Saturday, December 24, 2011

Wandering the museum

This has been a very cultured trip for me.

I had already had the pleasure of visiting two of the largest museums in the world in the Met and the British Museum.

I was rounding this off to a clean trifecta by visiting the world's LARGEST museum (by number of visitors anyways). I was visiting the Louvre!

This was going to be fun.

I had set aside the entire day and I was going to be completely engrossed in the nerdy fun that comes from being immersed by the beauty and history of a museum's wonders.
Even before I had gotten inside, I was already pretty awestruck.

Standing in the main entrance of the palace, I could feel my excitement slowly increasing. The modern glass pyramid that acted as the entrance to this museum is like a portal to some other universe. It's presence contrasts sharply with the grand architecture of its surroundings and yet this seems to make it all the more apt. It is almost like something out of science fiction, as an entrance guiding guests into the museum with its wonders that span across the centuries.
Once inside, I found myself immediately struggling to take it all in.
The sheer volume of works in this museum was something else. But it was more than that. Within this museum was a collection of some of the most iconic pieces in history. Much like my first visit to the British Museum many years ago, I didn't know where to begin.

Strangely enough, one of the first things I found myself confronted by Hammurabi's code of laws. As a lawyer, it was apt that one of the first recorded legal codes would be the first thing I saw. Even as a child, I remember reading about the Hammurabi, the great law giver and his impact on civilisation. I felt much as I did when I stood next to the Rosetta Stone years ago, that I was somehow being drawn into the history that this piece represented. It felt like I was now a part of the chain that reached all the way back to Hammurabi.
But there was no time to stop.

I had to keep moving.
There was far too much in this museum for me to be walking slowly or to be standing in front of one exhibit for too long.
I had to look at Cupid and Psyche for instance. I had to look and marvel at the most delicate of carvings and the perfection of artistic technique....

.... then moving on to the beautiful movement in the remains of Nike of Samothrace. It was incredible to stand there in front of this silent and unspeaking statue and to be carried away by the winds that still moved her along. People wandered past, taking photos and chatting in front of the statue, and yet the statue remained frozen in its movement.
Moving on, I began to realise that considering most of the works with any degree of detail would be an impossible task. I had to change my tact.

I would have to try and walk through the majority of the museum, taking in as much as I could and only stopping at the pieces that were truly breathtaking or significant.

Pieces like this for instance!
"The Raft of the Medusa". The size of this painting surprised me. In fact, the size of most of these paintings surprised me. This was a painting that had always intrigued me, so full of suffering and turmoil. Seeing it towering over me changed the perspective completely as I was so used to seeing it in a small print in a book, only a few inches wide.

I kept walking.

Eventually I found myself in a room that was getting far more attention than any other in the entire building.

Fighting through a scrum of people, I reached the prize at the end.

The Mona Lisa. It was true, she was smiling strangely at me.

Ignoring the throngs of people jostling around me, I maintained my position at the front and slowly moved along the frontage to change my perspective (again, ignoring the shoving and pushing) in order to see if it was true that she has "eyes that follow you".
It was true. She really does have eyes that follow you around the room.

Time to move on though....

.... to a famous (and incomplete) portrait of Napoleon. One of many countless works that I have seen in popular culture.
And then speaking of popular culture, who could forget the painting "Gabrielle d'Estrées et une de ses soeurs"? Well.... I guess pretty much everyone wouldn't have any real knowledge of this painting except for the faint recollection of having seen or glanced it once. Wandering through this museum made me realise just how much of popular culture is derived from art and influences that the majority of people are completely oblivious to, even when they draw on directly.
The same came be said for the ancient Egyptian sculpture, "the Scribe".
Then there are the more famous pieces again. Michelangelo's "Venus" confronted me and astounded me when I wandered into the hall that it commands. It is a hall filled with other pieces and yet none come close to the beauty of this perfect piece. Whoever sat for Michelangelo was clearly a beautiful woman, and this is beauty is perfectly carried over by his skill. Surely that is the sign of the quality of his work and technique?
I had to keep walking.
Walking through time, from ancient to less ancient.
From continent to continent. I had to keep walking.
It was beginning to get a bit overwhelming. I was actually getting tired. This had never happened to me in a museum before. Normally I am so full of excitement that I have more than enough energy to power me through the entire day.
Maybe I was getting old. Or maybe I was just sick of seeing the same classical style of work presented to me over and over again.
For all of its beauty and wonders, I would not say that the Louvre is a museum that excels in showing the marvels of humanity and history and all its forms. It seems to have small amounts of a wide categry of things, and a huge amount of a limited category of things. Amazingly, I had probably had my fill of some of those limited categories (being the French and Italian Renaissance).
This was a great museum. Clearly one of the best in the world. However, it is not a museum that has the balance and scope of the Met or the British Museum. It is a museum that has does a few things superbly, a few things to a level of near perfection. Sadly, this perfection is achieved at the cost of other things. It's a harsh criticism of an amazing museum, but I think it is a valid one nonetheless.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Where to from here? You've made me super excited to see the Lourve when I go. Keep the posts coming.