Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Paris' Best #1: The Louvre (Denon)

 We first entered the Denon area of the Louvre. This area covers Greek, Roman, and Italian sculpture as well as French and Italian paintings. Since I am a big sculpture fan, we always make sure to give that a spot towards the top of our must-see list. Other must-sees in this area include the Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo (aka Aphrodite). Since we entered the Louvre just after noon, the pictures you see here were mostly taken between noon and 2 PM. You'll notice that I won't focus much on the names or dates associated with the objects - there is so much to see that I tried to focus on the beauty the object possessed, then we moved on.
It is interesting that we entered some rooms that were virtually empty - as the one shown here - and others that were overwhelmed. I'm not sure how that happens, since we rarely encountered tour groups in the Louvre. In any case, the quiet rooms were much easier to photograph, though a few persons in the picture are always nice to add scale and visual interest.
 You may think that you will visit one floor at a time and complete your tour in a nice, orderly fashion. Let me bust your bubble on that one: several areas are temporarily close which will force you to use stairways to a different floor or backtrack a great deal through rooms you've already seen. Usually, we chose to switch floors and, therefore, saw things in a haphazard order.
 As was I, people seemed to particularly taken with this sculpture. It is very detailed, very well proportioned, and very unusual. Unlike painting where often a mistake can be removed or painted over, creating a sculpture is so final. Every propotion must be carefully chipped away and every chip removed is permanent.
 I must admit I've never seen an artist at work creating a sculpture, but would love to see that one day. The 3-D aspect of it fascinates me, as there are so many facets and angles that must be considered when laying out the design, and virtually every one of those angles must have a high degree of appeal. When those plans come to fruition in such an amazing way as this, I stand in awe.
 Finally, we moved on to a long narrow room that holds Italian paintings. Since there were benches along the center of this room, people tended to mill about and take a load off their feet for awhile. From our last trip, we knew that entering this room meant that the Mona Lisa was just around the next corner, to the right.
 Here is the view upon entering the Mona Lisa room. If you look verrry closely, you will see the Mona Lisa almost dead center in the photo - just above the man with the white shirt. I'm not sure why this exact setting was chosen as the surrounding paintings make the Mona Lisa look downright small in comparison. The only thing I can figure is that this room can get very crowded with people wanting to see the Mona Lisa, so the room had to be large, lending itself to larger paintings.
 There are many safeguards around the Mona Lisa. First, you can see from the bottom of this photo that the area near the painting is roped off...this photo is about as close as you can get to it without being at a severe angle. Second, there is a pane of glass in front of the Mona Lisa (something I wished they would do more often with all the crazies out there). Third, there are several discreet guards watching everything (see just to the left of Laura's head). People seem to go absolutely bonkers over this painting. We had to wait about two minutes for people to move enough for Laura to get up to the rope. The gentleman to the right (see his arm) was taking photo after photo with his pocket camera, waiting about 15 seconds before each snap. He was zoomed in so close that only the painting was in the pic (he's gonna get a better shot than the 10 million other photos of the Mona Lisa...). To the left of Laura was a woman busy text messaging all of her closest friends (probably "guess where I'm standing??") not even looking at the painting. Couldn't that be done on the other side of the room? We took 30 seconds to snap a picture and look at the Mona Lisa a few seconds, then made room for others by walking away. Sheesh.

And man does my wife look tired.  No more staying at the bars until the wee hours of the morning before we go to the Louvre.  We've done that twice now!!
 Another area in Denon had room after room of busts that I photographed. The photos turned out well, but the composition was lacking so I won't show them here. One that is worth presenting is this photo of the ceiling in one of the rooms. Once again, I sneak a little bit of Laura into the picture (I can't resist!!).
 As soon as we walked behind the Mona Lisa room, there were several rooms with French paintings and wonderfully ornate ceilings. Some of these paintings were huge - probably well over 30 or 40 feet on a side - but for some reason I only captured one painting on the camera. This beauty is no more than 5 feet tall, which is a more reasonable scale for appreciation unless you're standing 50 feet away.
 Another one of the gorgeous ceilings in this area. The height in many of these rooms started to make me dizzy, so I got adept at simply tilting the camera up, instead of my entire head. I suppose we should have taken the time to read the plaques describing these things, but everything was in French and therefore a real struggle to read.
 This is the Apollo Gallery and, since I unfortunately brought my older Olympus C-5060 camera which has problems in low light, these photos did not come anywhere near capturing the true beauty of the room...if you're interested, search out other photos on the net with google ("Apollo Gallery Louvre"). Started in 1661 and completed in 1851, this gallery was the work of over 20 artists and served as an example for the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles. This room underwent a major rennovation in 2001.
 The Apollo Gallery holds the French Crown Jewels including Louis XIV's stones. On display are the 140 carat Regent diamond, the 53 carat Sancy diamond, and the 105 carat Cote de Bretagne ruby.
 Light is carefully controlled in this room and it is typically very warm. There are many floor vents pumping in vast amounts of cool air, so I usually stand right over a vent! This room usually quite busy, as the view into it from the corridor is very inviting
 And though we always make a point of visiting our favorite lady, it always seems that we end up stumbling upon her almost by accident. The last time we saw the Venus de Milo, the room was absolutely packed - not much fun. But this time, there were only 20 to 30 people in the room so I wainted for a clearing in the view and snapped this photo. Personally, I think they could create a better backdrop for this unrivaled creation (who thought a white wall would look best behind her?), but what do I know. The woman to the rear actually added quite a bit to the composition.
 This is the room that leads to the Venus de Milo - you can see her at the very back if you look closely. Again, during our last visit there must have been 100 people in this foyer. This time, there was about 7. We always stumble upon her through a side door and leave via this foyer - that's probably why I put this photo after the close-up of the VdM.
 And finally, I wanted to show Gwen that not all rooms at the Louvre were lightly populated. Look at the mass of people in this room! I'm not sure why they all gathered here, but the chatter level was quite high. I took several photos while walking through, but nothing really noteworthy when I examined them back home.
 One area that is consistently busy is the approach to Winged Victory of Samothrace. This is because of it's location: it is at the juncture of 3 sets of stairs, in other words, it is a major intersection within the Denon area. Also called the Nike of Samothrace, this is a third century B.C. marble statue of the Greek goddess Nike (Victory). It has been displayed at the Louvre since 1884.
At it's original location in the third century B.C., it occupied a niche in an open-air amphitheater within view of the ship monument of Demetrius I Poliorcetes. Well, that's our tour of the Denon area. Again, we've only shown you a fraction of what is here, but it should give you a fair idea of what to expect. Next, we'll explore the Sully area.

Photos in this post: Olympus C-5060


Jazz said...

I loved the Louvre. I went in at opening time and was startled to hear "The museum is closing" many hours after...

Thanks for stopping by my blog. It's nice to see new faces.

Sandy said...

J - these photos are fantastic and really gives one a great idea of what it all looks like, for one (that would be me) who has never been there. I enlarged each photo and was so amazed by the beauty everywhere, the sculptures, paintings, jewels, floors, ceilings, Laura, other people. It was extremely interesting to take this tour through your camera lens.

Your commentary with each photo was great and enjoyed learning from you.



Gwen Buchanan said...

Really enjoying your tour of the Louvre... Thank you so much.. interesting to hear about your up close experience with Mona!!