Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Jam Packed Culture Walk

An iconic visit to the much anticipated Louvre.

Excuse the construction...

I'm not a hard core art buff but when the art can embody not just the image, but a story and the history of a people, I get really excited. The Louvre is incredible in that way where not only is the art beautiful visually, but everything has a back story to it.

+ADW and I purchase a guided tour through City Wonders prior to our departure for the 3 main features of the Louvre: Winged Victory, Venus de Milo and the world famous Mona Lisa. As icing on this cake, our tour guide gives us a thorough look into the medieval past of the Parisian monarchy Louis XIV, as well as the ruins and history of the Louvre.

This was originally all under water!

The Louvre was a former royal home for the kings of France* until Louis XIV decided to move to Versailles (1682), and one of the lower sections of the main square is also home to the ruins of the original royal palace that was built more as a fortress than an actual royal home. We're taken through the moat of the tower and our guide floods us with much history of the past. Most online guides and books suggest tourists to stick around for 1-2 days; I feel like we got a very thorough tour in approximately 3 hours but again, I had specific objectives for this tour to be met and everything else was just bonus.

Her eyes do follow you around!

The Mona Lisa has her own wall in the middle of the hall, is protected in a glass casing and a short metal gate circling the image itself. Most surprisingly it is small for its status but we learn the story behind her fame: it was stolen in 1911 by a restorer who literally walked out of the Louvre with the painting in hand. He only got caught for it later, when he tried to sell it.

One of the wings is not original...

The Winged Victory of Samothrace is one of the most celebrated sculptures in the world from the Greco-Roman era. It also serves as inspiration for the most iconic athletic brands to date: Nike. The wings of the statue are the source of the image of the check of the Nike swoosh. Prior to the glass pyramid entrance, the Winged Victory greeted all visitors coming to the museum.

Venus, goddess of love and beauty

The Venus de Milo is a Greek sculpture that depicts Aphrodite/Venus--the goddess of love and beauty. We learn that the statue is two separate pieces that shifted recently during a travel to Japan. Many statues of the time were made in pieces and then fitted together with a large metal rod inside the body.

Surprisingly for me, the French were enamoured with Greek and Roman mythology and used it to represent their own strength, courage, virility, passions... etc. Logically, there is a large Greek and Roman collection within the Louvre. The piece that is both a surprise and my favourite piece is Psyche Revived by Cupid's Kiss ("the Kiss"). The sculpture is so elegantly made, to show the story where Psyche is poisoned (by her own fault) from a task that Aphrodite tasked her with so that Psyche could remain with her husband, Cupid.

If you check out the rest of the sculpture, you'll see the entire story depicted in this one piece--amazing

Another thing that really brought out the liveliness of the museum was that aspiring artists could be granted permission to recreate (not exactly) a piece of the existing collection within the museum. It was incredible to be inspired by the work that seemingly normal people could reproduce.

She's capturing the image on the left

Upon leaving, we wander some more and check out the Palais Royale, Palais Garnier and the Galeries Lafayette. For those theatre geeks, you might recognize the mention of the Palais Garnier because this is the most famous opera house in the world due to the use of it as the setting for the Phantom of the Opera. We didn't get a chance to head inside since it takes the last visitors by 4:30pm and it was after 5pm when we arrived.

This is a lot, you say? We totally didn't stop there. We continued our way to visit the Christmas market along Champs-Élysées--one of the most fashionable streets in the world then walked the entire street to meet the Arc de triomphe. This arc honours those who fought and died for France during the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars.

To top things off, we checked out the Fontaines de la Concorde and the obelisque that accompanies it then made our way back to 'base camp'.

*actually, this whole royal (and noble) residence business is pretty complicated and there are a few other locations in the city...

No comments:

Post a Comment