, neither whose title nor artist I can recall, quite haunting.

This particular gallery opened on to a stairway showcasing the “Winged Victory of Samothrace,” an ancient Greek sculpture of massive proportions that (Beloved) had told me about . Down another staircase was the “Mona Lisa” but you had to be very patient, very persistent, and a little forceful to get anywhere near it. I entertained myself by taking pictures of the people taking pictures of the bullet-proof glass that shelters the “Mona Lisa”. I was disgusted by the number of people who would hurry in, spot it, take a picture of it and run off like they were on some artistic scavenger hunt, without actually taking a half-decent look at it. Now, I’m no art snob, but really!

So I particularly liked French painting from the 19th century, and I really enjoyed the sculpture galleries, too; all the genres of sculpture from ancient Greece through Italian Renaissance and beyond. I’m surprised how easy it was to learn, and how much I learned. I really didn’t expect to get that drawn in; I could go on for pages listing discoveries and things I’d always heard about, but I guess that’s why I bought a book – to remember. I just wish it weren’t so far away that I didn’t have to feel like this may well be the only chance for me to see these things. I also wish I had someone to share all this with…

(Editor’s note: the last two sentiments took care of themselves in July 1999 when I returned to Paris with Beloved on our honeymoon. Six years later, I think we’re well overdue for another visit!)

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1 mgood August 23, 2005 at 1:33 am

I felt the same way you did about the Mona Lisa when we were at Sun Studios in Memphis, and family man was filming the tour to watch at home later. It’s not as um…elegant as the Louvre, but you might imagine that Elvis moves me more than Leo ever will.

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