We only saw the most famous of the art in the Louvre - and I'd seen it all before - but we got some very interesting tidbits about it all.
For instance, the reasons that the Mona Lisa is so famous include a theft by an Italian who tried to take back a painting that he believed should rightfully be in Italy. He then tried to sell it, and was of course arrested. Also, a visitor to the Louvre once threw a stone at the painting, and though I don't know the reason why, I'm sure it caused a bit of a scene.
The painting that Napoléon had commissioned for his coronation as Emperor is impressing of course, but what the guide told us was that the coronation took place in Notre Dame Cathedral, which is not at all apparent from the painting. The reason for this is that Napoléon had the cathedral decorated with marble walls over top of the original stone to fit the architectural style of the day.
We were informed that the Winged Victory and the Venus de Milo are not complete sculptures because they are both ancient works that were found during excavations, and that they had to reassemble the pieces that they could find. She pointed out that the stance of the bodies could help art historians understand how the arms were originally designed, though the arms themselves were not found. They did recently find the extended hand of the Winged Victory, which they were able to identify scientifically as the same piece of stone, or marble or whatever it is.
We also saw the former crown jewels of the French kings. The crown that they have on display is actually full of fake gems, because of the custom of removing the real stones after the coronation. There is on display, however, a large, clear diamond that was used in the crown of the kings as well as in the sword that Napoléon wore at his coronation.
At the end of our tour, we went underneath the Louvre to see the original walls of the fortress that the castle started out as. It was in fact the former moat that we were walking through, surrounded by the inner and outer walls of the fortress, which were unearthed during the renovation of the museum in the 1980s-1990s.
|From Paris, Fall 2007|