Musée du Louvre
You have to forget her fame. You need to go inside the painting, see her naked expression, read her tender message and feel the outline of her delicate smile.
The worst time to visit Paris is during the heat of the summer. The months of June to August are when the city transforms from the romantic and cultural metropolis to a hundred and five square kilometers of Disneyland-ish theme park overran by tourists from all across the planet.
Hotels are fully booked, air fares are ridiculously expensive, Parisians leave the city to avoid the tourist apocalypse and don’t get me started with its shopping scene because summer is when shops like Louis Vuitton are just short of hanging roasted ducks and voila! Welcome to Chinatown du Paris.
On the day I allotted for some shopping at Champs Elysees, I approached a lady to ask for directions “Bonjour Mademoiselle! Où est le magasin de Louis Vuitton?” She might have noticed my substandard attempt on French, so she answered in her best English “You zee all zeez Asian people? Go follow, zey are all going there!”
Another bad place to see during the heat of summer is the most visited museum on earth.
The Musée du Louvre houses more than 35,000 art pieces and draws over 9 Million visitors every year. They are curating the works of Leonardo, Raphael, Michelangelo, Donatello, yes the whole Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
Here’s the thing, the Louvre collection is unfathomable in every sense of the word and you would need nine months to glance at all the pieces in the museum. So if you are allotting just a whole day, better plan your Louvre Itinerary wisely and wear a comfortable pair of kicks.
We were climbing the grand stair case where The Winged Victory of Samothrace stands aloft, the crowd in an effort to take a good picture of the Nike statue slows the traffic making each step a labored effort.
The lady who was standing beside me in the middle of a procession of human bundles seemed like she was about to stumble, so she grabbed my arm and subsequently apologized in a thick Filipino accent. I offered my arm to assist the poor lady “Ma’am hawak po kayo sa akin, mahaba pa po ang pila paakyat” (Ma’am hold on to my arm, it will be a long way up).
I saw her face lit-up behind the red frame glasses and unkept silver bob.
Lola: Oh, Thanks hijo. Do you know that statue?
Me: Yes Ma’am the Nike of Samothrace
Lola: Look at her almost transparent wind-blown dress…
Me: Yeah, something like Lady Gaga would wear at the grammy’s.
Lola: The missing finger was found in the 50’s by the French archeologist in Turkey, long negotiations followed to bring the artifact to Paris, but the Turkish people refused. Eventually, they realized that after all the looting that France did around the region, it is just symbolic to give them the finger.
Other than Mona Lisa, what are my favorite pieces in the Louvre? And why?
1) The Winged Victory
The draping, the stance, the petrified energy… Unfortunate that the outstretched arm is no longer there, this is the ancient version of that last scene of The Breakfast Club (cue song… Don’t You, Forget About Me)
2) Venus de Milo
So you think the contorted S-shape on high fashion editorials was invented by supermodels? Think again!
3) The Raft of the Medusa
Théodore Géricault interviewed the survivors of a shipwreck who floated for 12 days in the middle of nowhere. The emotions in the picture, the macabre and hues of hopelessness are so real it invoked the same feeling of pain and insanity out of anyone who are looking at it.
4) Liberty Leading the People
This is the same image on the French paper bills in the 90’s by Eugène Delacroix. Noticed the Lady in the middle? This is Les Miserables on canvass and I couldn’t unsee Anne Hathaway. Indeed, it was inspired by The Nike of Samothrace sans the wings and the shirt.
5) Sleeping Hermaphroditus
Bernini made the almost realistic mattress that made me poke the sculpture to see if it’s real marble. But the interesting part is the tasteful play on the lady boy’s figure, go behind and see. The chick got a dick!
Collage photos are from Wikipedia
6) Saint John the Baptist
Da Vinci’s controversial painting because of the suggestive/erotic smile and the mysterious gesture that inspired a piece in Dan Brown’s hit novel. It is presumed that the model of this painting was his rumored young lover Salai.
7) The Marriage at Cana
Often overshadowed by the star from across the room (Mona Lisa), this huge painting shows a bright, chaotic and festive tableaux of a scene from the bible. I personally find it humorous after 10 minutes of looking at it. All the characters in the painting got a story to tell, like a whole season of a telenovela in one frame.
8) Consecration of the Emperor Napoleon I and Coronation of the Empress Josephine
This scene in the Cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris was painted by Jacques-Louis David. The unhappy Pope behind the grandiose Napoleon sit in disappointment when the emperor upstaged him and took the crown to put it himself #Douchebag1807. The characters in this part of the French history was framed in one painting, and it gave me the same feeling when I first saw the picture of all Pokemons in one poster.
9) La Grande Odalisque
The teasing expression, the impossible broken doll posture, the alien-esque long back and the almost translucent alabaster skin. This is Tyra’s modeling 101 in French Romanticism.
10) The Code of Hammurabi
One of the oldest deciphered writings in the world (1772 BC). If you love writing and reading or you’re a law enforcer, you should see this at least once in your life.
Mary, Child and St. Anne by Leonardo Da Vinci. With Mona Lisa as St. Anne?
The Intervention of the Sabine Women (1799) by Jacques-Louis David.
Look at those… uhhm, babies.
Jacques-Louis David, the father of selfies and duckfaces.
Possibly a tourism campaign statue of the ancient Greece. Kiddin’
Venus de Milo
Yes, she is huge.
The apogee of every visit to the louvre is the moment when you get to see the famed portrait of the wife of an Italian merchant. Be ready!
Be ready for a of throng of tourist and the rumpus air of chaos that will kill your “cultured” mood. It was one of those few moments in my life when I just want to sit down and stare at something, but that one moment was rampaged by people pushing each other, teenagers taking selfies, children throwing tantrums and recitations of “It is smaller than I thought” in a paraphrased litany in 38 different languages. You can even taste a hint of frustration in the air!
Be ready because when people of different nationalities cramped like a can of sardines while aiming their cameras, arms stretched up in the air like the Liberty of Delacroix, it will be one hell of a sinus clearing exercise like no other, the olympics of body odors.
I never experienced such olfactory assault in my years of working as a medical professional. I should have farted in the middle of the room as I was determined not to leave without a god damned fight.
I was not ready.
In the end, I climbed up I. M. Pei’s glass pyramid with memories NOT of the brush strokes and cracking pigments on a lombardy poplar panel of the best known, the most written about, the most sung about, the most parodied work of art in the world, but of the blurred afterimage of moving people and echoes of gibberish murmurs and foot stumps bouncing across the galleries of the most visited museum on earth.
… and a funky smelling shirt too.