Posts Tagged ‘La Jocande’

Museums – Looking in at the Louvre

Wednesday, October 1st, 2014

In August I had the opportunity to spend a couple of hours in the Louvre in Paris. I knew there would be far too much to see in the allotted time, but I figured a little had to be better than nothing.

140911w Winged Victory

Entering from the enormous lobby under the I.M.Pei pyramid, my husband and I were swept up in a deluge of the ubiquitous tour groups. We stumbled over and around dazed individuals perusing their maps and fumbling with cameras as we poured up the broad staircase like so many salmon on a suicidal spawning run. We scarcely had time to notice, much less appreciate, the soaring form of the Winged Victory of Samothrace, towering above us from her pedestal on the landing, her wings raised as though to keep them from being clipped by the surging onslaught of humanity.

There was little need to guess which direction to go first. We were drawn with the crowd toward that lodestone of La Jocande—Mona Lisa, where we caught a glimpse of her in her protective case, across the room and over the heads of innumerable gawkers. Having paid our seemingly obligatory respects and being able now to say that, “yes, we’ve seen it in person,” we backed out of the room and escaped to another wing where we could breathe at last.

(I have to admit that I am less taken with La Jocande than many, feeling that her reputation is due more to her familiarity to the general public, her notoriety as the object of an art heist, and the enigma of the subject’s expression, than to the innate beauty of the composition and its even more enigmatic background. Enough said. I’ll leave the contemplation of da Vinci’s portraiture to those who remain enthralled.)

We continued our overview of the galleries based not on the works’ popularity but on where the crowds were not, knowing that wherever we turned we would find subjects well worth our perusal. When the quantity and grasp of the prescribed artworks became overwhelming, we turned our focus to the building itself—the painted ceilings and magnificent architectural detail, which I expect are all too often overlooked by those seeking the iconic paintings and sculpture harbored within its walls.

Having seen Venus de Milo in a far different venue, I did want to see her “at home,” so made a point of seeking her out, only to be thwarted once again by the surging crowds that surrounded my quarry. Although she stood head and shoulders above the mob, I was unable to get close enough to enjoy her flowing lines, to consider the torque and how the balance of her form might have been affected by the extension of her now-missing arms, or to circumnavigate her pedestal to fully enjoy her from all sides, as I had when I saw her in Tokyo many years ago.

There was far more in the Louvre that I still wanted to see. But I left the museum feeling that the very size and reputation of the Louvre had become detrimental to its function.

Like an exquisite food, fine art needs to be savored a bite at a time. After a few investigative tastes, a diner no longer appreciates the delicacy as much as those first few delicious bites might seem to promise. The Louvre provides a veritable smorgasbord of artistic delights. But the glut of masterpieces, the flocking crowds, and aching feet suggest that, even for those of us who are far removed from Paris and don’t know if or when we’ll ever return, the Louvre is more effectively taken as small, repeatable snacks than as an extended feast.