Anyone who has read or seen “The Da Vinci Code” is familiar with this museum. The story starts here although the movie might have used other museums for interior shots. There are multiple ways of reaching this museum; cabs being least preferred while public transport the most opted. If you are using Metro, then you can walk right into the lower levels of the museum where there is an entrance near the famous inverted pyramid. If you walking into the museum from the ground level, then you use the new modified entrance which is shaped like a pyramid. You will also the see the arch in front of the museum. From the arch, you can also have a glimpse of Eiffel tower if the weather permits.
The museum charges a fee for access. But on the first Sundays of the month, the entrance fees are waived off. This is the case with all museums in Paris. Musee du Louvre consists of mainly three wings – Denon, Sully and Richelieu. It is difficult to cover all the three wings on the same day. One of my recent acquaintances remarked, “It was huge and we had to run to cover the entire museum”. The emphasis was on the word “cover”. He did not use the word “see”. If you are only interested in seeing the smiling chick, then go to the Denon wing. The chick comfortably rests on a wall in this wing; smiling tirelessly at the passers by. After spending 4 hours in the museum, I couldn’t even cover even the Denon wing. Fortunately for me, there will be other first Sundays of the month!
Art lover or not, you should go for the audio tour guide that is available at the lower level. It costs you 6 Euros. But the guide gives you a detailed description of the paintings – the styles, the history and comparisons. It was very useful for me. I discovered a lot of new things with the audio tour guide.
One of the most important discovery was the word “commission”. Till then, I was under the impression these great painters painted first. Selling was the next step. But it did not work that way. They were always commissioned to do a painting. So, in effect, the person who commissioned paid the expenses toward the painting.
Most of the earlier paintings are biblical. If the Bible could inspire so many artists, then it is indeed the greatest story ever told. But then, most of these paintings were commissioned by a church or someone related to the church. But one painting stood apart. It was painted by Raphael and titled La belle jardiniere. It has Madonna, infant Jesus and also infant Saint John the Baptist. The infant Jesus tries to pick the black book resting on Madonna’s lap. As this book contains the fate of Jesus, Madonna prevents Jesus in reaching and subsequently reading the book while Saint John the Baptist looks on. It is a very simple yet powerful depiction of a mother’s affection and concern for her offspring’s happiness.
Raphael also brings in another surprise. At his peak, he had many assistants working for him. He designs and the assistants execute. But it is hard to find the difference between his real work and that of his assistant’s. There goes the myths about outsourcing, mass production and possibly assembly line for highly technical work. Is he one of the pioneers?
The museum also houses the first commission of Leonardo Da Vinci titled La Vierge aux rochers. It is different from the colorful representations from the earlier eras. It might have been placed strategically to evoke emotions in the viewers. But when you walk past the painting, you immediately realize one thing. The painter has played with colors to give a strikingly different look than his contemporaries and predecessors.
Both Raphael and Da Vinci were Italian painters. The other discoveries were two French painters. The first was Delacroix and the painting was that of the liberty leading the people. Why is liberty depicted as a woman? Why do everyone define freedom as feminine? I always wonder! It was not liberty or the naked bust that caught my eyes. It was the small boy with two pistols. That pose will put even Sergio Leone to shame. The second painter is Gericault and the painting named La Radeau de la Meduse. Based on a contemporary event, this painting ruffled feathers in Paris. Moreover, Delacroix was inspired by Gericault. The figures in both the painting are shaped like a pyramid in addition to several shared characteristics.