Monday, August 22, 2005


Ten years ago today - still Paris

The penultimate entry in my great Canadian Eurotour 1995 travel journal.

9:15 pm, 21 August 1995
Pont Neuf (again)

Here I am, setttled in at my favourite Parisian perch, the Pont Neuf, watching the sun set.

Had an amazing day today: spent 9.5 hours (from 10:30 am until 8 pm) in the Louvre - I loved it! I became completely enthralled with some of the galleries and totally lost track of time. I really paced myself, even took breaks occasionally to keep my perspective fresh.

My favourite gallery, I think, was the one exhibiting Jacques Louis David and (?) Ingres. David's "Coronation of Napoleon" is breathtaking - it's absolutely massive! My audio-guide quotes Napoleon as saying "It's not a painting - you walk right in." It's true! I've never felt so drawn into a painting before. The vibrant red of Josephine's cloak, and the shimmering movement of it; the light and shadow on the teal-blue steps; the imperious expression on Napoleon's face - it's incredible, even moreso that it's so alive so many years later. The same room also houses two paintings called "The Rape of the Sabines" and "The Oath of the Horatii". I knew both of these from my prior studies, but was shocked by the sheer size of them, especially "The Oath". Huge doesn't cover it, and a textbook reprint doesn't do it near justice. I read somewhere that "The Coronation of Napoleon" took David three years to complete, and a guide for a tour passing through said David had an entire layout of miniatures made up and positioned to keep his memory of the event clear. Amazing.

In the same gallery were a series of paintings by Anne-Louis H something or other. I'd seen a pciture of one of them before and if I could remember the damn title this would be much easier. I have it back home. Anyway, I found this painting, neither whose title nor artist I can recall, quite haunting.

This particular gallery opened on to a stairway showcasing the "Winged Victory of Samothrace," an ancient Greek sculpture of massive proportions that (Beloved) had told me about . Down another staircase was the "Mona Lisa" but you had to be very patient, very persistent, and a little forceful to get anywhere near it. I entertained myself by taking pictures of the people taking pictures of the bullet-proof glass that shelters the "Mona Lisa". I was disgusted by the number of people who would hurry in, spot it, take a picture of it and run off like they were on some artistic scavenger hunt, without actually taking a half-decent look at it. Now, I'm no art snob, but really!

So I particularly liked French painting from the 19th century, and I really enjoyed the sculpture galleries, too; all the genres of sculpture from ancient Greece through Italian Renaissance and beyond. I'm surprised how easy it was to learn, and how much I learned. I really didn't expect to get that drawn in; I could go on for pages listing discoveries and things I'd always heard about, but I guess that's why I bought a book - to remember. I just wish it weren't so far away that I didn't have to feel like this may well be the only chance for me to see these things. I also wish I had someone to share all this with...

(Editor's note: the last two sentiments took care of themselves in July 1999 when I returned to Paris with Beloved on our honeymoon. Six years later, I think we're well overdue for another visit!)