THATMuse

Just a quick round up of the notable companies involved in the Paris Entrepreneur’s THATLou. Though its purpose is as a networking event, we can’t overlook the theme these fine capitalists will be scouting for — Power + Money in the halls of the Louvre! This past week THATLou has focused on Roman Empire power, but there’s a panoply of international power both at the Louvre and in these pages which may just nose its way to the surface in this scheming hunt. Stay tuned for the winners.

NYSE Trader’s floor, 1963
NYSE Trader’s floor, 1963 photo by Thomas O’Halloran

THATLou Parisian Entrepreneur Night

http://shiraly.com/

Shiraly is a one-stop website for design professionals to promote their products and services, identify new sources and events, and get inspired by things that help make the world a more interesting place to live in.

Inspiring articles and op-eds range from Lalique’s crystal door, to Delanoe’s recycling in Paris, a brief history of the Paris metro, to thoughts on Balmain’s reinvention, Fauchon and let’s not forget the waterworks show at Le Grand Rex. Though Shiraly is geared toward interior designers and architects, artists and artisans, its “Inspiration” page is read by a far greater audience on both sides of the pond.


http://www.savoirfaireparis.com/

Savoir Faire Paris is your ultimate English-speaking personal assistant in Paris. Organizing everything from meetings, events, and service calls to travel, apartment management, and the ‘business of living’, Savoir Faire is dedicated to saving you valuable time. Providing superior customized service to individuals, families and businesses alike, Savoir Faire caters to your tastes and needs, allowing you to experience a more personalized Paris. Send us your “to-do” list and then consider it done! Savoir Faire exists to simplify and enhance the lives of its clients.


http://flavorsofparis.com/

Flavors of Paris — We provide highly personal, carefully vetted walking tours of some of Paris’ most charming, pleasurable and downright ‘local’ foodshops that are neither pretentious nor ‘gourmet’. Our English language walking tours introduce you to a sampling of neighbourhood food shops, with all the tastings included. We also offer tours customized to your specific interests.


http://guide2paris.com/

Guide2Paris is a one-stop website for english speaking tourists, residents and property hunters. Browse the comprehensive Paris guide, check out the events calender, search for Paris companies on our business directory, look for Paris accommodation and restaurants, and keep up to date with the latest Paris news and featured articles.


http://www.frenchmystiquetours.com/

French Mystique Bike Tours is a company that specializes in doing day-long bike tours exploring the countryside near Paris. Our tours are focused on showing you off the beaten path places and are full of charming villages, beautiful country scenery and magnificent châteaux. While we also cover some well known destinations, the emphasis is on showing you a side of France not seen by most tourists.


http://www.kasiadietz.com/

Kasia Dietz is a designer who creates wearable art in the form of totes, handbags, clutches and other limited edition accessories. Select collections are hand-printed. Kasia Dietz also designs custom bags to order. All products are made {with love} in Paris and available internationally.

Adam Smith in profile etching, 1787.
Adam Smith etching, 1787. Taken from Harvard’s Visual Information Access System (lest the invisible hand attack me, the site is: http://www.library.hbs.edu)

… Because Individual Ambition Does Benefit Society, no matter what the French Mercantilists thought…

A Panoply of Power

Mme de Pompadour, by Maurice-Quentin Delatour
Mme de Pompadour, by Maurice-Quentin Delatour (this is a pastel – how did he avoid smudging??)

My mind has turned to Power & Money at the Louvre as I start to build the Entrepreneur’s THATLou. Sadly it’s rather soon. I say sadly, because there are just so many great anecdotes nestled in the halls of the Louvre. It will be a tough process of elimination more than anything. Should I focus on a region or country? A period of time, perhaps?

For this theme, could I give myself a real challenge and exclude all French monarchs? The Louvre does have 35,000 works from which to scrounge. And it’s not like France is lacking in colourful figures with tight fists on power: Mme de Pompadour, Mme de Sevigné and Diane de Poitiers are a few who come to mind – None actual Queens.  And ruthlessly ambitious ministers abound – we’ve got the clever economist Jean-Baptiste Colbert, of Colbertism (read, protectionism), the fearsome warrior, Anne de Montmorency (first constable to François I), and the clergymen-turned-politicians Cardinal Richelieu and Talleyrand. But it does seem a crime to leave out the rest of the western cannon just for France.

Alexander the Great 'The Azara Herm' 1st century AD after the original by Lysippus from circa 330 BC, Louvre
Alexander the Great ‘The Azara Herm’ 1st century AD after the original by Lysippus from circa 330 BC

What about Alexander the Great, and his equally important father Philip of Macedon? The Louvre just had an exhibition devoted solely to him. He had the nerve to attack the Persian Empire, pushing as far as the Indus River.  Speaking of the Persian Empire, we mustn’t over look Darius the Great, nor his father or son, Cyrus and Xerxes, respectively. His greatness and matching palace has merited more than one THATLou post.

Then what about the Iliad? The Trojan War is rich in power. Achilles, with his distinctly human faults, personifies power. Perhaps because of that very first scene with him in the Iliad, with Thetis, his goddess mother consoling the big whiney cry baby, trying to coax him into returning to war). There are so many scenes from his life to choose from, so many pots to choose from… the detail below is from an attic black-figured neck amphora from 520 – 510BC. A scene of Ajax carrying a dead Achilles, with Hermes on his left, Athena on his right.

Black figure pot painting of Ajax carrying Achilles with Hermes and Athena
taken from Louvre.fr

Moving on from Greece, one automatically thinks of Rome, no? Finding living fiction, the Julio-Claudian dynasty is of course oozing in power — and very, very RICH in soap-opera, with scheming murders, adultery and just plain juice. Yes, I think our next few posts may linger on the Roman Empire.

Milo of Croton devoured by a lion, Marble, by Pierre PUGET (Marseille, 1620 -1694).
gardens of the Château de Versailles, 1819
taken from louvre.fr

Milo of Croton was a powerful 6th Century athlete, having won the Olympics 6 times for his strength as a wrestler. As with any star in Greece, there were a plethora of legends about him. One story had him carrying a 4-year old bull on his shoulders before slaughtering and devouring him all in one day… Aristotle compared Milo to Heracles for his appetite: his daily diet was allegedly 20 lb of meat, 20 lb of bread, and eighteen pints of wine.

But it is Milo’s death which captivates most. His death was the story of pride: Well past his prime, the aged Milo decided to split a tree trunk he found already cleft. With his hand stuck in it, a pack of wolves devoured him. Modern literary references range from Rabelais to Shakespeare, all the way down to Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights when Catherine refers to Milo’s demise asking “Who is to separate us, pray? They’ll meet the fate of Milo!”

Finance Minister Jean-Baptiste Colbert authorised Pierre Puget (1620 – 1694), an academic sculptor, to use some marble that had been left in Toulon, and commissioned him to do a piece for Louis XIV.  Milo wasn’t a particularly popular subject in 17th C French scupture, but here Puget made him one, replacing the wolves with this fierce-some lion. Having him about to take a big juicy bite out of Milo’s rear-end. A sassy man this Puget was, as the thread keeping Milo’s demise together is about how he was vanquished by his pride and vanity, trying — and failing — to defy age and the weakness that comes with it. His roar isn’t just a physical one from those painful claws, no. Human glory is ephemeral, folks, and Puget wants you, and more importantly, the King, to know it. Life spans were shorter than they are now, so Louis XIV’s 44 years did not make him a spring chicken!

Falconet's Milo of Croton, 1754. Louvre Paris
Falconet’s Milo of Croton


Etienne-Maurice Falconet (1716 – 1791) took this sassy-ness one step further. Puget’s Milo at least has a small modicum of pride — standing, pushing the lion’s head away. Falconet tipped his hat to his elder by choosing this subject, but furthered Milo’s insult by making him a painful mess, a baroque basket case. He pits man against beast on equal footing, with Milo’s end clearly seconds away. This sculpture is small — .66m tall, .64m wide, .51m deep — and was the model which would gain Falconet entry to the French Academy (ten years later, in 1754). As it’s a small piece it’s tucked away at the end of the French sculpture wing, behind a series of rooms which run along rue de Rivoli. Quite different from Puget’s Milo, who stands smack dab in the middle of the Cour Puget, in the spotlight, where the noses of the public sully the windows on the street, looking into this Richelieu’s sculpture wing.

Louvre sculpture gallery with glass ceiling

Now aren’t you glad you read this entry? These Milos could appear in all sorts of THATLous, from Power + Money to Animals in Art or Athlete’s THATLou. And now you’re all prepped for any bonus point questions which may arise, even if asked to produce a limerick!

“Still life with Carp” by Abraham van Beyeren, Louvre
taken from the Louvre website

Poisson d’Avril is the French version of April Fool’s Day, where on the 1st of April French people will post fish on each others’ backs. In tribute to this, the theme for next Sunday’s THATLou (a part of the Sunday series) is… you guessed it: Fish + Water! Lucky you’re reading this, as it’s you may very well pick up some terrific bonus points…

This “Still life with Carp” (creative name, no?) was painted by Abraham van Beyeren, a 17th Century Dutch master who’s niche was still lifes. He was a protege to Pieter de Putter. Though de Putter was a lesser painter, his name may be worth a THATLou goldmine —

It’s not guaranteed, but it wouldn’t be a surprise if for some hefty bonus points you just might be asked to write a limerick / haiku / rhyme about Pieter de Putter. These golden Carp could very well apply to the Animals in Art THATLou, or even the Food + Wine THATLou.

Oh yeah, and it’s not too late to sign up for the Poisson d’Avril Fish + Water THATLou, which is part of our Sunday Series open to the public. As we do the first Sunday of every month, we’re meeting at 2.30 on…. no joke… 1 April. Contact me now if you’d like to join a handful of veritable fisherman (among them Sasha Levensohn-Wahl, founder of Savoir Faire Paris, http://www.savoirfaireparis.com/)

Have I mustered your interest to put your Plume to Paper for Mr Pieter de Putter who just might have a Dutch stutter?

So I’m just putting the finishing touches on a new Public THATLou; “All Things Gaul, for those who have the Gall” shall debut on, yep, you guessed it: Bastille Day! The Louvre is free on 14 juillet, yet I’m banking on the fact that most people are going to be watching the military parade on the Champs-Elysées or over at Place de la Bastille, out and about in the sun. Not holed up in a dusty old museum. Moreover, I don’t think a lot of people realize the museum’s free, so it won’t be as crowded as the first Sunday of the month, when the crowds can get a bit suffocating.

It’s the first Public THATLou we’ll have since the Easter Hunt and the last till the 1 November Toussaint “Death Hunt”, so don’t miss your chance to win the glory of France, a tremendously valuable All things Gaul THATLou prize (got at the Louvre gift shop, so I guess “tremendously valuable” might be called by some a tourist trinket).  I’m pleased as punch that Mary Kay, of the wonderful blog Out and About in Paris, has signed her family up and will go on her second hunt.

taken from Mr Shellshear.wikispaces.com

As for designing the hunt, All Things Gaul has been more a process of elimination than anything, since the Louvre is of course abounding in French-related treasure. Though the hunt will theoretically get our clever hunters to all floors of all three wings of the museum, I’ve tried to make it easier to strategize in concentrated areas.

Description de l’Egypte, Etat Moderne, Plate 87, Views of Qait Bey Fortress and the Diamant Rock, drawn c.1798, pub in the Panckoucke edition of 1821-9 (wikipedia.com)

It was hard to discard some wings. I considered including Egyptian works, since the French were the first Europeans in Egypt with Napoléon’s 1798 Egyptian Campaign, when the cocky 29 year old general wanted to sever England’s India route (and supremacy over the Mediterranean) by attacking Egypt. The campaign was a failure (Nelson captured Nappy’s enormous fleet at the Battle of the Nile off of Alexandria at the bay of Aboukir (so why, I wonder, do the French have a long narrow street crossing the 2nd Arrt named Aboukir?). Nappy had to leave Egypt to his man Kléber (who was assassinated in Cairo by a Syrian student in 1800) in order to try to escape land-bound up toward Syria). However, it was a fascinating failure, because Napoléon brought 160 scholars, scientists, engineers, naturalists, artists, (including Denon, for whom one of the Louvre’s three wings is named) to scrutinize Egypt. Thanks to this Egyptology was born, and a 23-volume “Description of Egypt” was published from 1808 – 1829. The size alone of the Louvre’s Egyptian collection (2 floors of Sully, nearly half of the wing!) attests to their world-famous focus on Egyptology.

But I decided to exclude the Egyptians from All Things Gaul and sprinkle it nearly exclusively on pieces by Frenchmen or of Frenchmen. We have Kings and Leaders, lots of lovely (naked) ladies, a Sevres wine cooler, a bed (What’s more All things Gaul than wine, women and a bed?).

There are a few exceptions, the Mona Lisa being one. She may not be by a Frenchman (though da Vinci did work for a French king and did die in Amboise, as written about in the Leonardo’s Lover! post), but thanks to her absurd popularity she’s come to represent Paris or France just as much as the Eiffel Tower. When 60% of one’s market relies on tourism and 80% of 8 million visitors a year go to the Louvre just to see her (so sad) then I think it’s fair to put her in an All Things Gaul hunt.

The Raft of Medusa in the Louvre, by theplagiarists.com

Stay posted for the typical give away clue — and I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if the Géricault Raft of Medusa bonus question which appeared for our recent hunt for an Int’l law firm appears within this All Things Gaul hunt as well!

Sandro Botticelli's Madonna del Magnificat
Sandro Botticelli’s Madonna del Magnificat 1481, at the Uffizi, taken from Wikipedia

The Madonna Enthroned with baby Jesus in her lap and various saints in attendance is by far the most common religious subject in art history. To take a break from the Louvre’s Christmas paintings, and to veer from the divine Early Netherlandish Annunciations, for Christmas we’re turning out attention to the Uffizi Gallery in Florence with three Madonna and Child treasures.

Pietro Perugino's Enthroned Madonna and Christ
Pietro Perugino’s Enthroned Madonna and Christ , 1493, at the Uffizi, taken from Wikipedia

Back when we were considering Leonardo’s Contemporaries we touched on three fellow students all of whom flourished in their own style and by their own means. Pietro Perugino, Sandro Botticelli, Domenico Ghirlandaio and Leonardo da Vinci were all four students at one point or another in Andrea del Verrocchio’s 15th Century Florentine studio.

Domenico Ghirlandaio's Madonna + Child
Domenico Ghirlandaio’s Madonna + Child enthroned with Saints, 1483, at the Uffizi, taken from Wikipedia

Just a quick thought on each of the three: That first Botticelli Madonna del Magnificat is actually the Piero de’ Medici family, pudgy Jesus’s hand on a pomegranate symbolising the Resurrection. Perugino, always a smooth operator, painted the same scene with a silky, serene stroke: Mary and Christ flanked by Saint John the Baptist (in hirsute) and St Sebastian (a fave subject of Perugino).  And essays (and probably books, too) have been written about Oriental Carpets in Renaissance painting, with that last Ghirlandaio being included in all of them, no doubt.

Without much more ado I shall let the paintings speak for themselves, and leave you without more text than to say:

Happy Christmas!

Bernardino Luini’s Adoration of the Magi, 1520-25, au Louvre (from Wikipedia)

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):

Duchatel Room, Denon, 1st Floor, Room 2 (taken from the Louvre Atlas database)

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!

This Annunciation is by Carlo Braccesco, a Renaissance painter from Liguria active from 1478 to 1501. Doesn’t it look like Mary’s dodging a pigeon?

Annunciation - Carlo Braccesco
Annunciation – Carlo Braccesco, 16th C, Denon, 1st fl Grande Galerie Salle 5

The Annunciation is one of the most popular subjects in religious art. The story comes from Luke — Archangel Gabriel comes to the Virgin Mary out of the nowhere  (almost invariably he enters her bedchamber from a courtyard, although soon I’ll write about a great Annunciation at the National Gallery in DC by Jan van Eyck which has Gabriel visiting her in a church/temple) to announce to her that despite having lost out on not getting any she’s going to have to go through the fun of being preggers for 9 months. Then she’ll give birth to the son of God, which he suggests (strongly, sometimes) she name Jesus, which means “Saviour”.Logically the Annunciation takes place nine months prior to Christmas on 25 March (and according to Wikipedia the English celebrate it, which I find interesting as I think of the English as largely Protestant, so they technically shouldn’t believe in saints and miracles, but perhaps they’re just Protestants for the sake of Henry VIII replacing his wives?).

Anyway, in art the Annunciation generally has a few of the following symbolic elements: The Lilly (the Virgin’s purity**), a ray of laser-like light from a window (indicates God’s imminent incarnation), a blown out candle (symbolic of God’s divinity, about to be extinguished, a further reference to the Incarnation – the moment when God became man), a dove (flying towards Mary’s ear — which is where conception took place. No laughing, please), flowers in a vase (the “Golden Legend” took place in Nazareth, which means Flower, but also points out to when it took place, the springtime). And for some reason usually Mary’s reading when Gabriel interrupts/surprises/visits her.

I will save my favourite Louvre Annunciation for tomorrow — for now I’ll leave you with some Louvre second-rate ones (when compared to my beloved Annunciation by Rogier van der Weyden).

Bernardo Daddi
Annunciation – Bernardo Daddi, 1335 Florence

Sometimes Mary and Gabriel are on the same footing, and it’s just an idle conversation you may see between neighbours in their respective backyards, through an open gate or over a fence.

Annunciation – Giorgio Vasari (1511-1574) St Maria Novella d’Arezzo
Annunciation – Giorgio Vasari (1511-1574) St Maria Novella d’Arezzo

Or you can see the Virgin as Vasari did, as a Yogi levitating. We have Vasari to thank for having Art History, insofar as his The Lives was the first book about his contemporary Renaissance painters. He was great in many ways (including giving us the smut! As THATMuse passed along when pondering Leonardo’s Lover), but actually painting was not one of Vasari’s strong-suits. He should have kept to writing as this Annunciation reflects.

Annunciation – Giulio Cesare Procaccini, 1620, Milano
Annunciation – Giulio Cesare Procaccini, 1620, Milano

Or then you have Procaccini’s Annunciation where it looks like Gabriel’s about to snap his wrist across Mary’s face

“You WILL call him Jesus”

“Cummmon, Man! I want to name him Graydon!”


Tomorrow you’ll get the good stuff – the Annunciation from some Northerners. Just a quick PS, though, Gabriel bringing Mary the lilies started appearing in Florentine Annunciations in the 14th century. The fleurs-de-lis (flower of lilies) was the heraldic symbol of Florence. Rivaling Siena, whose painters had their own school of thought on the matter, had Gabriel bring the Virgin an olive branch, which symbolised their own fine city. Gotta love the propaganda!

Jan Davidsz de HEEM, A Table of Desserts, 1640, at the Louvre, taken from Wikimedia Commons

A TABLE OF DESSERTS

Jan Davidsz de HEEM (Utrecht 1606 – Antwerp 1684)

17th Century, Flemish

JD de Heem was one of the rare Dutch Vanitas masters to capture some of the exuberance of the Flemish baroque. No surprise, as he spent his life ping-ponging between Protestant Utrecht and Catholic Antwerp throughout the ravages of the 30 Years War. The vanitas genre lectured a moral message, for instance some of the fruit here evokes Christian symbolism: Cherries are a fruit of paradise, peaches and apples embody the forbidden fruit, grapes represent redemption, and bread and wine are of course a clear reference to the Eucharist, the bod and blood of Christ. The lute and recorder recall the pleasure of the senses and the globe at top right corner recall the universe.

Louis XIV, whose army ravaged the Netherlands in 1672 (again causing de Heem to head back to Holland), bought this painting for Versailles. Much later Matisse copied it twice – nearly replicating it in an unremarkable art-school copy in 1893, and then nearly 20 years later in 1915 when Matisse was painting during another World War.

Foodies in France, this is just one piece which is a fine candidate for a Food + Wine THATLou. It can be tricky to find (in room 26!) since the 2nd floor Richelieu is interrupted between the Netherlands and Flemish sections via a lovely set of double-barreled stairs (called “Lefuel”), where there are some impish Snyders monkeys stealing fruit). The above de Heem text is taken directly from the hunt, but with one thing missing — something obvious from the below article will be an embedded bonus question… But what? Better read carefully, because as you know there’s no internet during the treasure hunt!

There’s so much to touch on with this one painting alone, throw Matisse in there and it doubles the anti! The 30 Years War (1618 – 1648) and the Peace of Westphalia, Louis XIV and his army, Versailles and the Sun King’s art patronage, de Heem and the vanitas genre… Where to start, what to look at? We can’t do it all, let’s take the most recent – as we rarely have an excuse to discuss modern painters (the Louvre’s collection ends where the Musée d’Orsay – why not toddle across the Seine for a THATd’Or ? – picks up after the mid 19th C.)

Henri Matisse (1869 – 1954) did his art-student copy of de Heem’s Table of Desserts at the age of 24 in 1893. That version is really just a replica that any art student could have made with a dim attempt for precise mimicry and little talent to show for it. However, it was important enough to catch his eye later. According to the curators of the MoMA in New York, at the start of the Great War in 1914 the French military requisitioned Matisse’s house in the Paris suburbs of Issy-les-Moulineaux. The following year when Matisse was allowed back in his home he happened across this school version of de Heem’s sumptuous still life and decided to make another copy.

The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) and the Art Institute of Chicago co-curated a Matisse exhibition in 2010 called “Radical Invention 1913 – 1917” which covered a period in the artist’s life when Matisse didn’t seem to follow any one style, instead jumping from one technique to another, one model to another, one house to another. This, I suppose makes sense, as there was a World War going on after all.

Variation on a Still Life by de Heem, 1915 by Matisse, at the MoMA, from http://www.moma.org

That said Matisse’s own style(s) had come through by 1915 and in his Variation on a Still Life by de Heem (as he called this second version) he pulls from a cubist base and makes de Heem’s Table of Desserts his own. He called what he was doing the “Methods of Modern Construction” looking at old masters and constructing them in his modern context, peeing on the painting so to elegantly speak with vibrant colours and various techniques, yet retaining the composition so to still pay tribute to its provenance.

In a short podcast concerning Matisse’s inspiration, Stephanie d’Alessandro, a co-curator at the Art Institute of Chicago, described Matisse’s approach in his Variation on a Still Life by de Heem a “buffet of techniques”. Apt, for a period of so many (destructive) distractions.


MoMA co-curator John Elderfield and Michael Duffy also speak of the various Table of Desserts. Matisse’s art-school version is in the Musée Matisse‘s collection in Nice Cimiez’s Villa Arènes. Finding an image of this 1893 version was no easy feat – yet another reference to its obscurity.

As promised in the last post regarding The Art Newspaper (with a slight interruption discussing the distracting former director of the Met, Philippe de Montebello), below are the top 15 of a list of 100 museums that comprise the world’s most visited museums list for 2011.

So if the Louvre has nearly 9 million visitors a year that comes to approximately 30,000 visitors a day (it’s closed on Tuesdays and bank holidays). According to a Carol Vogel profile in the NY Times on Henri Loyrette the Louvre’s attendance was up 67% during Loyrette’s tenure (which started in 2001, after 18 years as the head of the Musée d’Orsay) until 2009 when the profile was published.

In this article Loyrette’s quoted as saying that 80% of the attendees only go to the Louvre to see the Mona Lisa. This point alone is good cause to have started THATLou, don’t you think? To try to get the people off the beaten track… That poor marble floor should be as deep as the English trenches with approximately 7.2 million people tromping along, blinders on, with eyes only for the Mona Lisa. The Louvre has signs all over the place with tattered photocopies of da Vinci’s painting, I guess for those who don’t even know what it’s called?

Last spring I met one of the heads of the American Friends of the Louvre (AFL) who used to work at the Louvre. She told me that one morning when entering the museum at about 9.30 AM from the Porte des Lions  entrance (along the Seine, at the western end of Denon) there were already people leaving the museum! Which, given the size of the endless Italian Galeries (which Denon houses), means they didn’t even really bother to look at their checked-off-been-there-done-that Mona Lisa! No matter how swiftly they were walking — it takes a good while to get from the main entrance to the Porte des Lions exit at the farthest southwest sortie (as seen below).

Porte des Lions – SouthWestern wing of the Louvre, photographed by Jennifer Greco


Porte des Lions – SouthWestern wing of the Louvre, photographed by Jennifer Greco and published in http://www.ChezLoulou.blogspot.com

Anyway, back to our generalised stats… If you’re interested in the top-rated exhibitions of 2011, please see this hyperlink to The Art Newspaper’s April issue. It’s quite interesting, but be warned if you’re reading this on a phone it’s a heavy PDF. As for the promised top 15 museum attendence records for 2011, they’re listed below. At one point I may expand on this list and start to mark physical sizes of some museums. I believe the largest museum physically is the Hermitage, then probably the Louvre with its 65,000m². But these are just me guessing. I’ll also hopefully hone in on some museum expansions, for instance of the Pritzker Prize-winning architect Rafael Moneo and his tasteful addition to the Museo del Prado in 2007.

RankMuseumCityCountryVisitor count 
1Musée du LouvreParisFrance8,880,000 
2Metropolitan Museum of ArtNew YorkUnited States6,004,254 
3British MuseumLondonUnited Kingdom5,848,534 
4National GalleryLondonUnited Kingdom5,253,216 
5Tate ModernLondonUnited Kingdom4,802,287 
6National Gallery of ArtWashingtonUnited States4,392,252 
7National Palace MuseumTaipeiTaiwan3,849,577 
8Centre PompidouParisFrance3,613,076 
9National Museum of KoreaSeoulSouth Korea3,239,549 
10Musée d’OrsayParisFrance3,154,000 
11Museo del PradoMadridSpain2,911,767 
12State Hermitage MuseumSaint PetersburgRussia2,879,686 
13Museum of Modern ArtNew YorkUnited States2,814,746 
14Victoria & Albert MuseumLondonUnited Kingdom2,789,400 
15Museo Reina SofíaMadridSpain2,705,529 

And for all those crazy-stats-addicts among you, here’s another: Apparently there are more than 2000 people who work at the Louvre. The size of a small town! A special thanks to Jennifer Greco for her incredible eye, crafty camera-work and lovely blog, Chez Loulou, where she posted these photos with a generous THATMuse plug.

So who painted this now famous Prado-owned La Gioconda? Fueled with personalities and possibly sordid details, it’s a fun question to examine.

da Vinci’s Helicopter drawing, taken from Wikipedia

Leonardo da Vinci (1452 – 1519) is too large a topic to address for one post. But I’m happy to draw a rough sketch. Though I much prefer the paintings of many of his contemporaries (Ghirlandaio, Perugino and Botticelli all preferable marks, who also apprenticed in Verrocchio’s studio with da Vinci), it can’t be overlooked that the man was a genius. He conceptualized a helicopter in the 16th century, that’s just cool. And Pope Leo X commissioned him to make a mechanical lion that moved forward and whose chest opened to reveal lilies – this as a gift for Leonardo’s last patron, the King of France, François Ier. Leonardo was the bastard son of an aristocratic Notary father and peasant mother, and grew up in Vinci (thus his last name), near Florence. (and is buried in the Chateau d’Amboise, thanks to François Ier)

But this story isn’t about Leonardo – exactly. It’s about whoever it was who stood next to Leonardo and painted the Prado’s La Giaconda as he, Leo, was painting the Louvre’s most famous icon, the Mona Lisa. But to fill in some da Vinci background — as well as to keep your interest because it is, after all, juicy – I feel it necessary to mention that Leonardo’s name was sullied through court records in 1476; At 24 years old, he and three other young men were charged with sodomy with a well-known male prostitute. Lucky for da Vinci, one of the three companions was Lionardo de Tornabuoni — a relative of Lorenzo de’ Medici, who no doubt weighed in his influence on the court to drop the charges. So as of 24 years aged, Leonardo’s sexuality and the sexuality (and sometimes lack thereof) in his art were subjects of interest.

Andrea Salai, one of Leonardo’s two favorite pupils, is believed to be the model for Leonardo’s St John the Baptist (now at the Louvre). This eroticism as well as Leonardo’s Bacchus (another of Salai) give rise to scuttle that they were lovers. Other more erotic drawings reinforce the rumor which has been bouncing around since Giorgio Vasari (the mid-16th Century art historian and author of The Lives – a man who first put down the word ‘Renaissance’ as a description of the era) described Salai of being “a graceful and beautiful youth with curly hair, in which Leonardo greatly delighted”. Salai’s nickname “Little Satan” was indicative of his deportment: He started out as a servant / apprentice in Leonardo’s employ at the age of 10 and within the first year was caught five times thieving, lying and cheating. But Leonardo was indulgent — to the point, 30 odd years later, of leaving Salai half of his vineyards as well as some of his paintings. This Last Will and Testament raises an interesting point, to be returned to.

Leonardo’s St John the Baptist, 1513-1516, at the Louvre, taken from Wikipedia

Another of Leonardo’s life-long pupil / companions was Francesco Melzi, who was the son of a nobleman and “apprenticed” under Leonardo till the latter’s death in Amboise. In fact Melzi was so close it was he who informed Leonardo’s family of his death (one does wonder if Salai would have known how to write, though it’s clear he was capable with the brush).

Head conservator at the Centre de Recherche et de Restauration des Musées de France, Bruno Mottin, believes that the most likely painter of the Prado La Gioconda was one of these two students, Leonardo’s favourite pupils. If the Prado replica is eventually attributed to Melzi, it suggests a late date for the original, because Melzi joined Leonardo in 1506.

On the other hand if it’s the hand of Salai, then it’s unlikely that Salai ever inherited the original, as was previously assumed. This would mean the Louvre would have to re-examine the world’s most famous painting’s early history! A tremendous upset for the behemoth of museums – since they don’t even want to have it cleaned for fear of anything going awry (despite her looking twice her age due to the cracks in the painting – just look at the difference between the Prado’s version versus the Louvre’s in the last post).

There are a handful of articles pointing to the Prado’s La Gioconda as being at the hand of Andrea Salai, but nothing’s confirmed. One does have to appreciate this re-discovery was only made a bit over 6 months ago. As the life of either of these paintings is over 500 years I think we can cut the conservationists a bit of slack.

Next post shall wrap this story up with in two subjects – show some dazzling paintings by Leonardo’s contemporaries (listed above) and at least touch on Andrea Salai, whose real name was Gian Giacomo Caprotti, as a third-rate painter (opposed to lingering only on Salai’s salacious existence). Although ‘third-rate’ — who knows, this Prado discovery may just change history’s opinion of Leonardo’s reputed lover!

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.