The Friends of the THATLou series is running for the month of November with guest blog posts from just that, Friends of THATLou:
Sylvia participated in my very first THATLou, the Treasure Hunt themed around Angels + Wings and wrote a generous review in Ma Vie Francaise, one of the many e-zines and blogs for which she writes. When the idea of the Friends of THATLou series idea came to me I asked former participants and blog-buddies if they’d like to write about either themselves (to have a glimpse of people who play), or about the Louvre. Sylvia jumped at the mail, happy to write about the Louvre, which played such a big part of her student days in Paris. I’m honored to have her be a contributor to this series, so without further ado, I shall leave it to Sylvia’s voice directly:
A Nostalgic Visit to the Louvre
When I was a young girl my mother took me to the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum in our city. My Mom loved ancient art, particularly Roman art, but this was the only museum in town so she made do. Happily, the Romans conquered Egypt, so there was something of a cross over in their art, kind of. At least, if you squinted just so and turned you head just a tad to the right. I remember the building itself and playing on the crew-cut Bermuda lawn, phantoms of painted mummy cases haunted me for years.
My grandmother would take me to “The City” to visit the de Young museum, where I still remember this locket sized cafe that opened up behind a small pond with papyrus grass and koi carp. The Thinker (there are over 20 of them) sat and pondered in front of the nearby the Legion of Honor while inside graciously geometric arcs lined a 15-metre long corridor, perfectly framing one of Monet’s Waterlily paintings.
I loved the art, but I was even more fascinated by the interplay of art and space. How different the art looked on the de Young’s crisp white walls, compared to the sober taupe at the Legion of Honor. One color reflecting light, the other seeming to absorb it, completely changing my appreciation and understanding of the works on view.
It was nearly a decade before I was old enough to come to France as an exchange student, but once here, I was in the Louvre, at the Orangerie, or the Centre Pompidou several times a weeks. I loved the dynamic energy of the modern art at Pompidou, At the Orangerie I was awe-struck by the idea that I was sitting in a space designed by the artist himself so that I was seeing Monet exactly as he wished it to be viewed. But my home was the Louvre.
I loved strolling its vast corridors, stumbling into virtually vacant rooms and communing with the ghosts of centuries past. I could almost see the medieval courtiers as the strode through the seat of power, hear the cry of drunkards and prostitutes after the palace was virtually abandoned to some of the city’s first squatters and smell the stench of dogs, cats and humans having relieved themselves in the nearest corner. The place was alive with history.
I’d explore a different section each visit, and after exploring the new (to me), I would head to the Jacques-Louis David painting of Napoleon’s Coronation. I do not know why I chose this painting. The Wedding of Cana is far more riveting, the Raft of the Medusa more powerful. I am enchanted by the story behind this painting and its role as propaganda. But maybe I just chose this work because it was in a well lit area with a large, wide bench where I could sit and spread put my papers to do my homework.
Today, I rarely visit the Louvre. My weekends seem full of new exhibits to explore and interesting galleries to see. There is the Parcours des Mondes every September, the Bienniel, FIAC, Paris Photo, Nuits blanches, Nuit des Musées… And yet, every time I go I am blown away by the grandeur of the Winged Victory, the power of the Medici suite and the poetry of the Dutch masters. And even today, I end each paying by maying my respects to the Coronation.