Friday, July 21, 2017

Sabbatical Day 6, Part 1 - Morning at the Louvre

Saturday, 10 June 2017

Treasure Hunt
We returned to the Louvre, this morning, and I got to make my "Everybody spells it wrong, the first time" joke about the Denon Pavilion with some new people. Coco and Gwen seemed to be taking deep breaths as the guide for our museum treasure hunt chuckled politely.

We were one of two families participating. The other, also from America, included a dad and very competitive mom, a boy about 8 and another about 14, the latter son seeming distinctly disinterested in this project.

The object of the hunt was to locate and photograph (with one of your group in the photo) artworks described in a pictorial guide. The group was required to stay together; if your opponent group should see anyone in your group more than ten feet from the rest, they could take a photo of the gap in order to dock you 10 points per foot apart! No running, no internet, no GPS, no asking Louvre employees for directions. We agreed to a 90-minute hunt; overtime would cost 2 points per minute.

Maps were essential for locating the works. Gwen thought that a selfie stick (sold for €1 from vendors ALL OVER the grounds) would be another essential. But, no, we couldn't stop to purchase one on our way in. We had "skip the line" tickets and were descending the Pyramid into the museum before anything could even be argued about it.

The matter of a selfie stick was not something that was introduced, today. We had argued several times daily about it, ever since Gwen had seen them for sale on a loop of a hawker's belt when we took that long walk with the longer pause in Notre-Dame on Tuesday. In weaker moments, she would insist that a selfie stick would be all she would ask for, for her birthday - which, admittedly, would have made for a very, very affordable birthday, but her mother said I couldn't take her up on it.

Coco and I explained that we thought selfie sticks, though maybe helpful for people her size to extend their arms for a good image, nevertheless were making the teeming others who owned them look rather self-absorbed. And unstable: I personally saw numerous folk tripping or stumbling, ignorant of their immediate surroundings, as they would try to take personal snapshots. Sometimes, they even struck others as they would swing around to find the perfect angle.

We did fine without a selfie stick, by the way.

We spotted enough artworks on our list to get ourselves 110 points. The opposing family got 20 more points. This was in part because they were missing a couple of pages from their guidebook and, although they didn't find as much as we did, we elected to disregard the works on the pages they were missing from our own part of the hunt. It was also because the 14-year-old, catching the spirit of the snapshot rally, decided that he would pose as different characters in the paintings when the photos were snapped. His pose as one of the dogs in Caliari's The Wedding Feast at Cana pushed them over the top. (All I did was to wave hello from beyond the gathered crowd.)

The works that were listed in our guidebook were certainly interesting. It was downright exciting to share space with the Mona Lisa and several other works that we had only seen in textbooks or on coffee tables.

One in particular, Leonardo's St. John the Baptist, smiles like the Mona Lisa. But, unlike her smile which I have always perceived as flirtatious, John's causes him to seem bemused by the attention of the artist. He points with his right hand over his left shoulder as if to say, "You think I'm something? You ought to get a load of the guy who's coming up behind me!"

An old TV series I had watched recently on YouTube, Basil Davidson's Africa, noted that the depiction of Africans in medieval and Renaissance art had usually presented them in ways that indicate that Africans and Europeans of that era simply regarded one another as people from different parts of the world. People with dark skin are shown as authority figures and servants and everything in between. Coco decided to make the tour of the Louvre galleries something of an exploration of the Black figure in art. She found numerous examples, in 90 minutes. The following photos are not an exhaustive representation of her discoveries:

The Moor, restored in the early 1600s
by Nicolas Cordier from an ancient Roman statue

Study: Adoration of the Magi, Bernardino Luini, 1520

Study: Christ Carrying the Cross, Biagio d'Antonio, 1466

Study: Women of Algiers (Eugene Delacroix, 1834)

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