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Saturday, February 6, 2010

Musee du Louvre

Before arriving at the Louvre, I expected that I would enter from the plaza above and descend through the famed glass pyramid into the lobby of the museum. However, the Metro dropped me off somewhere else and following signs, I made my way through the underground mall into the lobby. Doing so I was able to pass under the inverted glass pyramid hanging from the ceiling which was very enjoyable to look at even though I had misconceptions about it and thought it was closer to the lobby.

Anyway, upon entering the lobby I was 1000x more grateful for my museum pass than ever. The crowds were huge, unlike anything I was expecting. It was a Friday night after all. Bypassing the massive crowds waiting in line to purchase their ticket, I entered the wing that pointed to the Mona Lisa. The DaVinci painting was certainly one thing I wanted to see and I figured I'd get it, and it's crowd, out of the way before seeing the rest of the place.

What to say about the Mona Lisa? While very nice to actually see in person, it would have been nicer if I actually saw it. Because of it's high popularity and the fact that it's been stolen before, you can't get closer than 15-20 feet and even then the painting is behind glass/plastic therefore reflecting the room's lights and everyone's camera flashes so that it becomes quite obnoxious.

The Mona Lisa isn't that large to begin with, just an average portrait size, so being put back so far makes enjoying her impossible. You can't look at colors or brush strokes. You would do better looking at a copy of it on your computer or in books or even a print out for a production of Annie.

Add in the fact that I don't like crowds 99% of the time, I was definitely not impressed with the Mona Lisa's presentation (Thanks, Louvre Management). I didn't have a chance to see the Mona Lisa to actually have an opinion on that actual painting.

Directly across from the Mona Lisa was an enormous canvas taking up an entire wall of Jesus eating dinner with people. It wasn't a Last Supper depiction but it looked a little similar to those kinds. I have no memory of who painted it or what it was called. It amused me though to see how such a grand painting like this was treated so differently from the tiny Mona Lisa. I then made my way through part of the Italian painting wing which would then lead me into the Egyptian and Etruscan art. While all the paintings were outstanding, a part of the museum I thought was fascinating was how the building itself was a piece of art. Each room was perfectly arranged and designed and the carvings in the walls and ceilings were intricate and beautiful. In the first few rooms I spent almost as much time staring at the ceiling as I did the paintings.

With almost all the paintings and artwork I viewed throughout my trip, I was in unflappable awe over the detail depicted in the works. Almost all featured humans or mythical creatures doing ordinary and extraordinary things and being able to see each muscle, hair, face and distinct action was amazing. I'm not really an art lover but I was, and still am, completely fascinated by how these works were created. In some ways, these inanimate canvases portray human behavior more accurately than film or television ever could. But more on that in a later post.

Moving on from the paintings, I made my way through the Egyptian, Greek, Roman and Etruscan collections. A lot of it was the same stuff over and over again so it didn't take too much time. However, the place is so huge that even if you walked without looking it would still take time to get from one place to the other. I even passed a couple sleeping on a bench so the place really tuckers you out.

And it's also very maze-like and I was came very close to being lost at one point. I wander through all the non-painting rooms that are on the ground and first floors and almost everything I see is spectacular. The rooms that are more spread out and have these giant statues in them are outstanding and I enjoyed them a lot.

I finally make my way to what I will call the indoor sculpture garden. It's a massive, open room with large glass windows and hundreds of sculptures placed throughout it's space. There are also side rooms attached with even more glorious pieces of art. This was one of my favorite places of the museum. It was quiet and still and each sculpture was different and unique therefore making the experience of viewing each one special. So awesome!

By this point though I was getting very tired. I'd been there about 2 hours and being on my feet the last two days was beginning to take its toll. Since I'd already seen a small portion of the paintings I decided I would skip the rest of those and instead see the Medieval ruins in the basement first and then go upstairs to Napoleon's apartments before calling it a night.

The Medieval Louvre area was both boring and interesting at the same time. While I was fascinated by the fact that there were this ancient wall from a former fortress under the museum, It was very uniform and simple and therefore didn't take much time to look at. Walking through it all was very cool, but besides its size, there was nothing else to drop your jaw at. Napoleon's apartments on the other hand were the exact opposite. If I'm not mistaken, the apartments in the Louvre provide visitors with examples of how Napoleon lavishly lived while ruling France. The 5 or 6 rooms are all massive, highly decorated and overwhelming to look at. Though absolutely gorgeous there is just so much going on that even taking your time isn't enough to soak it all in. There are paintings, chandeliers, draperies, other decorative art, elaborate furniture...a lot of stuff for one tiny little man.

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