Saturday, April 21, 2012

The Louvre
Art Essay

Marie-Therese Wisniowski

In Spring of 2000 I went to Paris (France not Texas!) We stayed at a small hotel not far from the University of Paris – the Sorbonne - and a stone’s throw away from the Louvre.

Universites De Paris.

A bottled blonde Marie-Therese at the Eiffel Tower!

Marie-Therese at the Arc de Triomphe.

Walking from the hotel, along the banks of the Seine, to the Louvre on a sunny but mild first day of Spring was just magic and of course, romantic. There was no music in the air, just the gentle hustle and bustle – the life hum - of a large city at peace with its own pace.

Marie-Therese along the banks of the Seine.

I remember going through the pyramid entrance of the Louvre and then meandering to the cloakroom. I knew I had to hand in my camera (as you do in all galleries and museums) only for the cloak clerk to ask - in a rather disappointed manner - “You don’t want to take photos?” Within one millisecond I snatched my camera from his hand and beamed a smile so wide it started to hurt!

Marie-Therese at the main entrance of the Louvre.


The Place
The government of the French revolution opened the doors of he Louvre to the public - in the same year Marie Antoinette was guillotined, 1793. The museum was the old Royal Palace of the Louvre in which French Kings resided from time to time since Phillippe Auguste II (1223) until Louis XVI.

The main entrance into the Louvre.

An exterior of the Louvre.

The greatest expansion was constructed under the auspices of Napoleon I (1815) and Napoleon III (1870). In 1993, the Richelieu wing of the museum was unveiled making the Louvre the largest museum in the world, with an exhibition area of nearly 60,000 square meters or 15 acres or 645,800 square feet. The main entrance was completely relocated and crowned with the glass pyramid designed by architect Mr. I.M. Pei.

Architectural history of the Louvre[1].

From its vast and comprehensive collection, the Louvre Museum displays consistently over 30,000 works of art, with three times that number being cataloged in its collection. The collection spans centuries of artistic excellence. The oldest artifact in the museum is 9,000 years old. It was discovered in Jordan in 1985. It is known as the "Statue from Ain Ghawn".

Statue from Ain Ghawn.

The annual running cost of the Louvre is in excess of 100 million euros. Whilst on the day that it opened admission was free, now a small fee for admission is charged (ca. 14 euros).


The People
The Louvre has had in excess of 50 million visitors since 2000 with ca. 5 million visitors annually. The museum tours in six languages for the international public. Its auditorium, since opening in 1989, has had over 1000 conferences and colloquia and has had well over 700,000 visitors.

French President Mitterand and Mr. Ieoh Ming Pei at the opening of the Glass Pyramid[1].

There are ca. 2000 employees involving ca. 40 different professions, including administrative staff, academic staff, museum education officers, security staff and others.

Ecole du Louvre is the higher teaching institution of the Ministry of Culture and Communication. It was founded in 1882 and today is situated in the Louvre’s Flore wing. It has ca. 2000 students and delivers seminars on art history, archeology, history of civilization and museology. It gives a variety of day and evening courses, conferences, and lectures for the general public.


The Stories: Art Theft Of The Century?
In August 23rd 1911 (a Monday when the Louvre was closed) Vincenzo Peruggia locked himself in the Louvre. He removed the Mona Lisa from its frame (which he disposed) and then carried the painting through the Grande Galerie and the Salle des Sept-Metres and down a small staircase that led to the courtyard containing the sphinx to the quayside on the Seine. Peruggia was a mirror maker, who worked in the museum and therefore knew his way around the Grande Galerie with its numerous mirrors. There was no trace of the painting for some time as Peruggia kept it in his lodgings at 5, rue de I’Hopital St.-Louis, in the false bottom of a suitcase.

Fictional illustration of Vincenzo Peruggia’s theft of the Mona Lisa from the Louvre[1].

In a naive response to an advertisement by Geri (a Florentine art dealer) Perguggia wrote offering the Mona Lisa, which was handed over to him in Florence on December 11th 1913. In the following weeks it was exhibited in Florence and then in Rome and Milan, before being return to Paris on January 1st 1914, where it was first exhibited at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts to raise funds for charitable works in Italy. It was finally returned to the Louvre on the 5th of January 1914. In the following year legal proceedings began against the thief, who claimed that as an Italian patriot, he wanted Mona Lisa to be returned to its birthplace.

During the Second World War the Louvre took the Mona Lisa from its frame, packed and stored it in a secret location.

Mona Lisa without its frame being packed in September of 1939[1].


The Collection
The collection of the Louvre is far too vast to do it any justice in this blog. Hence, one can only give at best a glimpse of some of the works on each floor. The selection of works was quite arbitrary (in fact random) with one proviso - I purposely avoided presenting here the more notable works. Nevertheless, no matter how you slice a profile of its collected works, each slice just whets your appetite for more. That is what a great collection does - it yields a never-ending education in art.

The basement houses the following: Oriental Antiques; Islamic Art; French Sculpture; Egyptian Antiquities; Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities; History of the Louvre; Medieval Louvre; Italian and Spanish Sculpture; North European Sculpture.

Titles glazed with floral patterns, Iznik, 16th Century, Basement Room A.

The carpet of Mantas, North Western Iran, end of 16th Century, Wool, 783 x 379 cm.

Plate with peacock decoration from Iznik, mid 16th century, fired clay with transparent glaze, diameter 22 cm, Basement Room 12.

The first floor contains: Oriental Antiquities; Egyptian Antiquities; Greek, Etruscan and Roman Antiquities; French Sculpture; Italian and Spanish Sculpture; Northern European Sculpture; African, Asian, Oceanic and Native American Art.

Ginak, Prince of Edin-E. Sumerian, Northern Mesopotamia, 3rd Millenium B.C. Limestone, height 26 cm, First Floor Room 1.

Winged bull with human head, Chorsabad, ca. 706 B.C., Alabaster with plaster, height: 440 cm.

Statue of the Toury, 18th Dynasty (1550-1292 B.C.) Red ebony on a karite base, 33 x 7 x 17 cm.

The second floor exhibits: Decorative Arts; Egyptian Antiquities; Greek, Etruscan and Roman Antiquities; French Painting, Italian Painting; Spanish Painting, Italian Drawings.

Antonella da Messina, Portrait of A Man, “II condottiere,” 1475, oil on wood, 35 x 28 cm.

Titian (Tiziano Vecellio) (1488/1490 – 1576). The Man With The Glove. ca. 1520-1522. Oil on canvas, 100 x 89 cm.

Lambert Sustris (ca. 1520 - after 1591), Venus And Cupid ca. 1554, oil on canvas, 132 x 184 cm.

Finally, the third floor contains: French painting; German, Finnish, and Dutch Painting; French Drawings; German, Flemish, and Dutch Drawings.

Frans Hals (ca. 1581-1666), The Gypsy Girl, 1626, oil on wood, 57.8 x 52.1 cm.
Note: There are very few portraits with the subject smiling.

Jacob Jordaens (1593-1678) The Four Evangelists, ca. 1620, oil on canvas, 134 x 118 cm.

Hendrick Terbrugghen (1588-1629) The Duet, 1628, oil on canvas, 106 x 82 cm.


Reference:
[1] Art & Architecture, The Louvre, G. Bartz and E. Konig, Konemann, Cambridge (2005).

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