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In ancient Greek society people carefully followed the social rules of good behaviour. Women had to be good mothers. Kids and youths went to school, to the gym and were trained to be brave warriors. The elder ones inspired the new generations with their wise advice. And everyone prayed to the gods during the religious festivities. There was a time though, when almost everything was allowed and when social rules of good behaviour could be forgotten: the symposium. Museums are filled with vases showing symposiasts having fun and playing, precisely because the Greeks, like the Egyptians, the Mesopotamians, the Chinese and the Anglo-Saxons, often buried their dead with games (or scenes of games), in order to allow them to have fun during their afterlife.

Scene of Symposium in Ancient Greek Society
A slave attends to a vomiting symposiast, 500-470 BC, National Museum of Denmark

1. What a Vase Can tell Us About Ancient Greek Lifestyle

Among the many drinking vessels at the British Museum, there is one of particular interest. It’s a red-figured Stamnos showing Greeks playing a drinking game called ‘Kottabos’ (and is, of course, one of our Fun and Games treasures). During the game, players had to throw dregs of wine at a target. It was a bit like darts, but harder because the dregs had to stick together mid-air before reaching the target. The protagonists of the scene are ephebes, Greek male adolescents training to become soldiers. All ephebes are well dressed (or half-dressed!), sometimes wear ivy-wreaths, and drink and sing, while a girl in a beautiful garment plays the flute.

Glimps of ancient Greeks society in the scene of a vase
Greek Stamnos with symposiasts at the British Museum, 475-425 BC

2. Gender Roles at the Symposium

All the males in the scene were part of the wealthier part of the population. Only the richest and most educated men were allowed to have fun at the symposium, after all. But what was the role of women at the party and in ancient Greece? The girl represented was probably a hetaira (a slave prostitute). Hetairai constituted a social class of their own in ancient Greek society. In their daily life, they were trained to serve as the companions of wealthy men (while their wives were secluded at home).

The role of women in ancient Greece
Hetaira playing Kottabos, 500 BC ca, Getty Villa Collection

3. The Role of Women in Ancient Greek Society

Historians and archaeologists don’t often know much about Greek Women and their stories. For sure we know that Greek men were freer than women. The hard duties of men’s daily life could in fact be eased at their drinking parties, where rules didn’t exist. Some suggest that the hetairai, the women entertaining them during the symposium, were more influential than the women of the upper class. During their training, they were taught philosophy and politics so to be able to converse with all men. While they were, of course, little more than sex slaves, it seems clear from the evidence at our disposal that hetairai did participate in the intellectual life of ancient Greece and that the symposiasts often took them as their personal advisors.

The role of Greek women at the symposium
Drinking cup with naked women folding their garments, The Met

4. A Vase or a Book?

It is incredible how much we can learn from the scene of a vase! Greek vases are almost books, often recounting stories of real life and social behaviour and allowing us to enter the fascinating world of ancient Greek society. For more on Greek art and architecture, read about The Parthenon and don’t forget to check our posts on Egyptian art, giving away other bonus answers, here and here! Are you also in love with Greek art and its hidden messages? Book a hunt at either the British Museum or the Louvre where you’ll find plenty of Greek art! If you liked the saucy theme of this blog post, have a look at the most interesting love stories of the past: Cupid and Psyche, The Ain Sakhri Lovers, Thetis and Peleus, and Priapus.

Just a heads up: some of the things in bold might be answers to bonus questions on your Fun & Games hunt, whose First ever Version in Italian will be on Friday April 3rd at 5.30 pm.

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)

Marble statue of Messalina holding baby Brittanicus, Louvre
Messalina and Brittanicus at the Louvre, taken from Flickr, Dipity

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.

bust of Nero (equestrian statue fragment) at the Louvre,
Nero (equestrian statue fragment) at the Louvre, Taken from Louvre.fr

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).

Fountain in front of spanish steps, lit at night, eading to villa borghese

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.

Bust of Claudius at the Louvre
Cuckolded Claudius took necessary measures with his beloved wife; photo taken at the Louvre, from histoire-fr.com

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???

The Three Graces

Marble statue of three graces, Roman copy of Greek 2nd Century BC Statue
Roman copy of Greek 2nd Century BC Statue
Marble, H 1.19m (3ft, 10in) x W 85 cm (33 in)

The Graces, according to Seneca, stand for the 3-fold aspect of generosity the giving, receiving and returning of gifts of benefits. Three daughters of Zeus, some identified them as Beauty, Charm and Joy. Many myths had them presiding over banquets and gatherings, primarily to entertain and delight Zeus’s guests.  These are a Roman copy from the Imperial era (approximately 2nd Century AD), after a Hellenistic original from the 2nd Century BC. Nicolas Cordier (1565 – 1612) restored them in large part in 1609 for Cardinal Borghese (Did you catch that? It’s a THATLou hint… that this marvelous trio is a part of the Borghese collection). Napoleon acquired a considerable part of the Borghese collection in 1807 from his impoverished brother-in-law, Prince Camillo Borghese. 344 antiquities in total made their way from Italy to France. Yet another example of how a French monarch (don’t forget Francois Premier pulling over the Italian renaissance) reaped the benefits of Italian artistic talent — and Italian financial incapacity.

And remember during the hunt NO looking at the internet – so you may want to remember this Room 17, Ground Floor, Sully Wing address! And while I’m at giving Bonus Question hints away, who do you think is prettier, these Three Graces or the scandalous Paulina Borghese, Napoleon’s sister and Camillo’s wife?

All “treasure” per clue-manual have that up above in bold – the title, period, country of the piece, and when an artist is known, his/her name
.

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.

Marble statue of Pauline Borghese as Venus Victrix, at Galleria Borghese, Rome
Pauline Borghese as Venus Victrix, at Galleria Borghese, Rome, http://www.wikipedia.org

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.

Portrait of Prince Camillo Borghese, by Francois Gerard (1770-1837) location unknown
Portrait of Prince Camillo Borghese, by Francois Gerard (1770-1837) location unknown, wikipedia.org

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.

British Embassy on rue du Fbg St Honore with french flags flying outside
British Embassy on rue du Fbg St Honore, taken from flickr.com/eisenphotovideo 

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.

Black and white sketch of Pauline Borghese’s Paris Palace, now the British Embassy
Pauline Borghese’s Paris Palace, now the British Embassy taken from Hector Berlioz’s website

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 good New 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’s sex 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?

Domenico Ghirlandaio, 1490, An Old Man and his Grandson, Louvre
Domenico Ghirlandaio, 1490, An Old Man and his Grandson, Louvre, taken from Wikipedia

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.

Sandro Botticelli’s Venus and Three Graces, 1483-86, Louvre
Sandro Botticelli’s Venus and Three Graces, 1483-86, Louvre, taken from Wikipedia

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 Graces in 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, St Sebastian, 1495, Louvre
Pietro Perugino, St Sebastian, 1495, Louvre, taken from Wikipedia

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!

The Prado’s Gioconda

 La Gioconda contemporary copy, 1503 – 1516, Museo del Prado
La Gioconda contemporary copy, 1503 – 1516, Museo del Prado, taken from Wikipedia

The other day I touched on Spain’s Span Across Europe in the general. It’s true that Spain’s reach was just so broad that it’s hard to know what to focus on at the Prado (the royal collection reflecting the crown’s omnipresence). However, what’s better to linger on than a hermetically sealed connection between the Prado and the Louvre? And what better represents the Louvre than Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa? It’s a painting I generally avoid – in my treasure hunts, or in person at the museum. Too much hype surrounds her cryptic eyes, too much money spent on magnets with her “enigmatic” smile – not to mention the flocks of publicists who’ve promoted a ‘famous author’, as St Sulpice refers to Dan Brown, and his tours to the Mona Lisa. (and yes I do love St Sulpice for thinking it below them to even name this famous author, resentful of the many tourists who march right past their Delacroix frescoes or Pigalle Baptismal font to find the P/S in the stained glass + Meridian line mentioned in the Da Vinci Code).

But it feels like a knee-jerk reaction to Lisa’s fame to avoid her entirely. So while trawling the internet to soak up all-things-Prado I was truly floored and excited to read about last February’s discovery of a contemporary copy of the Mona Lisa, found at the Prado.

La Joconde’s, or Mona Lisa's, eyes at the Louvre
La Joconde’s eyes at the Louvre, Wikipedia

The picture is more than just a studio copy— apparently it changed as Leonardo developed his original composition. Infra-red reflectography images of the Prado version allowed conservators to see beneath the surface of the paint, to the under-drawing. Apparently the two versions were painted next to one another and painted au même temps! Which means the copy must have been by an apprentice in his studio.

 La Gioconda’s Eyes in the Prado’s version
La Gioconda’s Eyes in the Prado’s version, taken from wikipedia

There was a dull black background that left a deadening effect on the Prado Mona Lisa (who’s generally believed to have been Lisa Gherardini, the wife of the Florentine cloth merchant Francesco del Giocondo – thus the French and Spanish name for her La Joconde/Gioconda, respectively). Conservationists aren’t clear on why the black over-paint was there, but believe it was added in the 18th century.

Photographers crowding The Prado's Gioconda
The Prado’s Gioconda created quite the stir when it was unveiled last March

In 1992 Art Historian José María Ruiz Manero published a paper called “Italian Painting in 16th Century Spain” where he surmises that the painter was Flemish and that it was probably painted in Northern France. Because the Prado version’s wood was assumed to be oak (rarely used in Italy at the time) Northern Europe was an entirely plausible guess. However, last year the panel was found to be walnut, which was used in Italy — as was poplar, what da Vinci’s Mona Lisa is painted on.

What I don’t understand is why all of the newspapers refer to it as a copy, as in this Guardian article or this Time Magazine piece… If it was painted simultaneously and developed along side Leonardo’s, why isn’t it simply thought of as another painting of the same subject, by a lesser painter?

Even more interesting than this is who painted this Prado version of the Mona Lisa. Though it hasn’t been confirmed (the discovery was only unveiled at a National Gallery (London) conference of conservators, most people seem to believe it was by Andrea Salai, an assistant to and perhaps Leonardo’s lover. More on that for our next visit!


Livia Drusilla, standing marble sculpture as Ops, with wheat sheaf and cornucopia, 1st C BC, Louvre

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).

Basanite bust of Empress Livia (58 BC – 29 AD), Louvre

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 son Tiberius 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…

Aphrodite marble statue, known as Venus de Milo, Melos, 100BC, Louvre museum paris

Aphrodite, known as VENUS DE MILO

Marble, H 2.02 meters

Island of Melos (Cyclades, Greece), 100 BC Statue

You can’t tell me you’re surprised we’re opening up the Love Hunt with the Goddess of Love, can you? A hands-down top ten Louvre Icon, just look on your map for her snap…

The identity of the “Venus de Milo” is unknown, as her arms were never found, nor were any attributes. Because of her sensuality and semi-nudity, she’s often considered to be Venus (goddess of love), however, she could have very well been Amphitrite (Poseidon / Neptune’s wife originally, but sadly this goddess of the sea diminished in importance at different junctures of Olympian history). Amphitrite was worshipped on the Island of Melos (Milo), where this Louvre icon was found.

She originally wore jewellery (bracelet, earrings and a headband) of which only the fixation holes remain. Traits which were typical of the 5th C BC, such as the harmony of her face, her aloofness and impassivity, lead some Art Historians to believe she was a 100 BC replica. Likewise, her hairstyle and the delicate modelling of the flesh evoke the works of the 4th C sculptor Praxiteles. But there’s plenty that places her in the Hellenistic period (between 3rd – 1st C BC), such as the spiral composition of her body, the fact that she’s 3D, her small breasts, elongated body and most importantly the thin veneer of material draped from her hips and not quite covering the top of her butt crack. It’s not the cling wrap material of Nike of Samothrace.

Closeup on fixture holes on arm of venus de milo for attaching original jewellery
Venus’s fixture holes photo taken from from Where is Ariadne? Blog

Whoever this mystery lady is, she’s gorgeous and her ‘top-ten attraction’ at the Louvre status is entirely understandable. If you’re sharp you’ll have earned another thirty points by telling us where Venus de Milo hid during WWII, as discussed in Just Do It … And another fifteen points each for 2 other treasures that hid with her — Not shabby on the bonus question front, eh?

As for the WWII Bonus answer: all of the following treasure was kept in hiding at the Château de Valençay: the lovely Venus, Michelangelo’s Dying Slaves, the Mona Lisa and Nike of Samothrace. Every time I go up the Daru Staircase I think of the photo of Nike being evacuated from the Louvre’s Daru Staircase in 1939, as seen in the Nike blog post.

* The Louvre map has photos of six highlights per floor on their map. When it’s such a “greatest hit” (my joke term for these Louvre icons) those treasures are only worth 10 game points, as there’s no challenge to finding them. That is NOT TO SAY you don’t want to find these easy-to-find Icons, because you’ll be well rewarded with bonus questions, as you see above.

When things are in bold, usually that’s a hint that they refer to bonus questions…

Just Do It! – Nike of Samothrace

Left side, Nike of Samothrace, from 220 – 190 BC Louvre
Winged Victory of Samothrace: she was meant to be viewed from the right, so the detail of her left side isn’t so well carved – compare to the next photo (photos taken from www.Wikipedia.org)

The Winged Victory of Samothrace has appeared in many THATLous, from Angels + Wings to of course Beauty + the Beast(iary). A variation of the write up attached to her (below in italics) generally has some sneaky bonus question inserted. As she’s an Icon of the Louvre, her photo is on the map — easy to find making her only 10 game points*. Sometimes the bonus questions request hunters to pose in their photos with their hands as she once had them, cupping her lips as she calls out Victory! With her hand on display nearby within the Daru Staircase (some of her fingers were found in a drawer at the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna), it would take hunters a bit of time to actually read the Louvre’s information sheets about her in order to win these craftily embedded bonus points (Or maybe you’ve already read this very post, saving you time on your hunt!). Other bonus questions get involved in her whereabouts, Samothrace being in the Northern Aegean sea, north of Pergamon (an important ancient Greek colony in Turkey that at times became a ping pong ball between the Persians and Greeks).

Nike of Samothrace, from 220 – 190 BC, Louvre
Nike of Samothrace, from 220 – 190 BC. Please note the exceptional sculpture and detail of her Hellenistic wet-drapery (photo taken from www.wikipedia.org)

The Winged Goddess of Victory / Nike of Samothrace (Nike = Victory in Greek) stands proudly on the prow of a ship, soaring above the Daru Stairwell. She is one of those Hellenistic treasures we all have to study in Art History 101, a piece as noteworthy to the Louvre as the Mona Lisa or Venus de Milo. She was found in Samothrace where a sanctuary was consecrated to the Cabeiri (gods of fertility) whose help was invoked to protect seafarers and to grant victory in war. Honouring these gods, they offered this nearly nude Nike made of Parian Marble in a religious act. It has also been suggested that she was dedicated to Rhodes, in commemoration of a specific naval victory. No one is certain of her provenance, however, the partial inscription of the word Rhodes implies the whereabouts of whatever battle she was presiding over.

That said the Archeological Museum of Samothrace contests this Rhodian provenance, maintaining to this day that she was erected by the Macedonian general Demetrius I (aka Poliorcetes) after his naval victory at Cyprus between 295-289 BC. Samothrace was an important sanctuary for Macedonian kings, furthermore her spiral figure also appeared on contemporary Macedonian coins.

Louvre’s Daru Staircase
Louvre’s Daru Staircase, taken from www.wikipedia.org

Wherever this beauty is from, she was discovered dislodged by the French Counsul (read: amateur archaeologist) Charles Champoiseau (I’m convinced that all British, French and German 19th century Consuls, Consul Generals and Diplomats were required to be ‘amateur archaeologist’ — on the prowl in foreign lands to see just what they could ravage their visiting countries of. Diplomacy was a side business they fit in when they happened to be in town for a cocktail and shower). M Chamoiseau swiftly excavated her, sending both Nike and the prow on which she stands to the halls of the Louvre in 1863.

By 1884 she was holding sway over the grand Daru Staircase and has been there ever since…. Sauf! During WWII. She was removed on 2 September 1939 — to be sheltered in the safety of Château de Valençay (along with other Louvre Icons, Michelangelo’s Dying Slavesand the Venus de Milo), in case Paris saw war. Every time I mount these stairs among the throngs of tourists I think of these evacuating railway tracks (as seen below) and how incredibly lucky the treasures of the Louvre and Paris were not to have bombed during WWII — but also how horribly ironic is was that Nike’s original purpose was to be the first in battle against the Titans, protecting Zeus, and yet here she was hiding out in a Château cowering against the Germans.  Anyway, WWII is subject on France I probably shouldn’t get into.

Preparing for WW2, Nike descends the Daru Staircase on 3 September 1939
Preparing for war in another way, Nike descends the Daru Staircase on 3 September 1939, photo appears on http://www.wikipedia.com

The 7th century BC Greek poet, Hesiod has it that Nike was the daughter of Styx (Hatred) and Pallas (God of War Craft); Part of a powerful clan, Nike was sister to Zelos (Rivalry), and Kratos (Strength) and Bia (Force). When Zeus was preparing to battle the Titans, Styx and her brood pledged their allegiance to him. Zeus made Nike his charioteer and proclaimed that the four children should remain by his side always (who’d be stupid enough to turn down the children of Hatred, when it comes to fighting a war?).  Though Nike was a popular theme for Greek sculpture, her story doesn’t really continue past Zeus’s battle against the Titans.

As for her wonderfully sexy form, with typical Hellenistic material no thicker than cling-wrap, her movement forward is powerful. For a thorough examination of this I recommend this page from the Met’s website for a context and timeline on the Hellenistic age. As per the first photo’s caption, she was meant to be viewed from the right, so the detail of her left side is relatively course.

The proper pronunciation of Nike is Nee-Kay — Just Say It!


(Photo credited to Nicolas de Boyer, published in 1995 by Lynn H. Nichols The Rape of Europa: The Fate of Europe’s Teasures in the Third Reich and the Second World War.New York: Vintage Books)

* You’ll see when we meet for the THATLou briefing, the Louvre map has photos of six highlights per floor on their map. When it’s such a “greatest hit” (my joke term for these Louvre icons) those treasures are only worth 10 game points, as there’s no challenge to finding them. That is NOT TO SAY you don’t want to find these easy-to-find Icons, because you’ll be well rewarded with bonus questions on pieces like the Mona Lisa and Venus de Milo, or our own Nike of Samothrace.

When things are in bold, usually that’s a hint that they refer to bonus questions…

MARIE DE MEDICI, Queen of France Frans Pourbus the Younger (Antwerp 1569 – Paris 1622) 16th Century, Netherlands
Dragon Lady Queen of France, Marie de Medici, by Frans Pourbus

MARIE DE MEDICI, Queen of France Frans 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.

Treasure hunt patrons in front of Marie de Medici’s Palais du Luxembourg
THATRue launch in 2014, in front of Marie de Medici’s Palais du Luxembourg, photo by Lindsey Kent of Pictours Paris…

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!

Sleeping Hermaphroditus. Greek marble, Roman copy from 2nd century BC after a Hellenistic original of the 2nd century BC, restored in 1619 by David Larique — with mattress by Gianlorenzo Bernini, http://www.wikipedia.org

It’s really not so easy to follow a post concerning Pauline la Pute (or as she was known in history Pauline Borghese, Napoleon’s sister & Prince Camillo Borghese’s wife). I love the drafty old halls of the Louvre. Why else would I be toiling so at trying to expand the museum for THATLou participants and readers? But I know that an article on the history of the Borghese Collection isn’t that sexy. And though the Borghese Collection’s Three Graces, a perfect candidate for this Sunday’s Ladies at the Louvre hunt (hint hint, nudge nudge…), is a sexy piece of sculpture… They’re, well. Virtuous — so not quite so much fun as our scandalous friend Pauline.

St Teresa in Ecstasy, by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, 1647 in the Cornaro Chapel of Santa Maria della Vittoria

So instead of trying to top the juice, I thought I’d go for the anatomically interesting:  The Sleeping Hermaphrodite! There’s an excellent church in Rome (well there are a few, if your all time favourite period of art is Baroque Roman architecture, which is the case for me. This is the lucky result of having glorious gilded swirls, dramatic moving marble, fat flabby volutes, convex and concave facades all crammed down my throat from a young age by my avid mother) called Santa Maria della Vittoria. It’s by Carlo Maderno (teacher to rivals Bernini and Borromini). Sta Ma della VIttoria is famous on a mass scale because of Bernini’s most excellent and much-studied sculpture in the Cornaro Chapel called The Ecstasy of Saint Teresa* (oh the jokes my predominately Protestant and Jewish art history classes would make in HS over the “Ecstasy” the horny saint went through — but that’s for another entry, or another blog. On being juvenile in Rome and New York, sometime. One day. For now though, I’ll try to rein in my enthusiasm and save you from more parenthetical tangents).

Carlo Maderno’s Santa Maria della Vittoria (1605-1620), Rome, photo from http://www.wikipedia.org

In any event, in 1608 when the foundations of the church were being dug they found this 2nd Century AD Sleeping Hermaphrodite in the ground (it’s near Diocletian’s Baths), a Roman copy of a 2nd C BC Hellenistic sculpture. Cardinal Scipione Borghese**, nephew of Pope Paul V, caught word of this find and descended on the construction site immediately, saying “Hey, I’ll be taking that lovely SheMan thank you very much (ah the joy of being a Pope’s “nephew” in 17th-century Rome)” and brought it directly up the Pincian Hill back to his Villa Borghese where he created a room just for his new prized possession, the Sleeping Hermaphrodite. (Incidentally he also paid for the facade of Sta Ma della Vittoria twenty odd years later). Then in 1619 he set Gian Lorenzo Bernini (architect of St Peter’s Baldacchino, as well as of the Fountain of Four Rivers in Piazza Navona) to the task of sculpting the marble mattress to cushion his Sleeping Hermaphrodite.

ront of the Borghese Collection’s Sleeping Hermaphrodite – http://www.Utexas.edu

In Greek mythology they didn’t really give hermaphrodites a lot of importance until the Hellenistic period. The idea of these poor beings with mixed up male-female chromosomes came to the Greeks from the East by way of Cyprus. The Encyclopedia Britannica (1974 edition) says the legend of the Hellenistic period made Hermaphroditus a beautiful youth, the son of Hermes and Aphrodite. The nymph of the fountain of Salmacis in Caria became enamored of him and entreated the gods that she might be forever united with him. The result was the formation of a being half man, half woman. It was typical of Hellenistic sculpture in so far as it had a theatrical element of surprise to it and was meant to be seen from two different angles.

front of the Borghese sleeping hermaphrodite, wikicommons

There are sleeping hermaphrodites scattered about, but the Louvre’s is the most famous. The Galeria Borghese in Rome has a lesser one, the Uffizi has another Roman copy. Both the Prado in Madrid and Met in NY have life-sized bronze sleeping hermaphrodites, the former ordered by Philip IV. The composition clearly influenced Velazquez’s Rokeby Venus at the National Gallery in London. And we won’t even go into the poets (Swinburne to name one) who devoted ode after ode to the subject.

All of this is good and well, but the big question you are probably asking yourselves — Does the Sleeping Hermaphrodite deserve a space in the Ladies at the Louvre THATLou?


* Whilst discussing the female orgasm, psychologist Jacques Lacan said that “you only have to go and look at Bernini’s statue in Rome to understand immediately that she’s coming, there is no doubt about it.” (“Encore,” Sem. XX: 70-71). This tidbit is a tip of my hat to my sister in law, a psychologist in Buenos Aires who introduced me to Lacan.

** Cardinal Bishop Scipione Borghese was not only Bernini’s patron, but Caravaggio’s as well. If you like the Baroque, you like Scipione.

For those of you with a minute to both watch and listen to the below, I thoroughly recommend it. The music, played by Yo Yo Ma, is Bach’s Sarabande from Suite for Solo Cello #1 in G Major. The video needs no introductions, it’s sublime as it is:

Would that THATLou be so creative