June 19, 2018

Paris: City of Art

by Rosemary

The Louvre is the world's largest art museum. It wouldn't be possible to see it all in a day, or even a week. Most people coming here have a few things in mind, and the one thing nearly everyone is looking for is Leonardo da Vinci's "Mona Lisa." Paper signs throughout the museum help them find the way.

It isn't possible to get close to poor Mona. She's behind a big sheet of bulletproof glass, and a railing keeps visitors several feet away. If you can work your way to the front of the crowd to get a look and snap a picture, Mona is obscured by the reflections of all the tourists ogling her and aiming their cellphones.

In the meantime, the museum has other paintings by da Vinci, hanging in the hallway where you can walk right up to them. This painting of John the Baptist has a familiar look.

Another crowd-pleaser is "Venus de Milo." Somehow we managed to snap a photo that looks as though no one else was there, but there were actually hundreds of people crowding around.

The Louvre was once a royal palace, and it still has those impressive ceilings.

The Louvre was renovated in the 1980s, and a new entrance, the "Louvre Pyramid" designed by I.M. Pei, was added.

The many hours we spent at the Louvre were just the beginning of our art tour. Our next museum was the Orsay, a former train station that now holds one of the world's largest collections of impressionist and post-impressionist paintings, as well as many other works by (mostly) French artists.

Vincent Van Gogh and a starry night.

For something completely different, there is the Pompidou Centre, a repository of modern and contemporary art. We liked this one:

"Chopin's Waterloo" by Arman

Unfortunately, the Pompidou is mostly about the kind of thing that convinces people modern art isn't really art. It seems that museums never get tired of insulting our intelligence with things like this:

It doesn't matter who painted it or what it's called.

The Metro station near the Rodin Museum contains a preview, reproductions of two of Rodin's most famous sculptures, "The Thinker" and "Monument to Balzac".

The Rodin Museum is housed in the former Hôtel Biron, where Rodin had his workshop for several years. There is a large sculpture garden, and the rooms contain most of Rodin's works, along with his collection of impressionist paintings and other items. Rodin often made many copies of the same sculpture, sometimes in different sizes or groupings. A small version of "The Thinker" appears near the top of "The Gates of Hell," as do many others of his notable works.

The Petit Palais may not be as well-known as some of the other art museums, but it houses an excellent collection of paintings, sculptures, furnishings, and art objects.

After more than 250 years, this ornate clock still keeps accurate time.

We took some time to relax, sitting in front of this Claude Monet painting of sunset on the Seine.

We took a day trip to the Palace of Versailles, once the principal residence of French kings (a long line of guys named Louis). After the French Revolution of 1789, most of the artwork was moved to the Louvre, and the furnishings were auctioned off. Restoration of the palace started in 1892, and is ongoing. The museum has spent a tremendous amount of money to repurchase as much of the original furnishings as possible. Versailles is a hugely popular tourist destination, so crowded that at times it is difficult to move through the rooms.

Hundreds of tourists line up, eager to get inside.

The apartments are lavishly decorated.

The crowd slowly makes its way into the Hall of Mirrors.

This is how the French royals liked to see themselves.

The gardens of Versailles cover nearly 2000 acres and include formal gardens, groves, lawns, fountains, and sculptures.

Back in town, art was on display seemingly around every corner.

"Triumph of Silenus" by Aime Jules Dalou in the Luxembourg Gardens.

The gate to the Palace of Justice.

Charles de Gaulle, strolling along the Champs Élysées.

The Arc de Triomphe (under renovation, like so many structures we saw).

"La Marseillaise" by François Rude, a sculpture on one of the Arc's pillars.

Nymphs on the Pont Alexandre III.

The goddess Victory atop a pillar at Place du Châtelet.

Fontaine Saint-Michel.

Stained glass dome in the Galeries Lafayette Haussmann department store.

Capital of a pillar in the church of Saint Germain des Prés.

Statue of Voltaire, somewhere near the Left Bank.

Sainte-Chapelle, completed in 1248, still has about two thirds of its original stained glass.

Carvings inside Notre Dame cathedral depict scenes from the life of Jesus.

We were surprised to see that the stained glass windows inside Notre Dame can be opened for ventilation.

We spent two busy weeks in Paris. Perhaps we'll have the chance to come back someday soon to enjoy even more of this great city.

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