Tuesday, April 23, 2013

A Day With A Grand Lady & Some Of Her Friends

The grand lady of the museum
Since no trip to Paris would be complete without a visit to the Louvre, we spent this past Sunday exploring this magnificent museum that houses some of the world's great masterpieces.  Our plan had been to go early and try to beat the crowds but this being the Louvre, and a weekend at that, there are always crowds so we decided to just make the best of it.  (Besides, we'd been out later than usual the night before so an early start just didn't happen!).  And much to our surprise, with the exception of a few notable exhibits, the crowds really weren't that bad. Perhaps it was because Sunday was the first beautiful sunny day in a while and most people didn't want to spend it inside.  Or maybe it is because the museum is just so large.  In either case, it all worked just fine for us as we had many exhibits to ourselves and were able to really take in and absorb as much art as we could out of all that this museum has to offer.

Intricate details all done by hand
Because the Louvre is home to Leonardo da Vinci's world famous Mona Lisa, we made visiting this painting a top priority.  Apparently so did all of the other visitors as this is where we found the crowds.  The exhibit room housing this painting was packed with camera snapping tourists flocking to see this famous painting.  (I guess you can count us among the group).  Even if the hoards of people weren't there, the painting was cordoned off in a way that prohibited a close up examination of her so we took a picture of two then moved on.  Because the museum is so large we decided that rather than try to take it all in, we would select a few exhibits to view in depth and save the others for a return visit.  (And there will be a return visit). Egyptian art is always interesting but having spent a considerable amount of time viewing it at the Kunsthistorisches during our January trip to Vienna, we decided to focus on sculptures. From Jupiter and Minerva to Venus de Milo and Aphrodite, the Louvre has them all.  Repeatedly I was amazed at the level of detail found on these sculptures.  When I remembered the times during which these pieces of work were created, I was even more impressed.  Each minute detail was chiseled by hand.  (Or as Glenn said, there was no Dremel used here).  More than once I found myself peering closely to see if the detail was really made of stone.  And it was.

As we wandered from one salon to another we noticed something beyond the grand masterpieces.  As is often the case, the museum buildings themselves are pieces of art.  The Louve's history as a palace was evident at every turn.  From sweeping stairways to grand foyers I almost found myself missing the artwork because I was absorbing the details of each room.  High, intricately painted ceilings dominated many rooms, soaring windows offered views of the manicured grounds, and arched doorways welcomed you into the next room.  And this was just on the inside of the museum.  The exterior details of the museum were just as grand as the inside.  We wandered through the former apartments of Napoleon III, just one of many royals who have called this palace home.  I couldn't decide whether or not his quarters are ostentatious, epically grand, or a bit of both.  From the forty-six person dining room table (yes, we counted) to one parlor after another, everything was draped in velvet and gilded in gold.  Impressive? Yes.  Over the top?  Even more so.  Pictures just can't do the experience justice.

I am a bit ashamed to admit that prior to my visit, I never understood what all the fuss over the Louvre was about. After all, all of the great world capitols have famous museums that house impressive masterpieces.  And many of these museums are located in impressive buildings.  But having been there, I now understand.  It is the combination of all of these factors that makes the Louvre so impressive and grand.   I now understand why this museum is on every Parisian travel itinerary and listed as a must see on travel sites.  It really is a must see.  I know I only saw a small dose of what the museum has to offer but I also know that I will be back.  Having received a small taste of what it offers how can I not return?

One of Napoleon's parlors

A glimpse out a window

Looking up a sweeping stairway

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