Friends,I was in Paris for a week on a business trip. I kept two days free as I wanted to see Paris: Eiffel tower was on the top of my list followed
by Louvre and Notre-dame. I had been to Paris as a kid with my parents and I remembered that I had loved the view from the top of of the Eiffel. But I remembered nothing of the Louvre.
The Louvre is a magnificient monument. Even if you do not enter the museum you will be moved by the size and beauty of the monument while standing in its courtyard. I stood it its courtyard before buying my tickets and immediately placed it far far above Eiffel Tower as my symbol
For many people in the world the Louvre has become famous because of Mona Lisa or because of the book “Da Vinci code”. And for most people in the world the Eiffel tower is the symbol of Paris. And even for me before this visit the Louvre was a ” big museum that has the Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo”. But as soon as I entered the Louvre I was stunned by its magnificence and its size. It seemed like a HUGE giant that mocked me: “You consider yourself a student and a lover of all things beautiful. How could you think of yourself something like that without looking at the objects of beauty that I have collected for centuries. First see my collection, admire it and then make your claims!”. I felt so small and tiny before that enormous structure. I collected my ticket and entered the museum.
of Paris. And when I entered the building through the Richelieu wing I realized that I will not be able to “finish” the museum in the 7-8 hours
that I had decided to spend here. And let me tell you why- The Louvre has in its collection 350,000 works in total! Out of them only 35,000 are on
display. So if you spend 1 minute per work of art you can see 60 works of art in a minute( that is in reality not possible. I could only manage
10-15 per minute). So if you visit the museum for 10 hours, you can only see 600 works of art in a day. So you need 58 days to just see the 35,000 works of art that are on display if you go at this incredible speed! And these 35,000 works of art are spread in an area of 60,000 square
metres of exibition space! The Louvre has not always been a museum. For eight centuries it was the palace of the kings of France. In the 12th century AD Philippe
Auguste built a fortified castle here. Two centuries later it was converted into a “palace as spruce and brilliant as an emerald” by Charles V. But when the hundred years war started this palace lost its importance and was converted into a prison and a place to keep military supplies. In 1564 a new palace was built about 600 metres from Louvre- Palais des Tuileries. These two palaces were to be connected along the side of the river Siene. This was followed by a period of neglect when the kings of France built another palace about 20 kilometres away from Paris, at Versailles. At this time the Louvre was invaded by artists and traders. In 1776 Comte d’Angiviller who was incharge of government buildings decided to convert a part of this palace to a museum- the academy of painting. The museum was delayed because of the French Revolution. But in 1793 it was finally inaugurated.
Napolean’s reign saw a huge amount of artistic activity in France. Napoleon was a great admirer of the arts( and also Science and Mathematics). Artists became very productive. Also Napoleon brought back a huge number of works of art from the lands that he conquered: a large part of Europe, Egypt, Middle East. Also works from French colonies were brought back and placed in the Louvre. The Museum started filling up and more and more space was allocated for it within the Louvre. In 1981 the Ministry of Finance vacated the Louvre and the whole Louvre was dedicated to the works of Art and the whole Louvre was now a museum.The Louvre is divided into three wings: Richelieu, Sully and Denon. And each of these wings is divided into sections: Sculptures,
Oriental Antiquities, Egyptian Antiquities, Greek-Roman Antiquities, Arts of Africa, Arts of Islam, History of Louvre, Paintings of France, Italian
Paintings etc etc. And there is a whole section that has kept the rooms of Napoleon III as they were in the 19th century- those rooms give
us an idea of how the Kings used to live.
Every painting has a huge amount of detail. And every painting has a history. It is not possible to admire these paintings without understanding the historical context and the style of the artist. So each painting is a book in itself. I could only see the Mona Lisa from a distance. There was a long queue in front of it. Either I could see the Mona Lisa or I could see 20 other works of art in that time- I preferred the latter.
I walked through the Louvre dazed and astonished, There were works of art and beauty all around me and I felt like an ignorant fool- I felt
completely unable to understand most of these objects or the expression of the artist that has given birth to these works. And as I walked fast I
could look only at a few works carefully- I had only 8 hours. I felt that each work of beauty is calling me to stop for a moment and understand it,
to feel it but I just ignored most of these beautiful objects. In my 8 hours I barely spent 10 minutes eating my lunch and during the rest of the
time I feverishly walked one room to another. But even then I could not see more that 200-300 works( and out of them about 50 in detail).
Another section I loved was the Egyptian section- there was a statue that was almost 5000 years old! That statue was the first depiction
of the human form as a sculpture. The Oriental Antiquities section was also wonderful- I was really impressed by the “winged bull with a human
head” a statue that is more than 4 metres tall. After the Mona Lisa the most popular work is the Venus De Milo( or Aphrodite)- a statue that is
more than 2000 years old and was found in two pieces on the island of Melos- but the arms are still missing.
Winged Bull with a human head
After 8 hours I had to leave. But I promised to return- and the next time I will spend at least a week just discovering and surrounded by
the beauty of this Museum. The Louvre like all things of great beauty has left me feeling so thirsty for another glimpse and like all things of
great beauty, I know She will haunt me forever.
admires the beauty and the context in which the object of art was created. Here is a excerpt from that poem. I think this poem applies
to all the 350,000 works of art that are stored in the Louvre: O Attic shape! Fair attitude! with brede
Of marble men and maidens overwrought,
With forest branches and the trodden weed;
Thou, silent form, dost tease us out of thought
As doth eternity. Cold Pastoral!
When old age shall this generation waste,
Thou shalt remain, in midst of other woe
Than ours, a friend to man, to whom thou say’st,
“Beauty is truth, truth beauty”—that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know. ( For more information on the Louvre see www.Louvre.fr.
The poem “Ode to a Grecian Urn” was posted some time back in the MHFL list. E-mail me if you want the complete poem and its interpretation)
Go, wondrous creature! mount where Science guides:
Go, measure earth, weigh air, and state the tides:
Instruct the planets in what orbs to run,
Correct old time and regulate the Sun;