Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Art of Paris

On our second full day in Paris we visited two museums, the Cluny Museum of the Middle Ages and the Louvre. We purchased a two-day museum pass to enable us to visit multiple museums in one day. But we discovered that two is about the family limit, though I could easily go to three, I think.

Our day began with the Musee National du Moyen Age at Cluny. There we discovered some beautiful artwork, and of course lots of armor and medieval weapons. With Jacob and Isaiah's interest in the Middle Ages, we knew we would need to go here, plus it was within easy walking distance of our apartment.

A surprise find was the Lady and the Unicorn tapestries, a beautiful series of tapestries, one for each sense, and then finally a sixth sense, that of love. They are housed together in a room and they are the kind of thing where you can just sit and look at them for a long time. Each tapestry includes a lion, a lady, and a unicorn. There is a way in which the sixth tapestry represents the lady transcending the five senses and saying that there is something more to life than what you can see, hear, touch, taste, or smell. Harry Potter fans may be interested in knowing that the Lady and the Unicorn tapestry can be seen in the Gryffindor common room in the movies.

We rested a little while back in the apartment before going to the famous Louvre Museum. The thing to say about this museum of fine art is that it is astonishingly huge. I think it was once a palace of the kings of France, and for that matter probably much of the artwork belonged to them as well. But after the revolution it was nationalized and shared with the public. It goes on and on, and it includes a wide array of sculptures as well as paintings. The pieces go to about 1850.

We wanted to make sure that we saw the great masterpieces. We did not bring a camera because I think there are usually plenty of examples of the artwork accessible on the web. I don't see any reason to photograph it again, with me in front of it. But if you follow the Louvre's the Masterpieces of the Louvre Trail, you will see some of what we saw. We did not see all of these and of course we saw many more. We did see the Louvre's famous ladies, the Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo, and Winged Victory of Samathrace. Because we went on Wednesday evening, when the museum is open late, we didn't have problems with long lines, and this in mid-July. We didn't even have to wait to see the Mona Lisa. There was a crowd, but within a few minutes we were at the front. The thing to say about the Mona Lisa is that it is small, and they don't let you get that close. Apparently it has been attacked by acid and one time was knifed. That explains why they search you before you enter the museum. Still it was great to see.

I perhaps enjoyed the most the The Wedding Feast at Cana, number three in the masterpieces trail. It shows the moment when the water is turned to wine and there is something about the way Jesus is portrayed, knowing that he is now revealed and there is no turning back from this path. It is a moment of enlightenment and recognition for Jesus. There is a resoluteness and serenity to it, but also a sense of crossing a threshold. This is it.

There are many, many religious paintings at the Louvre, especially since it focuses on earlier art. What surprised me is how often seeing these paintings led me and the boys to religious discussions. They wanted to know what these images portrayed, and it led to many serious discussions about Bible stories and religious issues. I hadn't expected that from a museum in Paris. I was also surprised at what they didn't know and realized that I need to work harder on helping them to know the Bible and its stories.

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