Louvre Photo Series cont’d

C - pyramid from passage

This is either the last or the penultimate post inthe Louvre Photo Series. It’s been a pleasure to ponder what images to use for the imminent THATLou website. 

C- 5 - spiral stairs from above, centered, unfortunately

As I touched on in the last post, photographic tastes which I’d long ago forgotten awoke, such as automatically turning to black and white, steering clear of portraiture (unless people are tiny, indecipherable specs in the distance, I’m not really interested in them), looking at shadows, architecture and reflexions, and above all — what the Louvre provides in spades – is a love of geometric shapes. Don’t really have much more to say than that.

C 4 - escalator demi'lune

In fact a complaint I’ve had from many regarding this blog is that the posts are just too long. When I’m writing about content, which is the majority of this blog – although you wouldn’t know it from these recent website / THATd’Or round-ups! – it’s true that they are a bit wordy. But were anyone who took art history seriously to read this (apart from my mother) they’d say that this blog is too superficial (she saves my feelings by not saying anything). So since you can’t please everyone, I’m just going to do a photo-dump today, and leave you with some images which may or may not appear on this imminent website that Jenny Beaumont’s doing a phenomenal (and immense) job on.

C - lock, RAW edited in picasa

Once the site is launched, hopefully it won’t be too long before I actually return to a bit of content myself, and take a look at the content of the Louvre — and other museums for that matter. Otherwise I may just lose myself in talking about nothing. We wouldn’t want that!

© Daisy de Plume

You can see more images of the Louvre here.

Louvre Lovelies

C - 4 - tourist shot, bldg with cloudsContinuing this photographic series, here are some more Louvre shots, some of which may appear on the imminent THATLou website. It’s funny about photography, I don’t know much about it, other than that I like it – to both take photos and look at them.

C 1 - escalator from above, sculpture section through circle

My taste for photography was borne exclusively whilst working for David Friend, who’d been the photography editor at Life Magazine for 18 years. His photo library and his pure joy of looking at pretty much any image, let alone the enriching old photojournalists who he palled around with like Carl Mydans, Gordon Parks and Cornell Capa was an education unto itself. At the time I never appreciated how clearly I would remember nearly every interaction that I had with those venerable old characters.

C - 4 - Metalwork

In that phase I also took a class at the ICP just to get a grasp on technical bare basics. Much to my surprise it was the developing that I enjoyed more than actually shooting film (which I’d loved doing for years). I had more control in the dark room, not to mention liking the smell of chemicals. But I forget things as quickly as I learn them, so now all I’m left with is what I do and don’t like.

C- 3 - metalwork

Here’s something that I adore: my husband playing with Light + Motion:

C 3 - H's Blurry Art shotFor other snaps du Louvre there’s Focusing my Lens on the Louvre and Up Next? THATLou Website. Next week we’ll move to the prototype phase, which apparently is where the fun begins!

C - double escalators, full circle

But before Jenny Beaumont‘s beautifully designed website is launched, more snaps shall be deposited herewith.

Focusing my Lens on the Louvre

Ok, with a title like that I should really be writing up the Louvre’s satellite branch in Lens (which, by the way, can you believe that Delacroix’s Liberty Guiding the People painting was defaced with the “ae9/11” graffiti (in Lens)? Whether you like that painting or not – it is an inherent image of France, having been on the 100-Franc note before they switched to the Euro. Here’s the scoop from the Guardian, but apparently the painting’s not permanently damaged).

Copyrighted Louvre photo 1 - metalwork

But parenthetical tangents aside, this “Focusing my Lens of the Louvre” title is a continuation of this weekend’s post when I  touched on the imminent THATLou website. Whoopla is certainly in order, but not till it’s launched in early March. Till then I’ve been posting photos that may or may not be used in the final www.thatlou.com site.

from the Campana Galerie (where the Greek Vases are)

from the Campana Galerie (where the Greek Vases are)

Besides the pleasure of working with Jenny Beaumont, web-designer extraordinaire, the most rewarding part of the site has been to put time aside to actually look at the Louvre for the Louvre itself. Not visiting for the art, not visiting to create a treasure hunt (all of which are of course sublime visits unto themselves). But visiting exclusively to ponder the building itself is a pleasure I have not had since I first moved to Paris and used to go many times a week (I lived in the Marais and worked in St Germain des Pres so the 65,000 sq meters were where I made my pit stops).

copyrighted - spiral stairs vertical

It breathes history whilst integrating a sharp-edged, geometric modernity. IM Pei becomes more and more startlingly brilliant with each photographic visit that I’ve made. So without more blather, I’ll leave you with the images, this last one by El Argentino being my fave with its intentionally retro feel. The Parisian light is palpable. But I said I was going to zip the lip, right?

H's tourist shot of Louvre, retro

Up Next? THATLou Website!

C - 1' pyramid from above

So it’s sort of wild that THATLou is fairly close to its first year anniversary  (23 March was our first Angels + Wings Treasure Hunt at the Louvre, as was reviewed in Out and About in Paris among a host of other generous blogs). What’s most wild about this landmark may be something pretty basic:  we don’t yet have a website. It’s the first tool that most small business owners attack, that and business cards.

But it’s been a much busier year than I expected, and all good things come in time, right? So it is with great pomp and fanfare that this blog post should alight to your in-boxes to announce: This past week web-design-extraordinaire Jenny Beaumont and I have been on full-on all’attaque mode to produce THAT website! Jenny, an American based in the rolling hills of Normandie, is a bastion of patience and practicality as well as being a genius designer and crafty UN diplomat/devil’s advocate.  And I am blessed to have her guidance, as well as the wise counsel of Allison Blumenthal to subtle-ly stomp my sometimes feral enthusiasm.

C - 4 Spiral staircase, pyramid not evident

On the first-things-first basis we’ve been distilling all the necessities that are admittedly tricky to find on this blog.  The themes will be explained, the schedule and booking will be made easier, the generous press will be integrated along with corporate quotes, happy tourist reviews on Trip Advisor and testimonials of destination weddings and school groups visiting Paris.  And in a depth of field that I just can’t fathom (I tend to read the paper in hand, and write letters with a pen) I am getting a glimpse of just how abstract and brilliant Ms. Beaumont is.

C - 3 spiral stairs, pyramid above

The new www.THATLou.com website will be launched toward the end of Feb / beginning of March. Until then I shall post sporadic photos that both El Argentino (my husband) and I have had a ball taking for it. Of course most of the snaps posted here won’t be included in the final site (there are hundreds!), but if you happen to see any that you recommend certainly feel free to drop a line either below or via email.

Needless to say, I still need to take a dip south of the Seine to photograph for THATd’Or (Treasure Hunt at the Musée d’Orsay), as there will be a little sister site www.thatdor.com which will be launched simultaneously.

C - 2 ' triangular fountain from above

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!

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!