Tuesday, February 28, 2012
We pass by the Musée Cluny almost every day as we walk down the Boulevard Saint Michel to get breakfast or lunch or as we make our way to our day's adventure. The Cluny holds tapestries, sculptures, stained glass, illuminated manuscripts and artifacts spanning over fifteen centuries. I believe this is my favorite museum. While it's not as mind-blowingly big as the Louvre or the Musée d’Orsay or even the Centre Pompidou, I like the almost cathedral-like quietness that some of the rooms have. I think I like it so much because it is dedicated to a period of particular interest to me, the Middle Ages. The modern world evolved from this era, and yet it is so different from our society.
I was surprised to see an illuminated manuscript that was not the Bible. Instead, the audio guide told a (probably exaggerated) story of Prince Gaston, who was the only legitimate heir of a French king, whose name I can’t recall. To solidify his claim to the throne, he asked his mother to return to court. When he could not convince her to do so, he procured a love potion from another member of the royal family. That way his mother and father would fall back in love and he would come back to court. However, Gaston did not know that he had been given poison instead. Luckily, his bastard brother figured out it was poison, but Gaston was thrown in the dungeon. There, Gaston refused to eat until he was released. The king went to visit him to try to understand what was going on. They argued and their fight escalated until the king was holding a knife to his heir’s throat. Then the king accidently sliced Gaston’s windpipe. The audio guide did not say what happened afterwards, but I guess they found another king.
One of the most beautiful rooms in the museum is the stained glass exhibit. They come from churches all over France and mostly depict Bible scenes, and tell the stories through pictures. The colors are so dark and rich, and while they lack dimension, they still have life.
Fragments of statues may not sound interesting, but I was entranced by the pieces from Notre Dame and other cathedrals. The ones I remember best were the heads of the Kings of Judah, with the worn paint still coloring the eyes and cheeks. The statues used to line the façade on Notre Dame, but Revolutionaries cut off they head, believing they belonged to French kings.
The most famous piece in the museum is The Lady and the Unicorn, a series of tapestries depicting a unicorn hunt. Five of the tapestries depict the senses of taste, hearing, sight, smell and touch. The sixth and last one shows the lady giving up worldly things, such as the five senses in order to be more devoted to king (represented by the powerful lion) and God (represented by the ethereal unicorn). The amount of work that the detail on the tapestries required is staggering. The animals and plants depicted range from local dogs to exotic monkeys. The lady’s dress and facial expression is different in every tapestry. Showing a picture of the tapestry would not do them justice, because they have to be seen.
When you walk into the Notre Dame cathedral and look up and to the left, you will see a beautiful, complex, and old work of stained glass. The window is of the Gothic style, and set the pattern for many other rose windows. The window was completed around 1225, and has remained mostly unchanged since that time. The central image is of the Virgin Mary and an infant Christ, surrounded on all sides by prophets and saints. It is thought to be a depiction of the Last Judgment, a Christian belief that one day God will judge the people of all nations and a new world will be created.
Thursday, February 23, 2012
The Louvre was gigantic. There are tons of things to be seen, so we can't upload pictures of everything we saw, and it would have taken us days and days just to pass through all of its exhibits entirely. We saw ancient Greek, Roman, and Egyptian art, as well as the famous La Joconde - otherwise known as the Mona Lisa. We couldn't see nearly as much of the Louvre as we would have liked, but it was fantastic, all the same!
The outside of the Louvre! The pyramids were controversial when they were first built.
The inside of the Louvre is as much a work of art as the oeuvres within!
The Mona Lisa/La Joconde
Napoleon crossing the Alps
The Winged Victory of Samothrace
A golden burial mask
Part of a huge statue of a pharaoh
Venus de Milo, or Aphrodite
2-22-2010We were inspired by the brilliant colors and detail we saw in the cathedrals, with large stained-glass windows that were either colorful patterns or detailed mosaics that told stories. Old paintings were preserved in many churches that honored the story of the saints, and statues of saints stood outside of many cathedrals, and they were often gilded. We admired the Gothic styles of the cathedrals themselves, such as vaulted ceilings and sophisticated supporting columns.
Top: Older Stained Glass (the Rose window of Notre Dame)
Bottom: Newer Stained Glass
We also made time to admire the street art that had been added to the exteriors of buildings, here and there, along the streets. Many of them were embellished words or phrases, stylized with spray-paint shading and lighting details, and others were full pictures, such as the one below. We enjoyed seeing the current trends in street art, and noticed several recurring phrases and pictures that seemed to be drawn from the same artist. One such phrase was "Regarde le ciel," which translates from French as either "Look at the sky," or "Look to heaven."
2-23-2012Today, we looked through the Louvre museum. This museum has a large collection of art from many different parts of the world including Greece, Egypt, and the Middle East. We saw the different rooms of Napoleon, lavishly decorated to display extreme wealth and opulence. He had collected many forms of art including statues, embroideries, painting, and china dishes.
Painting in Napolean's room
Tapestry from Napolean's room
2-24-2012We looked through the museum Centre Pompidou. In here we saw more modern art which challenged traditional ideals of art. Some arts were rather simple but yet complex because they could be interpreted in diverse ways.The building itself was also a work of art where instead of hiding all the structural support for the building, it remained exposed.
Tapestry of used bottle caps
Art made from chains
2-25-2012The Musée d'Orsay is a large museum, converted from a train station, that celebrates the Impressionist period in art. Impressionism was art based on lighting and perspective of the subject, based on the feeling or "impression" that it gave. Arts from here included Van Gogh, Monet, and Manet. Many of the paintings depicted humans and landscapes with different parts emphasized through the lighting. The sculptures were mostly of the human body.
Starry Night (Van Gogh)
Les Glaneuses, or "The Gleaners" (Francois Millet)
2-26-2012We visited the Musée de l'Orangerie. This museum also housed Impressionist arts. In this museum there were eight large and very impressive water lily paintings by Monet which took up the walls of four rooms. By the time Monet painted these, he was very old with declining sight, so he had to step back from the works often, and he used a long brush to paint these. Later on in this museum, we saw other Impressionist art along with Post-Impressionist art such as the early works of Picasso.
Musée de l'Orangerie
One of the eight large water-lily murals by Monet
2-27-2012We visited the Musée Cluny, hardly believing that our time in Paris was more than half over. In this museum, we saw medieval artwork including stained glass, sculptures, paintings, and tapestries. One of the most famous of tapestries, the Lady and the Unicorn, can be found here. Tapestries were hung to keep drafts from leaking through castle walls, but the staggering beauty and detail of them was very inspiring because it took a group of people years to finish one. Most of the stained glass depicted a scene from the Bible along with different saints.
Musée de Cluny
Lady and the Unicorn