Sabbatical in a Teacup: Day Eleven. Who Doesn’t Love the Louvre?


Raise your hand if a piece of artwork has ever truly moved you. I mean really, brought you to tears, made you laugh, made you think or stopped you in your tracks. OK, GO!

Anyone? Anyone at all? No one? Ferris? Ferris Beuller? No, seriously, it’s OK. I never appreciated art until I was forced to take an elective in ‘Art Appreciation’ at DU. I thought it was a fluff course, but it was one of those unexpected game changers.

After that quarter I gained a new appreciation for what we humans need to let our imaginations take flight. Michelangelo, Raphael, and Da Vinci took on a whole new meaning as a very patient professor from DU’s school of Art and Art history explained the meaning of themes, terms and the cultural context of many very important works.

I mean, think about it. Imagine, if you will, life without the constant influx of images and data we have streaming at us every single day of our lives. Imagine, instead, standing in line in Rome to pay your penny to see this:

There are uncountable versions of this scene of Jesus turning the water in to wine at the wedding supper.

There are uncountable versions of this scene of Jesus turning the water in to wine at the wedding supper. Yep, that’s Rachael’s cute little head. 

I get the biggest kick out of this one though, because if you really study it, you notice all kinds of interesting details. Like this one, a detail of Jesus’ face:

A couple of things. First off, he just seems bored silly to me! Secondly, a brunette, fair-skinned Jesus? HA!

A couple of things. First off, he just seems bored silly to me! Secondly, a brunette, fair-skinned Jesus? HA!

If you Google  this Raphael, and get a bigger and better shot, you’ll notice that he set this “Water into Wine” picture in the context of 15th century gentry. I find this to be hilarious. On the left, are all sorts of bejewelled upper class. On the right, a few peons are allowed at the table. To Jesus’ right, you see Mother Mary, presumably dropping the hint that the guests are complaining the bar is running dry.

All of his works were commissioned, of course, so the man had obligations. He had to make his patrons look good, and make Jesus seem like part of the nobility. As I went through the exhibition with the girls, the various versions of Jesus really jumped out at me. One, a gentle looking boy with a staff. Another, a very wise looking baby gazing adoringly at Mary. (How come mine never gazed adoringly at me? Wait, no, they did if I had a cookie in my hand.) Another was even blonde!

Ha! Can you imagine? In America, the real flesh and blood Jesus would be stopped at the airport, pulled into an interview room, strip searched and profiled as an Arab terrorist. I mean, really.

Still though, you had to give it to these men. Typical Italians at the time travelled very little. They had few diversions, and devotion to Jesus was chief among them. Looking at these marvelous pictures no doubt gave them conversation for weeks. Here’s one that especially blew my mind.

This thing is a TAPESTRY. Incredible! It's called 'The Sacrifice at Lystra' and shows when Peter and Paul heal a cripple. The passersby mistake them for gods and try to offer them sacrifices. They get miffed.

This thing is a TAPESTRY. Incredible! It’s called ‘The Sacrifice at Lystra’ and shows when Peter and Paul heal a cripple. (Far left corner) The passersby mistake them for gods and try to offer them sacrifices. They get miffed, they want to give the glory to God, not men. Right on. 

I can hardly imagine that. Right beside this enormous piece of fabric which decorated one of the apartments at the Vatican, was Raphael’s ‘cartoon’ of this piece. A ‘Cartoon’ is basically the painting, then given to the weavers, who wove this painting into a piece of material. With thread and things. I can hardly wrap my mind around that kind of skill.

Raphael, was, well, just terrific.

Raphael, was, well, just terrific.

15th century marble sculpture just fascinates me. I think the only thing more beautiful is the human soul. And this goofy trio, of course.

15th century marble sculpture just fascinates me. I think the only thing more beautiful is the human soul. And this goofy trio, of course.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Raphael was a genial, popular painter who had a large studio and a devoted following. He supposedly died of a fever gained from too many (eh-hem) ‘amorous pursuits’ at 37. That was youngish, even 500 years ago!

Master Da Vinci painted the cheerful Lisa Giocondo, or La Jaconde, and she seemed almost anticlimatic, compared to these giant rooms full of master artworks.

She seems like a cheerful sort.  Apparently she was happily married, and had a child before this picture was commissioned.

She seems like a cheerful sort. Apparently she was happily married, and had a child before this picture was commissioned.

This is the entrance to the Louvre. At first glance, it looks grotesquely out of place. But once inside, it all seems to work.

This is the entrance to the Louvre. At first glance, it looks grotesquely out of place. But once inside, it all seems to work.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Overall, though, it was an exhausting, but wonderful break.

Part of the point of Sabbatical in a Teacup is to find out what there is in the world that fascinates me still. A day at the Louvre is really one of the most relevant things for a person like me.

See, when I am in my usual environs, I notice things. I’ve been a teacher for a long time now, and things like distances have  changed during the 26 years I’ve been teaching.

Distance between ignorance and knowledge. It seems to be harder to get kids to really ‘know’ something now. I mean to internalize and benefit by something, like a piece of artwork.

Distance between loved ones is another. It’s hard to hold someone’s hand if it has an iphone in it, for example.

Paradoxically, distance between cultures has both shortened and lengthened. I can call China right now for pennies. I can step outside onto the Rive Gauche right now and find an all night cafe and write.

But no one will bother me with the impenetrable screen up. I will be left alone, and the distance between me and that grandmotherly French woman at the table next to me will seem enormous.

But put away the screens, and even leave my purse at the hotel. Wrap up in a pashmina scarf, or three, and stick some Euros in my pocket. Grab a kid or two, and see if we can’t make ourselves understood to the French cabbie.

After a few minutes of pidgin French, an elderly gentleman cabbie slowly explained to me, in both English and French, that he could take me to the Quartier Latin for a cinema, and that he had family in Colorado Springs, and what was the capital of Colorado, and did I like Paris.

Poof! Distance eradicated. I think I see a dissertation in there somewhere.

To be continued. Train to Nice tomorrow.

Much love,

Victoria

 

 

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6 thoughts on “Sabbatical in a Teacup: Day Eleven. Who Doesn’t Love the Louvre?

  1. I had two conversations in the supermarket and one in the library today. It is possible. And in Malta I was sitting on a bench, and a man had to try very hard, with several remarks, before he could start a conversation with me.

    I first was moved by a painting by The Day of Judgement by John Martin in Tate Britain, and then by a poster of The Adoration of the Magi by Brueghel when I was a student. (I was an insufferable student). It started as a pose, and suddenly it came to life for me, in an instant, and moved me.

    Oh, and would you mind changing, er, that word?

    There you are in the most wonderful city, and you take time to talk to us. You must be an addict like me!

    Like

    • Good heavens Clare, “The Day of His Wrath? “Remarkable! I just saw it. Thank you. “Adoration of the Magi” is a favorite of mine too, much more real. How delightful that you take the time to cross the distance from one person to another. I wonder what else Jesus really asks of us? And please! Pardon me! I am most embarrassed, and will change the word right now. Apologies offered! 🙂
      Much love,

      Victoria

      Like

      • Small addenda though, dear heart. I kept “the word” in the mouths of my children. I shall train them accordingly, but apparently it is not derogatory in the mouth of a US college child. I feel as though it lends authenticity to the essay, but I will make sure they don’t use it anymore. Does that work for you? 🙂

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  2. Many years ago, Eric and I went to Florence, Italy and walked into the museum there where many of Michaelangelo’s works were on display. Before we went, I couldn’t figure out why Eric was SO insistent that we go. But then we rounded a corner and I saw Michaelangelo’s David. I had seen photographs of this famous statue many times, but when I saw it in real life, I had to sit down. I am not kidding – it had that kind of an impact on me. The precision with which he created that statue amazes me even now – all these years later. And just thinking about it creates a sense of awe – that a human being could create something so beautiful.

    Had to share….that memory flooded me as I read your introductory paragraph.

    Blessings….Joy

    Like

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