Monday, June 27, 2016

Couples

Perhaps it is because I am reading Wallace Stegner's Angle of Repose, a novel about marriage in which the author only realizes on page 211 that his protagonist is writing a novel about marriage; perhaps it is that I've entered my third decade of marriage; or even that all my daughters are now married. Whatever the reasons, one of the recurring themes in my Louvre study of art is: couples.

Or is it that a marriage done well, is a piece of art?

Before the theme of couples emerged, I was struck by the individuality of this stunning piece.
It woke me up. It was an anomaly among ages of homogenous pieces. It showed a process, a procession, that death wasn't a solitary experience. A life was extravagantly noted. The hooded figures were macabre, yet reverent. That I could stand next to life size figures carrying Philippe Pot, Grand Senechal de Bourgogne, who lived and died in the late fifteenth century, was amazing.

In contrast to the processional mourning of this one man's life, I started noticing that all death markers were not solitary.

Meet Louie and Robine who died in 1521 and 1520, respectively. They were the first couple I came upon. Louis' notoriety came from serving as a financial officer under the reign of Charles VIII. A pious and wealthy couple, this is how they chose to be remembered, as it is most likely they commissioned this piece before their demise. I like that they lie equally side by side.
Monsieur Charles de La Vieuville died in 1653, and ten years later was followed in death by his wife Marie Bouhier. Yet, I see depicted in this sculpture, that she followed him in life. Charles was probably a bigger man, but his posture, the turn of his body, his open eyes, her eyes closed, places Marie in his shadow.
I never found the nameplates of this disagreeable looking couple below. They could have been the kindest, happiest people, but as they were portrayed in death, or as they chose to be portrayed in death, it doesn't appear to be so. Again, from my observations, they are a couple, but separately portrayed.


So imagine my happiness and the warmth that came over my heart when I saw this first "couple," in the Egyptian art rooms. They were sitting together, looked reasonably pleasant and their son was depicted in between though quite out of scale. Their time frame was between 2600 BC and 2500 BC. Most important, they look like equal partners.
The joy of finding another happy couple. Same time frame.
The couple below had a special surprise. They were carved from wood and created between the years 2300 and 2200 BC. Since they were in an open case, I realized I could see the back of the sculpture too. It melted my heart. 


I was now on a museum search for all the happy couples in antiquity. In the following days, if Tony found a couple before me, he would find me and ask, "Have you seen the happy couple?" My spirits perked and I followed him to greet joy.
 The wife's embrace was so endearing, but what kind of tradition dictated the wife placing her arm around her husband?
I almost missed the revelation from the unknown Greek couple from the first century AD.
The husband's arm is draped around his wife.
 When we came upon the Etruscans (apprx. 500 BC) I again found my embracing husband.


Finally, the happiest couple of all appeared to be the couple who were equally embracing one another.

Ounsou and his wife Imenhetep 1450 BC

 My observations and the influence of art, have made me more sentimental; in the same room as Venus de Milo, I turn to see an old Spanish couple. The woman sits in a wheelchair, and her companion sits on a bench by her side. When he reaches out and puts his arm around her, real life ties itself beautifully to the art and love depicted in the past. Both bring tears to my eyes.