Monday, August 15, 2016

Back to Paris: Secrets to Navigating the Louvre and How I Came to Love the Louvre**

1. Download the Louvre App. It's free.

2. Know important French and ancient world time periods: The Louvre palace was originally built as a fortress in the 12th century. It became the Louvre Palace and was home to the queens and kings of France, excluding those who lived at Verseilles, until 1793--which if you noticed and made a connection, coincides with the French revolution when the have-nots said, "Enough!" and "Off with their heads." At this time Le Louvre entered its first phase as an art museum. Post revolution, Napoleon, a lover of all things lavish and fearless enough to get it, made himself welcome and occupied a part of the Louvre Palace. So did his nephew Napoleon III who brought the Louvre to its current glory and lived in the Napoleon III apartments--can't miss these!

One must know the important Louis: 14th, 15th and the infamous 16th, as much of the arts and decorative arts are associated with these kings.
Cultivate a minimal knowledge of the Mesopotamian world, the height of Greek art and culture; know the Etruscans preceded the Romans--and know their time periods.

3. The Louvre has three main entrances that I know of (a fourth not always open). One afternoon while leaving the Louvre, we were appalled at the length of the Carrousel du Louvre line through the underground shopping mall. The pyramid entrance can be extra long too, so: the secret entrance is: Richlieu--off the Rue de Rivoli. The secret, secret entrance if you are daring and security is distracted, is the pass holder's and employee line. If you make it past the lone security officer who checks for credentials, you are home free.

4. Never, never wait to use les toilettes on the main floor: long lines and too few toilets. Top floor bathrooms are empty.

5. Near closing time, some rooms you will have all to yourself. The Louvre is closed on Tuesday and stays open late on two nights of the week. The night crowds were less that the day crowds.

6. Don't even think about covering every exhibit in your one day visit; near closing time, these one-day-see-it-all people mechanically rush past, eyes glazed and pale faced, resembling zombies in a cheap horror flick.

7. If you have one day or even two, pick exhibits carefully according to your interests.

8. When Paris weather is rainy, the lines are longer, the crowds are bigger.

9. You  cannot, absolutely cannot miss:
*The Grand galerie of Appolon
*The Assyrian giant, mostly flat, but 3 dimensional sculptures. Some are reconstructed but they are a can't-miss marvel.

*Napoleon III apartments--gives new meaning to lavish and plush. Photos cannot do justice to standing in the grand salon, or walking into the dining hall.
*The mummy in the Egyptian sarcophagus section is the best mummy I've ever seen. The sarcophagus' of Sidon are also spectacular.

*You've come to far to not see the Mona Lisa--though don't be disappointed when you're kept at six-arms' length and have to wait in the crowd. Nor can you travel that far without standing under the magnificent Winged Victory of Samothrace, or Venus de Milo--look close and you'll see she's two halves.
*The oldest acquisition on loan for 30 years is a 9000 year old figure/sculpture.
* Keep in mind the rooms are as grand as the contents. Stop at each window to get a lay of the land.
*Previous to your visit, choose an artist, a time period, a great work, and study it. When you see it in person you will have an educated love for it.

Even more suggestions:

*Be open to discovering and falling in love with an unknown artist, an unknown sculpture, time period, or culture. Surprisingly, I immensely enjoyed an exhibition of clocks.
*My visit was enhanced by finding themes. One day I looked for my favorite art of the Madonna and child. Another day it was couples and another, it was children. I may not have noticed the mischievous cherub had it not be "children," theme day.
*When you enter a room and it has thousands of Grecian urns on display, pick one and enjoy its beauty. Skip the rest. Learn to skip certain art--you cannot absorb it all in one day or you will be a zombie incapable of appreciating the gluttony of delicious art.
*I enjoyed the stories about art acquisition as much as the art. There was a temporary display dedicated to Alexandre Lenoir who was bold enough to try and save religious art the revolutionists were trying to destroy.
*The donor of many works was "The Camondos," often Isaac- the cousin of Moiise whose descendants were killed during the Holocaust.
*If you enjoy religious art, you will find recurring motifs: know the story of Saint Sebastian (a favorite of painters; know the story of the massacre of St. Bartholomew, and Katherine of Medici. The life or rather the death of Christ is possibly the most oft painted religious scene.
*Jacques Louis David was the court painter of Napoleon III~an answer to why there are so many David's during this time period.
*Don't miss the Coronation--an exquisite commission of Napoleon Bonaparte and Josephine.

Quirky things:

*German works are displayed in small rooms with bad lighting and inadequate ventilation.
*The best paintings of the impressionists are not in the Louvre.
*Some of the great and very large works have preliminary smaller renditions hung in different rooms.
*Your mythology knowledge will pay off.
*The Louvre was started before America was discovered.
*If you take the time to learn about dining protocol, through exhibitions and an electronic display, you will understand why France was the coveted place to be appointed ambassador.
*Persian art has no religious architecture.
*The Louvre is a living museum~~every once in awhile sit down and enjoy the people. This grandmother of a large and happy (maybe Italian?) family enchanted her posterity while explaining The Raft of Medusa--a painting Harriet Beecher Stowe was enthralled with. The little boys in the family had long before thrown in the towel and were sliding on the floor in front of one of the greatest works of art.

I made two discoveries that will stay with me forever:

 In 1839, Francois Biard visited Antartica and painted the magnificent work above. The stark beauty heightens the horror of the travelers trapped by ice.
 This 1520 painting is titled Charity--to see the face of the woman who embodies this gift is to understand charity just a little bit more.

**We come to love in what we invest.