Part of the reason the Julio-Claudian family is tricky to follow is because of all of the interconnected (read: incest!) relationships. Roman Empress Valeria Messalina, known as just Messalina (12 – 48 AD), was the third wife to Emperor Claudius; a cripple with a stutter. 10 years his junior, she was cousin to her husband Claudius, as well as cousin to his predecessor, Emperor Caligula, as well as paternal cousin to Emperor Nero (to follow Claudius, and to be his step-son — as well as… you guessed it, cousin!). Lastly (to be listed, as the connections go on and on!) she was the great-grand-niece of First Emperor Augustus. All of them (Messalina, Claudius, Caligula and Nero) were descendants of Livia, 1st Empress of Rome. Incest aside, she was what one would consider a powerful woman – as well as being a lady of, let’s say ‘compromising morals’, and a conspiring lady at that (for which she would eventually be beheaded)
Robert Graves depicts Emperor Claudius as adoring Messalina for her beauty and youth. Whether this is true or not, we don’t know, but she did bare him two children directly after they were married in 38 AD, Claudia Octavia (who would be the future empress when she married her stepbrother, Emperor Nero) and Brittanicus, who Messalina vied to be the emperor (but she wasn’t so clever as Livia getting her own son, Tiberius, to the throne). But before Robert Graves, who was writing in the 1930s, we have Roman sources to turn to for the juicy stuff.
Both Tacitus and Suetonius portrayed Messalina as lustful, insulting, disgraceful, cruel, avaricious, etc. They attributed this to her inbreeding. Pliny the Elder tells of Messalina’s 24-hour sex competition with a prostitute in Book X of his Natural History. And guess who won? Messalina, having bedded 25 more partners than the whore Scylla (you may want to take note of this tidbit in case it appears as a bonus point in one of the hunts).
Juvenal was shockingly graphic in his critical description of her brothel, when he described her in Satire VI. He said the minute Claudius was snoring Messalina would put on a blonde wig and go to work at her brothel for the pleasure of it (for PG status I can’t requote Juvenal’s graphic bits), nor can I post the 1527 engraving that Augostino Carracci did for the famous Renaissance erotic book, I Modi (“The Ways”), which depicts various sexual positions. The engraving depicts her in her brothel, entitled Messalina Lisisca, after Juvenal’s poem.
After she convinced her lover, Roman Senator Gaius Silius, to leave his wife Messalina and Gaius plotted to assassinate Claudius and have Gaius adopt Brittanicus (Messalina’s son by Claudius and the presumed future emperor). Claudius caught word of this, and had them both executed for treason. Messalina was offered a knife to commit suicide honourably, but as she was too cowardly for that, she was beheaded on the spot (in the Gardens of Lucullus, which are now a part of the Villa Borghese in Rome, right above the Spanish Steps).
With such a juicy story under her belt, there are many references to her in popular culture – from Charlotte Bronte (in Jane Eyre, Mr Rochester refers to his first wife as an Indian Messalina) to Gabriel Garcia Marquez (in Love in the Time of Cholera, a dog with many pups bears her name). In Mikhail Bulgakov’s The Master and the Margarita, Messalina is a guest at Satan’s ball.
Flexible morals aside, the lady was venally powerful. That is, until she lost her head! Messalina fits perfectly for a Kings + Leaders THATLou, or of course a Ladies at the Louvre THATLou… Perhaps even the Love Hunt might include her – in the carnal sense… Is this hint obvious enough???
In our most recent THATMuse post we lingered on an introduction to the Borghese Collection at the Louvre. Though necessary, it was honestly a bit sober. So in developing this story line (before getting to the actual crux — an item or two of the collection itself!) I thought we needed some juicy gossip. And what makes for juicier gossip than scandal? It’s hard to top the stories of Messalina, as touched on in a previous post, but Pauline Borghese, Napoleon’s sister and wife to Prince Camillo Borghese, certainly comes a close second in “shock” factor.
She was the beauty of the family, 6th of the 8 children born to Napoleon’s parents in Ajaccio, Corsica. At the age of 16, in 1796 (just as Napoleon was starting to make his mark on history, during the Italian Campaign), she fell madly in love with a 40-year old syphilitic philanderer. To distract her, the family married her off to one of Napoleon’s soldiers, General Victor Emmanuel Leclerc (whom Nappy incidentally caught her being let’s say, indiscreet with behind a screen at the Palazzo Mombello in Milano — but I get the idea he didn’t share this morsel with his family).
Despite having a son by Leclerc (Dermide, whom Napoleon, ever the control-freak, named), Pauline set herself up with many a lover. The family was posted to Haiti, which is where she may have developed her taste for sleeping with black men. It is well documented (a small bit of trivia that I remember from high school when we had to spend time at the Museo Napoleonico in Rome. Just as an aside, these completely un-useful bits of trivia is exactly how my history teachers hooked me on their rich subject) that she was in the habit of having her large black servant, Paul, carry her to the bath every day, and would spend an inordinate number of hours receiving guests from the bath – talk about being hungry for attention! She’d also apparently use ladies-in-waiting as foot servants — literally stepping on their backs.
Unlike either her older brother (who spent a large part of his life being her PR spin doctor, in addition to being self-appointed ‘Emperor’ of Europe) or Messalina (3rd Empress of Rome and a flagrant hussy), Pauline didn’t seem to have any ambition — her interest was pure frivolity and sex. Eight months after Leclerc died she secretly remarried the handsome Prince Camillo Borghese. This rush infuriated Napoleon (Ironically with such a sister, Napoleon tried to instill a code of good morals. Compare Jacques-Louis David’s Portrait of Mme. Recamier (1800, at the Louvre) to Antonio Canova’s sculpture of Pauline – which at her request was nearly nude and posed as Venus Victrix – 1805-8 at the Galleria Borghese). Throughout her infidelities, there was a modicum of decency and even loyalty about her. Though she swiftly cheated on Borghese — who was forced into selling a large part of his family’s art collection to his nouveau-riches self-coronated Emperor brother-in-law — she also secured Camillo the post of Governor of Piedmont and guardian of Napoleon’s prisoner, Pope Pius VII (two tasks Camillo coveted). And though she caused a lot of trouble for her brother (who adored her), she is also the only Bonaparte sibling to have supported him after he was deposed and sent to Elba.
In fact according to Alistair Horne’s The Age of Napoleon, she liquidated most of her assets to go and live with Nappy in Elba and better his situation (although she kept her pretty frocks `to make him happy`). Among her assets was a sumptuous little number on rue du Faubourg St-Honore which she sold to the Duke of Wellington after the Battle of Waterloo, and which since then has been the British Embassy of France. Apparently Wellington “gained the respect of the Parisians when, as the victor, he could have grabbed it for nothing, but insisted on paying the full price.
Just as a small reminder – when little morsels are randomly placed in bold, it just may mean that those could conceivably arise as answers to bonus questions. The Borghese Beauty is applicable to any number of THATLous, since the Borghese Collection has the Three Graces (Beauty), wild satyrs (Bestiary), wonderful Craters (Food & Wine), and Roman Sarcophagi (Skull Scouting Halloween Hunt), etc.
English historian Alistair Horne has written a number of great books on Napoleon and his time. And here’s a goodNew York Times article about the Borghese Collection au Louvre (no bonus questions – just if interested).
Last time we wound our way from considering the Prado and Spain in the general, to zeroing in on a contemporary replica of Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa. In our last post we shamelessly lingered on poor Leonardo’ssex life (with the weak excuse of saying “hey, the Prado La Gioconda may have been by this pupil / servant / lover, Andrea Salai, so we better delve into some sodomy charges, right?”). In so doing we also trashed Leonardo to a small extent to say that THATLou prefers plenty of Leonardo’s contemporaries. In other words, we’ve really been all over the place, from Madrid to Paris, and through Leonardo’s boudoir. Now we aim to turn a slightly more positive note, one which isn’t quite so NY Post Page Six, or Hello!Magazine trashy. And we can also shake this ‘we‘ing. What, do we think we’re royal or something, with all this smut?
Let’s start with touching ever so briefly on some examples of masterpieces by Leonardo’s contemporaries. da Vinci studied in Verrocchio’s Florentine studio alongside Pietro Perugino, Sandro Botticcelli, and one of my all time favourites, Domenico Ghirlandaio. I won’t examine any of these three painters in depth, just want to drop you off with some of their paintings herewith. And then our next post, concerning Andrea Salai, will be the conclusion to this round-about Prado Mona Lisa series. It’s timely to consider Salai, as his paintings may just become a spot more valuable if conservationists decide that the Prado’s La Gioconda was by his hand and not by Francesco Melzi.
My favourite painting at the Louvre by Domenico Ghirlandaio (1449 – 1494) is constantly being lent out. I guess this is a tribute to how good it is, but I find it very annoying indeed when I find the flimsy little paper hand-scribbled by some curator apologising for the fact that it’s gone missing for another few months. It’s a great painting. Despite his grotesque nose, the Old Man’s look is so quiet and calming as he considers his grandson. You can nearly see him thinking.
Another Leonardo contemporary who I prefer is Sandro Botticelli (1445 – 1510). Though I didn’t include his Louvre Venus and Three Graces when I was considering various Three Gracesin July (including the recently-discovered Three Graces by Cranach ‘s – which is just unsurpassable), I’ll take this complete non-sequitur as a chance to include it herewith. Couldn’t you picture this Venus and Three Graces in at least one THATLou? Perhaps a Ladies at the Louvre hunt, or better still the Love Hunt which is due to take place for couples and lovey-doves the evening of Friday 14 December?
Pietro Perugino (1446 – 1523). He’s a tricky one to choose a fave at the Louvre, because there are so many good ones. There’s always something tactile for me with Perugino. The paint is so smooth and the colors so uniform that he makes me want to stroke the canvas. Anyway, if I have to choose, I’ll go with his St Sebastian (which as a total aside, I was interested with how many St Sebastians we came across at both the Thyssen Bornemiszia, as well as the Prado. Do the Spanish have a thing for him, perhaps?).
After today’s segue-way of some top-tier Renaissance painters, the next post will take a step down (or back?) and worm its way back to the likely painter of the Prado’s version of La Gioconda – and will take a look at Andrea Salai’s paintings. That Little Devil!
Livia Drusilla, first Empress of Rome, was indisputably the most powerful woman in the Julio-Claudian Roman Empire. All Julio-Claudian emperors were her direct descendants, despite having a childless marriage to the 1st Emperor of Rome, Augustus (formerly Octavian Augustus, back when there was a triumvirate and Rome was a Republic). This marriage lasted 50 years and by all accounts was a partnership of two clever minds. Livia (58 BC – 29 AD) saw to it that her son Augustus’s step-son, inherited the throne. This, despite the fact that Augustus intended five others to inherit the throne (all of whom happened to die, some under rather suspicious conditions).
Because this bust is basanite (a volcanic rock), it’s believed to have been sculpted just after the Battle of Actium (2 September 31 BC), when Octavian Augustus seized Cleopatra’s kingdom (the loss of this naval battle caused Mark Anthony to commit suicide). This would have made Livia 27 years old, already an able leader just as cunning as her Egyptian counterpart, Queen Cleopatra.
With senators on both sides of her family, Livia was not only the crème of the Roman aristocratic crop, she also had financial independence from Emperor Augustus (and from her former husband, the father of her two sons) through being granted the ‘marks of status’ in 35 AD, which was rarely granted to women. Soon thereafter she was also granted the sancrosancitas, which gave her the same rights Augustus had.
Tacitus described Livia as malevolent and called her a “feminine bully” and Robert Graves had a ball depicting her shrewd ambition in I, Claudius as the epitome of a scheming matriarch poisoning anyone who crossed her, and anyone who got in the path of her sonTiberius inheriting the throne (though Graves did a great service to widening our BBC knowledge of Roman History, he might have been slightly fictitious). But no one questioned the fact of either her cunning intelligence or her absolute power. Second only to her husband. The Julio-Claudian family tree can be slightly complicated with brothers and sisters marrying (Caligula, for one), but all of the Emperors stemmed from Livia. Tiberius (14-37 AD) was her son, Caligula (37-41 AD) her grandson,Claudius(41 – 54 AD) her grandson, Nero (54-68 AD) her great-grandson.
With so many anecdotes under her belt, Livia is a perfect candidate for plenty of THATLou Themes, from Kings + Leaders to Ladies at the Louvre or seen as Ops holding wheat she could even be suitable for the Thanksgiving Food + Wine hunt. Wheat was free in Rome, which is perhaps why their bread is so delicious … 2000 years of practice with the forno certainly shows off! As for her Cornucopia, abounding with fruit, there’s another larger one found two rooms over in this Denon ground floor (Rez-de-Chausse, in French).
And if you’re ever hunting at the British Museum, keep an eye out for several elegant busts of our favorite empress there in the Roman & Greek antiquities section! Keep an eye out for a bust of Livia dressed as Ceres (the Roman goddess of the harvest) as she might just make another reappearance in our THATBrit Babes & Love Hunt.
Things in bold are sometimes references to bonus questions…
Emperor TIBERIUS, 2nd Emperor of Rome (14 – 37 AD)
Stepson of Augustus (first Emperor of Rome), Tiberius was an impressive military man, with several significant battles under his belt. He wasn’t, however, very well suited to civilian life in Rome, where his mother, Livia, insisted he stay toward the end of Augustus’s life (to ensure that he inherit the throne). To further secure this inheritance, Livia also had Augustus (never fond of his awkward stepson) force Tiberius to divorce his wife, whom he loved deeply, in order to marry Augustus’s adulterous – and fun – daughter, Julia. The marriage was a fiasco, however it served Livia’s purpose perfectly. Pliny the Elder named Tiberius the “Gloomiest of Men”.
Second emperor to the Julio-Claudian Roman Empire, Tiberius was a sick, corrupt, perverse man, and very fond of his equally sick, corrupt and perverse nephew, Caligula, who would inherit Tiberius’s throne. From Seneca to Suetonius, Caligula was a depraved, insane tyrant. The latter accused Caligula of incest with his sisters, Agrippina the Younger, Drusilla and Livilla and say he prostituted them to other men. Famously he also is said to have made his horse, Incitatus a consul and appointed him a priest.
The Roman Empire, established just a few Emperors before, was going to hell, until the stammering, stuttering cripple, Claudius inherited the throne (the Praetorian guards named Claudius Emperor in 41 AD after Caligula’s assassination, as he was the last male adult of the Julio Claudian left). He proved to be an able leader, focusing on canals, aqueducts, bridges, balancing power back toward the Senate (after Tiberius and Caligula had purged much of Rome of a voice), and winning many provinces under his reign (Thrace, Pamphylia and beginning the conquest of Britain to name a few). Sadly for the Roman Empire, Claudius was married to another Sour Grape and was followed by nephew Nero (reigned 54 – 68 AD), who was yet another sick puppy. The last of the Julio-Claudian Dynasty.
Introducing one of the most amazing Mesopotamian artefacts, The Lamassu. Meaning “protective spirit” in Akkadian, he is one of a pair who was usually found flanking the doorways to Assyrian palaces. Winged bulls or lions with human heads, they served as mythological guardians. One of the things I find so clever about them is why they have five legs; If you look at them from straight on, they’re standing at attention, still. If you look at them from the side, they’re walking. The British Museum also has six Lamassus, one of which has some graffiti of the board game, the Royal Game of Ur scratched between two of their legs… Guards who were clearly stationed at the gates, idling the time away.
But back to the Khorsabad room in the Mesopotamian section of the Louvre: These guys are somehow comforting, or perhaps what’s comforting is the space they’re in. It smells earthy, I suppose of the gypseous alabaster they’re made of. With the grey-but-bright Paris light shedding in, there’s something intimate about the well-proportioned L-shaped room lined with Sargon’s treasures. And then there’s size. Our friends here stand at nearly 4 and a half meters tall, making me feel. Well. Very human. They’re from the palace of Sargon II, who reigned from 721 – 705 BC; it was square in shape with 158 towers & had a 24-meter thick wall encompassing 3 km². Nothing so piddling as our French Khorsabad room at the Louvre. But sadly we don’t have much of Sargon’s treasure left.
In the 1840s and 50s the palace, named Dur Sharrukin, was excavated by the French consul general to Mosul (yes, of Iraq), Monsieur Botta (and yes, his name is in bold — perhaps an answer to a bonus question?). Heart-breakingly two shipping incidents caused much of the excavations to go missing: one through the boat sinking and the other to pirates. They must have been strong pirates as two 30-ton statues went missing.
I haven’t done much digging myself, but I do have to wonder why some Indiana Jones character hasn’t gone looking for the ruins at the bottom of the Tigris river, where the first ship sunk.
Anyway, this endearing Lamassu could appear in any number of THATLous. His strong, architecturally-necessary form makes him suitable for an Architecture + Structure hunt, and of course, the fact that he is neither animal nor man, but an imaginary compromise places him in the blurred line of Beauty + the Bestiary (fantasy animals, like unicorns) theme. Or, since two of their three components are animals, I bet they’re also in the Kid-Friendly Animals in Art theme (the purpose of which is to avoid crowds)? Lucky you’re reading this here, to get a leg up (or five!) on your THATLou adversaries!
And where do you suppose you’d find these gentle giants? In the Mesopotamian department (yellow on the map), not too far from the Near Eastern collection’s Ain Ghazal, the Oldest Piece at the Louvre or Ancient Iranian treasures like Darius the Great’s Frieze of Archers + Griffins who are just around the corner in the Sackler collection of the Sully Wing.
Till our next visit to the Louvre, this will be my penultimate highlight concerning last weekend’s visit to the Near Eastern antiquities wing. It’s been tricky to choose what to profile since El Argentino and I had so many surprises and discovered so many delights.
In choosing this third finale I hoped to find a thread which holds the three completely different pieces, from completely different places together. First we had our rather morbid friend,Ain Ghazalwith his silent watchful eyes. He’s from the Levant (which describes both a culture and a geographical area between Egypt and Turkey, Iraq and the Mediterranean), but Ain really stands out, because at 9000 years old he’s the Louvre’s oldest piece. That’s pretty cool. Then we had our adorable Assyrian Lamassus, curiously smiling down at us as they protected Sargon’s palace. Endearing and gentle, the Lamassus put proportion back in the idea of palace, with their monumental size.
So with size and age for themes, I nominate Darius I’s winter palace at Susa. Son of Cyrus, father of Xerxes, Darius I (522-486 BC) was the most successful of the Achaemenid kings. Under his rule the Persian Empire stretched from Greece to India. A melting pot of styles, Achaemenid art is defined by seemlessly combining many elements taken from different cultures. I guess one could think of it as the Benetton of Near Eastern Art. His palace at Susa (east of the Tigris River) celebrated all sorts of his victories, and not just through storytelling as his Greek contemporaries were painting on their pots, but through methods and materials as well. Darius was big time and he wanted you to know it. So big-time was he that this entry shall be two-fold, in my weak attempt to do his winter palace justice: art today, architecture to follow.
King of the beasts, the lion figures an important role both royally and religiously. A frieze of lions ran along the top of the wall in the first court Darius’s visitors entered. The provenance of the glazed siliceous bricks and its composition as a frieze is from older Mesopotamian traditions, found for instance in the 2nd millennium temple of Kara-indash in Uruk. The repetition of a symbolic animal was typical of Babylonian art, where its significance was more religious. Yet the clear knowledge of anatomy, and the attention to details such as his wavy mane was true to Achaemenid Persian art. A little artistic UN, all in one palace. By 480 BC it was estimated that 50 million people lived in the Achaemenid Empire.
Apart from these turquoise lions Jacques de Morgan, the archeologist leading the excavations from 1908 – 1913, found bas relief friezes of griffins and sphinxes, archers (with duck heads at the top of their bows) and immortals — among plenty of colossal double-headed columns which we’ll linger on in another post.
What does that mean for you? Well, a lot of THATMuse points if you know where on Sully’s ground floor (ground floor in French is RDC, Rez-de-Chaussée) to find them in the “Antique Iran” section that’s yellow on your Louvre maps… Oh here, you’re good enough to be reading this THATLou homework, these precious creatures are in Room 12 and 13!
Apart from appearing in the Beauty + Bestiary (fantastical animals, such as unicorns, dragons and griffins, etc), Darius’s palace at Susa could certainly be pertinent to plenty of other THATLou themes – Kings + Leaders, Animals in Art, or even a possible Beauty + Bestiary… You never know!
You’ll even find Darius at the British Museum, which has some amazing friezes commissioned by Darius, including several lavishly dressed warriors carrying spears, possibly his ‘immortals’, a 10,000-strong élite fighting force that helped him to invade western Punjab, Scythia and Sindh.
Going out with a bang, I’m concluding our visit toDarius the Great’s Winter Palace at Susa (which in turn sadly wraps up the Louvre Near Eastern musings which started with Ain Ghazal, the oldest piece at the Louvre) with something big! Nearly matching the Louvre’s gentle Lamassus in height, here’s one COLOSSAL capital.
This COLOSSAL capital alone is 4 meters tall, 1/3rd the size of the column that it topped. Altogether the columns – 36 columns to be exact* – in Darius’s Apadana (Audience Hall) were over 20 meters tall (meaning about 70 feet ceilings, I think). The hall was 109 meters squared. Just look at the size of the beams nestled between the two kneeling bulls: they’re unfathomably large. To help put it in context, El Argentino said that the bull’s eye would be looking straight into our kitchen window – we live on the 4th and final floor of a typical Parisian building dating to 1810. The trek up the 4 flights each day, my toddler Storsh in hand, make me all the more sensitive to such lofty height.
The variations of colour in the capital’s stone is due to the fact that it was reconstructed from fragments of several columns by Marcel Dieulafoy, the archeologist leading the 1884-1886 excavation. To demonstrate the unification of the different parts of Darius’s Persian Empire, influences were taken from all over. The stone masons were Greek and Lydian, and the architects Persian. The double volutes with rosettes was taken from the temple of Artemis at Ephesus, yet the pair of bull protomes are purely Mesopotamian, representing cosmic equilibrium. And let’s not forget Egypt, a significant part of his 50-million-person strong Achaemenid Empire – that basket-like ensemble of palm fronds are a reminder that the Egyptians had been peed on by Darius. Again, just one capital is a Benetton of sorts, a little UN-melting pot of cultures as described in the last post, which mentions which exact room these treasures can be found in… Helpful no?
On the globe-trotting front, apparently one of these fine bulled capitals has found itself far far away – from Paris or Iran… El Argentino is from the leafy hood of Palermo, Buenos Aires. Our favourite part of the 3 de Febrero park, also known as the Bosques de Palermo (the woods of Palermo), is the Rose Garden. Though we’ve been to feed the ducks and picnic in the fragrant green plenty of times, I hadn’t noticed that they have one of these double-kneeling bulls perched in place, above a fluted column. This one is apparently from Darius’s father, Cyrus. In 1972 one of the Pahlavi Shahs gave the 102-ton column to Buenos Aires, for nuclear good-will no doubt (the Argentines had advanced nuclear technology in the 60s and 70s). Anyway, how this behemoth passed my notice says heaps about how open my eyes are!
To close this Near Eastern Antiquities musing, I just wanted to say a word on Susa, the town where Darius chose to make his administrative capital and Winter Palace. Also known as Shushan, or in Greek Susiane, Susa shares the “oldest” element that Ain Ghazal opened our Near Eastern visit with: Susa is among the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, starting in 4200 BC. There are also traces of a village there around 7000 BC. We think of Egyptian art as old, but the first traces of it were 2000 years later, in 5000 BC.
Apart from making a star appearance as Bestiary (fantastical animals, such as unicorns, dragons and griffins, etc), Darius’s palace at Susa could certainly appear in plenty of other THATLous – such as Animals in Art or Kings + Leaders, what with Darius’s reach (his empire stretched from India to Greece) as mentioned in the last postyou never know!
All photos were taken from Wikipedia and Google and are in the open domain.
* And yes, when things are in bold, often that means it’s going to answer a precious bonus question!
Our friend Alex applies to anyone thinking of a Kings + Leaders THATLou, of course, as per this adorable photo of our 8 year old Australian Rock Star, Drew, who found him with a punch to the air!
So here’s the clue:
Bust of ALEXANDER THE GREAT (also known as Inopos)
100 BC, Delos Cycladic Islands (Greece) Parian Marble, .99 cm
Alexander the Great, or rather his 2nd C BC fragment here, is in one of the Parthenon Rooms quite close to the Louvre Icon Venus de Milo (as a “greatest hit” I bet you’ll find her photo on your map!). Before even delving into why we’ve included Alex in the Arts + Science Hunt, go on over and take 25 bonus points for a photo of your team with Venus de Milo. And take a moment to actually look at her, if you can manage the jostle of the crowds!
Initially thought to represent the Cycladic river-god, Inopos (thus the nickname), this bust of Alexander was found on the island of Delos. It is dated to about 100 BC due to the idealized face (which is similar to that of Venus– in their trepanned hair, similar brow-lines, deep-set eyes and slightly heavy oval faces). Alexander is hard to summarize, there are so many great anecdotes about him. He was both cruel (levelling Thebes, to make as an example to all of Greece) and clever (student of Aristotle, Alex learned about geography, zoology, politics and medicine from the age of 13). Alexander brought scientists with him on his military campaigns and sent plant and animal specimens back to his former mentor.
Though he was a “do-er” (having conquered an empire as far-reaching as India before he died, aged 33), Alex also understood the importance of observation. For instance, His father, Philip of Macedonia bought an exceptionally expensive horse, Bucephalus, who he couldn’t tame. Alexander observed that the horse was frightened of his own shadow, so he bet his father that he could mount him, and indeed he did simply by turning him into the sun. Alex was also able to think outside the box, important to solving problems. An oracle had decreed that whoever untied the Gordian knot (which was very intricate without a starting point as it’d been made of cornel bark and had hardened over time) would conquer all of Asia. Frustrated by the knot Alexander simply sliced it in half proclaiming “I have ‘loosed’ it!”. The Gordian knot has since become synonymous with an intractable problem that requires an unconventional solution.
Alexander is included here, however, because of his considerable patronage to new inventions and scientific research. He understood the importance of time for research and study, and that they needed funding, Scientific patronage cannot be overlooked – and who better to represent this than the founder of Alexandria, the new science capital. (which, after his death, was run by Ptolemy (Alex’s former personal bodyguard) and founded the famous Alexandrian Library, for which a significant part of Egypt’s state budget must have been devoted for the support of science; visitors and staff received free accommodation and a government salary with obligation simply to participate in debate amongst colleagues. How’s that for putting priority on the pursuit of Science?
Science-Académie (known as Science-Ac’) was established in 2006 with just a few hundred students. Today this Paris-Montagne Association now stands at 2000 students, enlivening the interest of high school students and pre-BAC kids in Science. Science-Ac was born from the l’Ecole Normale Supérieure (ENS is the French equivalent of MIT, for you American readers), and has generational dons or tutors per each level, PhD candidates doing lab work alongside high-schoolers. Their proximity in age no doubt bolsters the inspiration for the students to further their scientific studies.
Here are two adorable opinions on how to conduct a THATLou strategy on You Tube, as described by Drew (8, photographed above) and his sister Zoe (12), hailing from Australia and out on European trip for 4 months.
So Bastille Day is tomorrow. In America when you hear “Happy 4th (of July)” one thinks of the Liberty Bell in Philly, of the signers of the Declaration of Independence (men in wigs and tights, oh yeah!), a big middle finger to fat Georgie III and that small island across the Atlantic. Flags, picnics, parades. John Philip Sousa. The feelings are happy, independent, straight-forward. Simple. Much like Americans, perhaps.
But I’m not sure everything is so cookie-cutter clean here (comme d’habitude, the French being the kings of the complicated color: Grey). First of all the very term Bastille Day is exclusively Anglo. Then these “Happys” or well wishing. Well. One (as in: one who is a foreigner who lives here and just doesn’t get it, such as me, I suppose) can say “Joyeux 14 juillet”, but the French often do a double-take when this is foisted on them.
I do most of my THATLou work at a café on Fbg St Denis called Quincaillerie and Damien, one of my favorite waiters there, told me it’s possible to say – as in, grammatically it’s not wrong. I asked him why and he said, “what’s happy about it?” Good point. The date in fact isn’t as clear, the 14th of July is just the beginning of a long struggle of the people. People without rights (“rights come later”, as Damien pointed out) got fed up and stormed the Bastille, a fortress. They had to fight for a remarkably bloody 4 more years, before any significant heads went toppling (literally). As for the complicated question of “rights” well, let’s leave that to Jean-Jacques Rousseau.
If I’d made this Bastille Day THATLou completely appropriate to France’s National day, I’d’ve confined the treasure exclusively to the period leading up to & following the revolution, but then our fine treasure hunters wouldn’t get to cover 40 to 50% of the Louvre, which is what they’ll be navigating tomorrow. Moreover, quite frankly the Revolution is a period of French history which bores me. It’s completely lacking in the charms of Henri IV’s lovers or Francois 1er’s Renaissance art commissions.
So to focus on la Fête Nationale, the theme for tomorrow’s hunt is “All Things Gaul, for those who have the gall” hunt. And who had more Gaulish Gall than King Philippe-Auguste?
At the ripe old age of 15 he inherited the throne (in 1180) and over the next 43 years expanded his territory considerably. He was the first of the great Capetian kings of medieval France & destroyed the English-based Angevin Empire which greatly extended his empire. For the first 10 years P-A made his mark on his capital in both good and bad ways (in 1186 he started having the streets paved (much earlier than I would have guessed), however, under his rule, the expulsion of the Jews was in 1182 — they were allowed to return only on condition that they pay a heavy tax in 1198).
But on a larger scale (which will of course bring us back to Paris) he had remarkable military prowess. In 1190 (aged 25, when his first wife died) he left for the crusades & within a year took control of the thorny terrain of Normandie (Richard the Lionheart had been made prisoner of Henri VI in 1194). Following the death of Richard, Philippe-Auguste continued to feud the new King of England, John (who invaded Normandie in 1202, as well as Touraine, Anjou and Poitou). By 1214 Philippe-Auguste had defeated John at the Battle of Bouvines(which was significant enough to force King John to have to sign the Magna Carta).
A page taken from a Cambridge manuscript. I found on a great history quiz site (where they acknowledge the French won)
On the personal side he was far less decisive. After his first wife, Isabelle de Hainaut, died in 1190 he mistakenly married Ingeburg of Denmark. He tried to undo this mistake, with another perhaps larger mistake. The day after he married the sister of the Danish king he procured the annulment of his marriage by an assembly of bishops and turned around to marry Agnes de Marenie. A move which merited a quick excommunication from Pope Innocent III. By January 1200 Innocent III imposed an interdict on France, which forced Philippe-Auguste to pretend to be reconciled with Ingeburg (in fact he refused to live with her & kept his Danish mistake in semi-captivity. Only when Agnes died in 1213, did he accept Ingeburg as France’s queen (although still not by his side!).
In the meantime, tomorrow’s hunters may very well want their “give-away” (I can only get people to read this blog out of thatlou bribery, apart from those who my mother pays. Thank you, Momma), which was promised to them last weekend – so here you go, guys, this will be your bonus question: First find Philippe-Auguste’s conical structure photographed herewith (easy, as its outline is clearly delineated on the map and is the core of Sully, under the Cour Carrée). Apart from being asked to just take in the sheer SIZE of those boulders, you’re reminded that back in the day you’d be standing in water right now – you’re in a moat. So, for an extra 20 bonus points, please have your teammates pose as though they’re being eaten alive by an alligator, the last whisp of life being outside Philippe-Auguste’s formidable structure!
There you go, hunters, Just reading this post you’ve made XX points out (yes, that 20 I just highlighted, but there might be other tidbits that serve as bonus material, herewith!). Until then, have fun at the firemen balls and seeing the fireworks over the Eiffel Tower and not saying Happy Bastille Day!
Another piece which may just appear in All Things Gaul is Géricault’s Raft of Medusa, as written about in Medusa as Bestiary.
MARIE DE MEDICI, Queen of FranceFrans Pourbus the Younger (Antwerp 1569 – Paris 1622)16th Century, Netherlands
Marie de Medici & Henri IV had a sour marriage: in part because the Bourbon king had a penchant for the ladies (his favorite lover is being naughty in this hunt) & in part because Marie was meddling & power-hungry (it was in her Florentine blood – here take twenty points for naming another Medici Queen, touched on in these pages**). Despite this, they had six children, one of whom would become the Queen of England (Henrietta-Maria, married to Charles I) & another Queen of Spain (Elisabeth, married to the Hapsburg king, Philip IV). After Henri was assassinated (1610) the Parlement de Paris made Marie “Regent” to her young son, King Louis XIII. She did a great deal for Paris, having the Palais du Luxembourg built (based on her childhood home, the Palazzo Pitti, it currently houses France’s Sénat), which she placed in the Jardin du Luxembourg (based on Florence’s Boboli Gardens). If you’d like to learn more about her and these 6th Arrondissement Paris gems we have a Latin Quarter THATRue. But shameless self-promotion and Paris history aside, we’re straying from Marie’s story: when Louis XIII came of age her dragon-queen side had no intention of ceding power. Twice he had to exile his mother (to Blois + Angers, respectively) & twice she staged rebellions (talk about persistent — And against her own son!). Finally by 1628 Cardinal Richelieu, Louis XIII’s chief minister (whom she had procured a cardinal-ship for, but as with all those close to her, he ended up becoming one of her many enemies) had her exiled from France altogether. Richelieu (known as history’s first what, again? History’s first Prime Minister is the answer found herewith but not in your hunts! Aren’t you glad you bothered to read this post?!?) was not to be meddled with either: Marie died in exile in Cologne, in 1642 a year before her son Louis XIII died.
If you like this blurb on Marie, you can get more on our Latin Quarter hunt! ** After Queen Catherine de Medici, Marie’s elder, was widowed by Henri II, she had the Tuileries gardens built for her Palais des Tuileries (1564); both the gardens and palace got their name from the tile factories which they replaced (tuile means tile in French). The 23-hectare gardens we know today — which connect the Louvre, where the kings lived, to Place de la Concorde, where French monarchy came to an abrupt (and bloody!) end — date to 1664 at the hand of André le Nôtre, Louis XIV’s Versailles gardener. And for all you competitive souls looking to pick up some bonus points, those words in bold up above may just help you on your hunt — and well done on reading up on Louvre treasure prior to your hunt!
Today is the eve of Epiphany, 6 January! A day of merrymaking, the 12th Day of Christmas has more than 12 drummers drumming (which apparently refers to the 12 points of doctrine in the Apostle’s creed, within the Christmas carol)… It has Three Kings visiting baby Christ in Bethlehem; Melchior, Gaspar (sometimes known as Caspar) and Balthazar were the Magi or Three Wise Men representing Europe, Arabia and Africa. They arrived on horse, camel and elephant and brought gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, respectively. Balthazar is one of my favourite names – in fact I used to be a regular at a Keith McNally resto in NY by the same name just as an excuse to enunciate it.
Different cultures give Three Kings Day different rituals. Argentina (and most other Spanish-speaking countries) on the eve of El Día de los Reyes has children polish their shoes and leave them outside their door filled with grass or hay, a bowl of water next to them. The morning of 6 Jan, the shoes are filled with gifts and the bowl’s empty (the camels having eaten the hay and drunk the water). Why shoes, I’m not sure (but why Christmas stockings for us? Must look it up). The French, true to their tummies, have a frangipane-filled Galettes des Rois (almond-paste filled cake that has a little figurine known as la fève (originally a broad bean, or fève). Whoever gets the slice of cake with the fève is king for the day. The president at the Elysée Palace has a Galette des Rois that’s more than a meter in diameter, but it’s without a fève, because it wouldn’t be very fitting to find a King in the presidential palace of the Republic, now would it? In the States Three Kings Day is when you’re supposed to exchange your gifts (though we’ve moved this forward to the Hallmark date of 25 Dec) and is also the day you take down your Christmas tree and decorations.
But we’re getting side tracked here – what is the single most important thing that’s happening in France for the 2013 Three Kings Day? No it’s not that meter-wide, feve-less gâteau at the Elysée, pshah! It’s the Kings + Leaders THATLou, of course! And what is this post devoted to, but one of the treasures that our hunters will be chasing after. Lucky are those that are reading these words, because otherwise they wouldn’t know that Bernardino Luini (1480/82 – 1532)’s fine Adoration of the Magi fresco (seen above) can be found in the Duchatel Room (seen below):
Not a lot is known about Luini, other than that he moved to Milano in 1500 from his small town near Lago Maggiore and that in Milano he was heavily influenced by Leonardo, with whom he worked. One of his signatures is graceful female figures with elongated eyes, which Vladimir Nabokov called “Luiniesque” in La Venezia (1924).
The Duchatel Room (found on the 1st floor of the Denon Wing, off of the Italian Gallery), has been the subject of a handful of interesting articles. The collection was left to the Louvre together, and included the Fra Angelico crucifixion (seen in the photo) as well as two Ingres.
The hunters will get a bit more about the Luini Adoration of the Magi tomorrow (a painting which would also be suitable for a Structure + Space THATLou, so organised is the architecture in the quiet scene). Though not half so well known as Georges de La Tour’s Adoration of the Shepherds. I think it’s twice as attractive!