Tonight? THATd’Or

Musee d'Orsay at night, taken from www.freemages.co.uk

Musee d’Orsay at night, taken from http://www.freemages.co.uk

Dear Night Hunters!

Kristina Tencic, of the AFMO’s AVANT Garde, and I are pleased as punch that tonight’s THATd’Or is finally here. Time will be tight tomorrow (the sound track of Mission Impossible may be beating to your movements for the night), so I’m posting a quick run down of the evening:

  • We’ll meet promptly at 7.45 pm. Once everyone’s gathered we’ll use the museum’s private entrance (The AFMO’s special entrance… Become a member and you’ll become familiar with it!)
  • After everyone’s inside we’ll check our coats (please remember to wear comfortable shoes)
  • As soon as you’ve checked your coats we’ll reconvene here, in front of the Statue of Liberty* where we’ll be welcomed and I’ll hand out the hunts and review the rules one more time.
The AFMO-cleaned Statue of Liberty prototype, by Auguste Bartholdi

The AFMO-cleaned Statue of Liberty prototype, by Auguste Bartholdi

  • We’ll need to synchonise our clocks and agree to the finishing point and time (probably 9.30 pm back at the coat check – so take mental note of where this is!)
  • Then divided up in our teams you’ll have 10 or 15 minutes to strategise as a team and then at the appointed time off you’ll set (ideally by 8.10 pm)
  • Kristina and I will be wandering about, drinking up the lovely treasure as well as keeping an eye open for any possible cheaters (so beware! No running, no separating, no external help (iPhones, guards, tourists-in-the-know)…
rue Verneuil, Gainsbourg's house, taken from Wikipedia

rue Verneuil, Gainsbourg’s house, taken from Wikipedia

– Once we’ve regrouped we’ll have a bit of fresh air, en route to Le Petit Jacob (passing Serge Gainsbourg’s house on rue Verneuil, along the way).

Le Petit Jacob, 40 rue Jacob, the back's reserved for our prize-giving ceremony!

Le Petit Jacob, the back’s reserved for our prize-giving ceremony

– Madame Claude Million will welcome us to her Le Petit Jacob where we’ll have a glass of Bio wine while we meet the competition, tally our scores and have the prize-giving ceremony! For those of you who need to make plans after the night’s event, Le Petit Jacob is at 40 rue Jacob, facing rue Benoit. Closest metros are St Germain des Prés (line 4) or Mabillon (line 10).

Le Petit Jacob, 40 rue Jacob 75006 Paris

Le Petit Jacob, 40 rue Jacob 75006 Paris

And of course, to get to the Musée d’Orsay take line 12 to Soférino. Apart from being south of the Seine and in an entirely different space, this hunt is obviously different from any THATLous on a basic level (for instance it’s not photo-based, and of course – since it’s the first time at the  this blog doesn’t have any articles answering bonus questions). That said, the answer to all the knowledge-based bonus questions can be found within the hunt – it’s just a matter of your team playing to its strengths (who’s good at navigating maps, who’s good at reading fine print, who’s visually-oriented to scan a room for your delicious treasure?).

Alrighty then, Happy Hunting!
xx,
Daisy

* Interested in how Bartholdi’s prototype of Liberty Enlightening the World was cleaned, and her movements around France prior to landing in at the Musée d’Orsay (from the Luxembourg Gardens to Tours, then north of Paris)? See what the AFMO did here.

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J’Adore THATd’Or Theme

It’s the final countdown to the AFMO’s AVANT Garde J’Adore THATd’Or … which means it’s time to unveil tomorrow night’s theme! You may have already guessed this mystery theme from the serene Mondrian painting on the invitation? My original goal had been to make the hunt exclusively about trains + motion. What could be more suitable than to tip one’s treasure-hunt hat to the history of this gorgeous building? As I’m sure you all know, the Musée d’Orsay was originally a train station, built in only 2 years and unveiled on 14 July 1900 for the Exposition Universelle. Until 1939 the Gare d’Orsay covered the southwestern French lines (thereafter it served the suburbs as the length of the building (138 meters) was too short for the longer trains which appeared during the electrification of trains). During the war it was where prisoners’ mail was dispatched. And before Mitterand unveiled it as a museum in 1986, it was the temporary home to auctioneers (while Druout was being built) as well as being the set for Kafka’s The Trial, by Orson Welles (1962). It’s clearly had several lives, but the Musée d’Orsay celebrates its train station roots beautifully and seemlessly.

Gare d'Orsay, © Musée d'Orsay

Gare d’Orsay, photo taken from © Musée d’Orsay

But alas, I wasn’t able to focus exclusively on Trains in art, as the museum keeps things fresh and rotates their collections every two weeks. This is a joy and gift to its visitors (to make sure their collection in storage doesn’t gather dust), but it also keeps treasure hunt makers on their toes!  So tomorrow night’s theme will be Motion + Movement. What subjects might this touch on? Well, a lot: wild waters, divine dancers, prancing putti and of course any locomotive you can think of.  As the museum’s collections pertain to art from 1848 – 1914 there is certainly a fascination with trains, yes, but also an appreciation for industry and workers, think of Zola’s human machine or mechanical man, say. And of course the twists and turns of agonizing lovers is never old when it comes to art, be it songs, poems or bronze reliefs by Rodin (oops, did that slip out?).

So before giving up too much of the hunt, I’ll leave you with just one more thought:

Musée d'Orsay rules: No photos, no phones, no touching, THATd'Or rules: No running, no separating, no external help

Musée d’Orsay rules: No photos, no phones, no touching, THATd’Or rules: No running, no separating, no external help, be on time or lose points

Why is this photo of Auguste Bartholdi’s Statue of Liberty just so wrong?

Because it’s a photo of a sign saying NO photography! There are a handful of “No”s that are included in tomorrow night’s event – all of which are listed in the photo caption. Photography’s permitted in designated areas, and there is a chance that one or two bonus questions will request fun photos of your team in those areas – but to be completely clear, any of your photos must have the below clock in the background (which is where the museum’s appointed photo-area is, with a view of one of the Gare d’Orsay’s clocks). Coincidentally, the below is this blog’s banner photo — what’s more germane to THAT than time distorted and looming over a museum?

Musée d'Orsay Clock , Top level facing the Seine

Musée d’Orsay Clock

Ok, enough out of me. Tomorrow I’ll post a brief outline of the night’s events. In the meantime, have fun and look forward to our Night Hunt!

And as I’ll hopefully remember to mention after the hunt, if you have fun I beseech you to leave a quick “had fun” review on Trip Advisor. For a budget-less new business (I started last spring) these reviews have been invaluable.

* Last PS/ If you’d like to read more about how the American Friends of the Musee d’Orsay (AFMO, the hosts of tomorrow night’s event) moved Bartholdi(1834-1904)’s Liberty Enlightening the World from the Luxembourg Gardens for a cleaning and indoors to welcome guests to the Musée d’Orsay, see their site here.

J’Adore THATd’Or

J'Adore THATd'Or !!

I hope they sing J’Adore THATd’Or !!

You can’t really tell, but the photo in this RIP-ROARINGLY EXCITING INVITATION is of a gorgeous Piet Mondrian landscape (credited below) that has a white plume of steam (train) defining the horizon. It’s much better in person, so I guess you’re just going to have to sign up for the very first THATd’Or… Dope! was that a hint that it just might be included?

Good news for non-AFMO AVANT Garde members – you get free entry to the Musee d’Orsay if you RSVP prior to Wednesday 23 January:

Please click here to RSVP to the real invitation…

And apologies for all of the bold, caps and itals, but I’m clearly over the moon that the American Friends of the Musee d’Orsay (AFMO)’s AVANT Garde Young Patrons have invited me to cross the Seine. A very special thanks to Sarah Miller Benichou, Kristina Tencic and Mary Kay, of Out and About in Paris (who’s very suggestion it was to contact Sarah!).

More to come on this front, in the fortnight leading up to the Thursday 31 January THATd’Or!!

Photo credit: Piet Mondrian, Polder landscape with a train and a small windmill on the horizon, 1907 © RMN-Grand Palais (Musée d’Orsay) / Hervé Lewandowski, 2013 American Friends Musee d’Orsay, All rights reserved.

3 Kings Day THATLou!

Bernardino Luini's Adoration of the Magi, 1520-25, Louvre

Bernardino Luini’s Adoration of the Magi, 1520-25, au Louvre (from Wikipedia)

Today is the eve of Epiphany, 6 January! A day of merrymaking, the 12th Day of Christmas has more than 12 drummers drumming (which apparently refers to the 12 points of doctrine in the Apostle’s creed, within the Christmas carol)… It has Three Kings visiting baby Christ in Bethlehem; Melchior, Gaspar (sometimes known as Caspar) and Balthazar were the Magi or Three Wise Men representing Europe, Arabia and Africa. They arrived on horse, camel and elephant and brought gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, respectively. Balthazar is one of my favourite names – in fact I used to be a regular at a Keith McNally resto in NY by the same name just as an excuse to enunciate it.

Different cultures give Three Kings Day different rituals. Argentina (and most other Spanish-speaking countries) on the eve of El Día de los Reyes has children polish their shoes and leave them outside their door filled with grass or hay, a bowl of water next to them. The morning of 6 Jan, the shoes are filled with gifts and the bowl’s empty (the camels having eaten the hay and drunk the water). Why shoes, I’m not sure (but why Christmas stockings for us? Must look it up). The French, true to their tummies, have a frangipane-filled Galettes des Rois (almond-paste filled cake that has a little figurine known as la fève (originally a broad bean, or fève). Whoever gets the slice of cake with the fève is king for the day. The president at the Elysée Palace has a Galette des Rois that’s more than a meter in diameter, but it’s without a fève, because it wouldn’t be very fitting to find a King in the presidential palace of the Republic, now would it? In the States Three Kings Day is when you’re supposed to exchange your gifts (though we’ve moved this forward to the Hallmark date of 25 Dec) and is also the day you take down your Christmas tree and decorations.

But we’re getting side tracked here – what is the single most important thing that’s happening in France for the 2013 Three Kings Day? No it’s not that meter-wide, feve-less gâteau at the Elysée, pshah! It’s the Kings + Leaders THATLou, of course! And what is this post devoted to, but one of the treasures that our hunters will be chasing after. Lucky are those that are reading these words, because otherwise they wouldn’t know that Bernardino Luini (1480/82 – 1532)’s fine Adoration of the Magi fresco (seen above) can be found in the Duchatel Room (seen below):

Duchatel Room, Denon, 1st Floor, Room 2 (taken from the Atlas database)

Duchatel Room, Denon, 1st Floor, Room 2 (taken from the Louvre Atlas database)

Not a lot is known about Luini, other than that he moved to Milano in 1500 from his small town near Lago Maggiore and that in Milano he was heavily influenced by Leonardo, with whom he worked. One of his signatures is graceful female figures with elongated eyes, which Vladimir Nabokov called “Luiniesque” in La Venezia (1924).

The Duchatel Room (found on the 1st floor of the Denon Wing, off of the Italian Gallery), has been the subject of a handful of interesting articles (This 1915 article seems to be the most comprehensive). The collection was left to the Louvre together, and included the Fra Angelico crucifixion (seen in the photo) as well as two Ingres.

The hunters will get a bit more about the Luini Adoration of the Magi tomorrow (a painting which would also be suitable for a Structure + Space THATLou, so organised is the architecture in the quiet scene). Though not half so well known as Georges de La Tour’s Adoration of the Shepherds, I think it’s twice as attractive!

Buon Natale da Firenze!

Sandro Botticelli's Madonna del Magnificat 1481, at the Uffizi, taken from Wikipedia

Sandro Botticelli’s Madonna del Magnificat 1481, at the Uffizi, taken from Wikipedia

The Madonna Enthroned with baby Jesus in her lap and various saints in attendance is by far the most common religious subject in art history. To take a break from the Louvre’s Christmas paintings, and to veer from the divine Early Netherlandish Annunciations, for Christmas we’re turning out attention to the Uffizi Gallery in Florence with three Madonna and Child treasures.

Pietro Perugino's Enthroned Madonna and Christ , 1493, at the Uffizi, taken from Wikipedia

Pietro Perugino’s Enthroned Madonna and Christ , 1493, at the Uffizi, taken from Wikipedia

Back when we were considering Leonardo’s Contemporaries we touched on three fellow students all of whom flourished in their own style and by their own means. Pietro Perugino, Sandro Botticelli, Domenico Ghirlandaio and Leonardo da Vinci were all four students at one point or another in Andrea del Verrocchio’s 15th Century Florentine studio.

Domenico Ghirlandaio's Madonna + Child enthroned with Saints, 1483, at the Uffizi, taken from Wikipedia

Domenico Ghirlandaio’s Madonna + Child enthroned with Saints, 1483, at the Uffizi, taken from Wikipedia

Just a quick thought on each of the three: That first Botticelli Madonna del Magnificat is actually the Piero de’ Medici family, pudgy Jesus’s hand on a pomegranate symbolising the Resurrection. Perugino, always a smooth operator, painted the same scene with a silky, serene stroke: Mary and Christ flanked by Saint John the Baptist (in hirsute) and St Sebastian (a fave subject of Perugino).  And essays (and probably books, too) have been written about Oriental Carpets in Renaissance painting, with that last Ghirlandaio being included in all of them, no doubt.

Without much more ado I shall let the paintings speak for themselves, and leave you without more text than to say:

Happy Christmas!

Announcing Christ(mas)

Annunciation 1440, Rogier van der Weyden (1399 - 1464) Louvre

Annunciation 1440, Rogier van der Weyden (1399 – 1464), at the Louvre 

Yesterday’s Christmas Countdown reviewed the symbolic elements that usually appear in The Annunciation, accompanied by some really 2nd-rate versions of the common subject found at the Louvre. As promised, today we’re getting the good stuff. In general my favourite periods of painting tend to be either Italian or Spanish Baroque. That said there are some things for which the early Netherlandish just can’t be beat — among them, symbolism and minuscule rich detail. So with that, I’ll leave you with three peerless Annunciations in Paris, NY and DC. Each detail in all three paintings have merited full PhD doctorate thesises. I will choose just one point and leave you with a short paragraph:

Rogier van der Weyden’s Annunciation at the Louvre (above):

Look at the small glass vase on the mantle above the fireplace, on the upper left hand side. The way it catches the light is brilliant, as is the shadow it casts on the grey corner. But it also means something – which is part of what makes this period so incredibly tight, that nothing can be left for ‘random’. The very shape of that carafe is another reference to conception and birth. Drawn from the ‘scientific’ world, alchemists of the time used them to mix so-called male and female elements and called them “bridal chambers”.  When elements joined to form a third substance it was called a ‘child of the union’. These “bridal chamber” flasks** appear in numerous paintings of the time from Hans Memling to Hieronymous Bosch, from van Eyck to our very own van der Weyden’s Annunciation.

Annunciation - Robert Campin, Cloisters (Met Museum), 1427–1432

The Merode Triptych (1427-1432) – Robert Campin, at the Met’s Cloisters (NY)

The Mérode Triptych tells the story of the Annunciation, with the donors kneeling in the courtyard to the left and Joseph, a carpenter and Mary’s betrothed, is building a mousetrap on the right. The mousetrap symbolizes Christ’s trapping and defeat of the devil, a metaphor used thrice by St Augustine. More traps are found outside the window which Art Historian Erwin Panofsky (NYU, Princeton and Harvard) purported again symbolized that Jesus was used as a bait to capture Satan. Mice aside – can you see how the shutters are attached to the celing in Joseph’s studio? Such detail is a true delight and well worth taking the A train to the very top of Manhattan to see the Met’s medieval collection.

Annunciation - Jan van Eyck's Nat'l Gallery, 1434-6

Annunciation 1434-1436, Jan van Eyck, Nat’l Gallery in Washington DC

Though you may not be able to make this out, unless it’s projected on a large art history screen or in person perhaps, you can see that there are little words coming out of Gabriel and Mary’s mouths. In Latin, Gabriel says, “Hail, full of Grace…” and Mary demurs “Behold the Handmaiden of the Lord…”. If you can get past the somehow funny nature of the  cartoon-captions coming out of their mouths, you have to acknowledge that it’s pretty damned cool that van Eyck had Mary’s “Ecce Ancilla Dni” written upside down so that it would face God, since that is who she was addressing.

For a far more academic (and fascinating) piece on symbolism within Hans Memling’s Annunciation with Angelic Attendants by Shiraly Neilsen Blum, published by the Metropolitan Museum or Art in 1992, click on the link. This 16 page excerpt covers all three paintings as well as other Annunciations and their symbolism.

THATLou Christmas Count Down

This Annunciation is by Carlo Braccesco, a Renaissance painter from Liguria active from 1478 to 1501. Doesn’t it look like Mary’s dodging a pigeon?

Annunciation - Carlo Braccesco, 16th C, Denon, 1st fl Grande Galerie Salle 5

Annunciation – Carlo Braccesco, 16th C, Denon, 1st fl Grande Galerie Salle 5

The Annunciation is one of the most popular subjects in religious art. The story comes from Luke — Archangel Gabriel comes to the Virgin Mary out of the nowhere  (almost invariably he enters her bedchamber from a courtyard, although soon I’ll write about a great Annunciation at the National Gallery in DC by Jan van Eyck which has Gabriel visiting her in a church/temple) to announce to her that despite having lost out on not getting any she’s going to have to go through the fun of being preggers for 9 months. Then she’ll give birth to the son of God, which he suggests (strongly, sometimes) she name Jesus, which means “Saviour”.Logically the Annunciation takes place nine months prior to Christmas on 25 March (and according to Wikipedia the English celebrate it, which I find interesting as I think of the English as largely protestant, so they technically shouldn’t believe in saints and miracles, but perhaps they’re just Protestants for the sake of Henry VIII replacing his wives?).

Anyway, in art the Annunciation generally has a few of the following symbolic elements: The Lilly (the Virgin’s purity**), a ray of laser-like light from a window (indicates God’s imminent incarnation), a blown out candle (symbolic of God’s divinity, about to be extinguished, a further reference to the Incarnation – the moment when God became man), a dove (flying towards Mary’s ear — which is where conception took place. No laughing, please), flowers in a vase (the “Golden Legend” took place in Nazareth, which means Flower, but also points out to when it took place, the springtime). And for some reason usually Mary’s reading when Gabriel interrupts/surprises/visits her.

I will save my favourite Louvre Annunciation for tomorrow — for now I’ll leave you with some Louvre second-rate ones (when compared to my beloved Annunciation by Rogier van der Weyden).

Annunciation - Bernardo Daddi, 1335 Florence, Denon, 1st Fl Salon Carre Room 3

Annunciation – Bernardo Daddi, 1335 Florence

Sometimes Mary and Gabriel are on the same footing, and it’s just an idle conversation you may see between neighbours in their respective backyards, through an open gate or over a fence.

Annunciation - Giorgio Vasari (1511-1574) St Ma Novella d'Arezzo

Annunciation – Giorgio Vasari (1511-1574) St Maria Novella d’Arezzo

Or you can see the Virgin as Vasari did, as a Yogi levitating. We have Vasari to thank for having Art History, insofar as his The Lives was the first book about his contemporary Renaissance painters. He was great in many ways (including giving us the smut! As THATLou passed along when pondering Leonardo’s Lover), but actually painting was not one of Vasari’s strong-suits. He should have kept to writing as this Annunciation reflects.

Annunciation - Giulio Cesare Procaccini, 1620, Milano, Denon 1st Fl Room 13

Annunciation – Giulio Cesare Procaccini, 1620, Milano

Or then you have Procaccini’s Annunciation where it looks like Gabriel’s about to snap his wrist across Mary’s face

“You WILL call him Jesus”

“Cummmon, Man! I want to name him Graydon!”

++++++++++++++++++++

Tomorrow you’ll get the good stuff – the Annunciation from some Northerners. Just a quick PS, though, Gabriel bringing Mary the lilies started appearing in Florentine Annunciations in the 14th century. The fleurs-de-lis (flower of lilies) was the heraldic symbol of Florence. Rivaling Siena, whose painters had their own school of thought on the matter, had Gabriel bring the Virgin an olive branch, which symbolised their own fine city. Gotta love the propaganda!

And sadly we don’t have a Christmas Treasure Hunt going on, but are you signed up for the 3 Kings Day THATLou (the theme of which is, of course Kings + Leaders)? Keep your eyes peeled on the THATLou Facebook page!