Wednesday, July 02, 2008
PARIS SANS EIFFEL
(This is a series of rambling posts regarding my trip to Paris in May with Newman. Funnily enough, we were able to visit the tourist spots on our list, except for this certain popular monument named the Eiffel Tower. Hence, the title of this series)
MUSEE DU LOUVRE and LA GIOCONDA
A must-see in Paris, even for people not inclined to visit museums, is the Louvre, the world's largest museum.
The Musée du Louvre has been open since 1793, and houses 35,000 works of art drawn from eight departments, displayed in over 60,000 square meters of exhibition space dedicated to the permanent collections, ranging from Egyptian antiquities, Islamic Art, sculptures, paintings and the like.
Yup, you could say it's a repository of really ancient stuff. How ancient? Well, the cut-off point for the Louvre's collection is 1848, so if you happen to have been born during this era, you should feel right at home.
Experts and hardcore enthusiasts would say that it would take one week to fully explore and appreciate the Louvre's collections. One week! Of course, 99.99% of tourists have no such inclinations, and prefer to go direct to the "star" attractions.
Check out the pic above of the Louvre's main entrance. The pyramid, completed in 1989, was by I.M. Pei; and stands about 66 feet tall and made of clear glass about 3/4" thick. Of course, it doesn't really blend it with the building's exterior architecture, but what the heck, no one's really complaining.
The management is smart enough to post signs with directions to the main attractions. Let's check out one of them, shall we?
Take a guess what all these people below are gawking and taking countless photos of:
Any guesses? Nope, its not the Venus de Milo.
Okay, okay, here it is:
Yup, it's the world-renown Mona Lisa (also known as La Gioconda), a 16th century portrait painted during the Italian Renaissance by Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci (April 15, 1452 - May 2, 1519), who was by all accounts one of the greatest men who ever lived. He was a scientist, mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist, painter, sculptor, architect, botanist, musician and writer. Whew! (Unfortunately, the present generation knows him mainly in relation to that crappy best-seller, Da Vinci Code)
Interestingly, over the years there has been huge debate on who the subject of the painting was. According to Wikipedia, women such as Isabella of Naples or Aragon, Cecilia Gallerani, Costanza d'Avalos —who was also called the "merry one" or La Gioconda, Isabella d'Este, Pacifica Brandano or Brandino, Isabela Gualanda, Caterina Sforza, and Leonardo's mother Caterina had all been named the sitter. It was even believed to be a self-portrait of Leonardo da Vinci himself!
(in drag, perhaps? hehe ;-D)
Thankfully, at present, the subject's identity is held with certainty to be Lisa del Giocondo, a member of the Gherardini family of Florence and Tuscany, and the wife of wealthy Florentine silk merchant Francesco del Giocondo. The painting was commissioned for their new home and to celebrate the birth of their second son, Andrea.
The Mona Lisa is displayed in a purpose-built, climate-controlled enclosure behind bullet-proof glass. About 6 million people view the painting at the Louvre each year.
The expression on her face has often been described as enigmatic and mysterious, and scholars have puzzled over the years about what she was smiling about or whom she was smiling at, why her smile didn't show any teeth (sore gums from too much eating, if you ask me), etc.
My good friend, R., in her visit to the Louvre some years ago, wrote on her postcard:
"I always thought she was overrated and when i saw her up close and personal, i thought, "That's it?" But then i kept looking at her and she became more beautiful every second until she became mesmerizing and my nephew had to pull me out of her gaze. Maybe it's the hype - or maybe it's what captivated millions of people before me. Dunno."
Well, yours truly was NOT one of those millions who were captivated by her, that's for sure. She's a bit. . .umm, on the plump side, don't you think? And rather mannish-looking, too. And those eyes?! Her gaze seems to follow you everywhere; it really creeps me out.
(Check out the Louvre's official website at www.louvre.fr)