THATMuse

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!

In the past few posts I’ve banged on a fair bit about the truly grisly Cimitière des Innocents. First touching on numbers of dead , then covering the business of the death all the while trying to augur the fear & horror involved in a proper Halloween celebration.

Comtesse d’Auvergne, 15th Century, Louvre
Comtesse d’Auvergne, XV siècle France, Louvre

But where’s the dough, you’re probably asking? Our fine hunters need some reward for all the reading they’ve done (although whether you know it or not you’ve been given at least two answers in the past two posts – for both the Skull Scouting hunt as well as if you’re going on an All Things Gaul hunt — as the French are so good at being Masters of the Morbid!). As we’re closer to the final count-down I will cut to the chase and just tell you that our friend Death (as seen below) is on the ground floor of Richelieu in Cour Marly, room 13 (& no you’re not allowed to read this blog post whilst playing – but Room 13 makes sense, no?).

worms and entrails fall from stomach of Comtesse d’Auvergne sculpture.

It gets better: This fine female from Auvergne (above) is in the same room as our friend Death (below). She does not have butterflies in her stomach — she’s dead. So what’s eating her up?  Yes, worms are decomposing her corpse in the grisly affair of DEATH! Man, those French! So here’s a cut & paste of the actual treasure clue, as a dead ringer (a dead give-away? — how else can I try to incorporate death in here?!?).

La Morte St Innocents, 16th C French, Alabaster, Louvre
La Morte St Innocents, 16th C French, Alabaster, Louvre

DEATH ST INNOCENT (La Morte St Innocent)

Alabaster, H 1.20m x W .55m x D .27m – from Paris’s Cemetery of Innocents

16th Century French, sculpture (end of Middle Ages) — Cour Marly

The plaque at Death’s foot reads “There is not a single being alive, however cunning and strong in resistance, whom I will not slay with my dagger & give to the Worms as their Pittance!” Quick take a whopping fifty bonus points with your team pointing to worms in this room – and just look at what they’re doing! Talk about appropriate for this gruesomely ghoulish death hunt! So our friend Death was originally kept in the Cemetery des Innocents (CDI), which was found smack dab in the center of Paris – abutting the market place of Les Halles. The CDI started out as a perfectly orderly graveyard, with a space per individual. But as the city grew, the small swath of CDI (just 130 meters by 65) did not. When space ran out mass burials began to be conducted – up to 1500 dead could be buried in one pit before a new one was dug. Just think about the stench as you’re going marketing right next to this grisly pit of death. Horrible. No one had the sense till Louis XVI moved it from the center of town, and in 1786 our friend Death here was moved first to St Gervais then to Notre Dame, where he is unveiled with his ominous (now-missing) dagger only one day a year. Which was? You guessed it, La Toussaint(All Saints’ Day)!


POINTS: 60


Remember if there are words in bold they may answer future bonus questions — as these treasures can apply to various themes.

Fontaine des Innocents, by John James Chalon (1823)
Fontaine des Innocents, by John James Chalon (1823)

So yesterday we pondered the dead at the Cimitière des Innocents (CDI), once Paris’s largest and oldest graveyard smack dab in the middle of town (where the Renaissance Fontaine des Nymphs, aka Fontaine des Innocents** currently is, near the RER Les Halles station). Our cliffhanger left us off with figures; when space ran out at CDI, mass graves of 1500 cadavers per pit were created. Left open till they were filled (the air must’ve been tangibly disgusting!), they were then closed off and a new one of equal size was dug. With the horror of numbers checked off, what about the business of death?

Plan de Turgot (1730)
Plan de Turgot (1730)

Income from each burial – mass or otherwise – went to St Eustache (the large church to the north of current-day Les Halles) after CDI became part of its parish property in 1303 (it was later the property of St-Germain-des-Auverrois, the church just across the road from the Louvre’s Cour Carré). The Bishopric of Paris owned much of the lands and tax rights over central Paris, which caused them to open the marketplace next to the cemetery, so to better monitor the trading and assure that they got their share from the trading. The cemetery was opened to merchants in an attempt to reclaim a part of their monopoly over Paris trade.

St Eustache church with Les Halles in foreground. Taken from WikiCommons, photo by Alfie Lanni (Flickr)
St Eustache church with Les Halles in foreground. Taken from WikiCommons, photo by Alfie Lanni (Flickr)

The living and the dead co-existed to a point where a whole genre of medieval art – the “Dance Macabre” – was created on the back wall of the CDI. From an art historical point of view this makes CDI supremely important, as the 15th century Dance of Death was the first and finest known example. Unfortunately the wall was razed in order to expand the abutting road, but there are several Holbein woodcuts as well as French and English prints of it, as well as descriptions.

One of 17 wood engravings of la Danse macabre du cloître des Saints Innocents à Paris
One of 17 wood engravings of la Danse macabre du cloître des Saints Innocents à Paris. Published in 1485 by two Parisian editors, Guyot Marchant and Verard, they distributed them across Europe. The only surviving example is in the Grenoble Library.

Since they were making hand over fist, the Church pointedly ignored sanitary issues repeatedly raised by the Crown. What overflowed as quickly as the church coffers was the GROUND. Skeletons of decomposed dead went to charniers (wall closets lining graveyards, housing bones of the dead), but the cadaver’s fatty residues remained in the earth, leaving greasy mounds that couldn’t process the dead at the rate it was being asked to.  Yet the only modification the church would make was to raise its funerary charges!

The court of Louis XV issued an investigation in 1763 of the neighboring Les Halles commerce. Inspectors recorded local stories of meat that rotted before one’s eyes, a perfumerie unable to sell its wares due to the putrid air, tapestry merchants whose rugs changed color if exposed too long and wine merchants whose barrels yielded only vinegar. Several edicts by various Kings to move the parish cemeteries out of the city were resisted till the situation came to a head in the spring of 1780 after a prolonged period of rain.

On 30 May a cellar wall bordering CDI gave way under the weight of the excessive burials and humidity and spilled a mess of decomposed corpses, thus infecting the mud. Talk about a gush of gore! No horror film could top this. The building was evacuated but not even the thickest masonry could keep the stench of rotting flesh at bay, which finally prompted Louis XVI to exile all parish graveyards outside the city walls (you wonder why Montparnasse, Montmartre and Pere Lachaise are in the outer arrondissements – there’s your answer).

tree lined avenue of mausoleums in Père Lachaise cemetery Paris
Père Lachaise, photo taken from WikiCommons

By 1786 bones of 6 million bodies were exhumed from cemeteries throughout the city and moved to the catacombs (former mines) out of town, at Denfert Rochereau (in today’s 14th Arrt). Just as a grisly conclusion – Many bodies hadn’t fully decomposed and had turned to margaric acid (fat). This fat was collected and turned into candles and soap. Guess that’ll make you think twice before washing your face with soap!

Paris Catacombs “Stop, this is the empire of death”
Paris Catacombs “Stop, this is the empire of death” photo taken from MichaelJohnGrist.com **

Fontaine des Innocents (1547-1550) was built by architect Pierre Lescot (there’s a street with his name in the Les Halles area). François 1er, and later his son Henri II had Lescot transform the old Louvre (originally a fortress under Philippe Auguste) into a palace. The Cour Carré that we see — The Sully Wing’s courtyard – is thanks to Lescot’s designs. Jean Goujon was the sculptor for both the Fontaine des Innocents as well as the Cour Carré. Both also collaborated on the roof of the church across the road, St Germain l’Auxerrois.

La Morte St Innocent will conclude our 3-part Trilogy of Death.

The grisly Death Hunt isn’t far from us.  Our Black-Clad Hunters will be tasked to find all sorts of skulls, from Death overlooking 17th C Dutch Vanitas scenes, Egyptian Mummies, Roman Sarcophagi, and there’s even a silver ‘skull clock’, as seen below. To merge the two in a single object makes sense as both time (and the fact that with each passing day, all of our time is running out) and skulls are typical Memento Mori motifs. These scary skull-clocks are a great discovery in the Objet d’Art section of the Louvre – on the 1st floor, just off IM Pei’s enormous escalator unifying 3 levels of Richelieu (oh boy, I think that might have been a give-away!). Protestant clock-making centers like Blois made a lot of these skull-clocks, a reminder that a handful of Skull Scouting treasures also overlap with the All Things Gaul hunt.

18th century Memento Mori Clock inside a silver skull, Paris, Louvre
18th century Memento Mori Clock, Paris, Louvre

So which piece of treasure is the king of the hunt, the Master of the Morbid? They’re all so gloriously ghoulish it’s hard to choose which to give-away. So as a process of elimination, which piece is inextricably tied to the history of Paris?

La Morte St Innocent fits this bill beautifully, both for Skull Scouting as well as “All Things Gaul” as he is quintessentially French. La Morte is the lynchpin of Parisian Death – the epitome of just how macabre Medieval Paris got. Apart from Death’s appearance and adjoining plaque (which reads “There is not a single being alive, however cunning and strong in resistance, whom I will not slay with my dagger & give to the Worms as their Pittance!”) his birthplace is key to setting the tone of central Medieval Paris.

La Morte St Innocents, 16th C French, Alabaster, Louvre
La Morte St Innocents, 16th C French, Alabaster, Louvre

Before examining Death itself, which deserves a post unto itself and will be the third of this three-part series let’s have a look at where he’s from: Cimitière des Innocents which was also the birthplace of La Danse Macabre.

Dance of Death (woodcut) Hans Holbein the Younger, 1491 (German printed edition, folio CCLXI recto from Hartman)
Dance of Death (woodcut) Hans Holbein the Younger, 1491 (German printed edition, folio CCLXI recto from Hartman)

Named for the Massacre of Innocents (St Innocents was the same name of an adjoining church, once facing rue St Denis), Cimitière des Innocents (CDI) had been housing the dead since Gallo-Roman days. Originally outside the city walls, as the city expanded it ended up smack dab in the center of town (where current-day place Joachim-du-Bellay is). It was where rue St Denis and rue Berger meet, and abutted Paris’s famed central Market, Les Halles. In the 12th century it was still a perfectly orderly graveyard, with an individual space allotted per body. By the 13th century it was the graveyard for Paris’s parishes without cemeteries as well as a dumping ground for the dead of the nearby hospital, Hôtel Dieu (which, if facing Notre Dame, is directly to your left – to escape the throngs of ND goggling tourists you can always dip into Hôtel Dieu’s peaceful plant-filled courtyard).  But back to Medieval France – With so many incoming dead CDI was starting to ooze. Soon it would grow to a festering sore, Paris’s pussing pustule emitting ghastly gasses.

old black and white map of paris with red circle showing location of Cimitière des Innocents
image taken from Cadrans solaires disparus  (michel.lalos.free.fr)

How could it not? While Paris grew, the CDI plot of 135 meters x 65 meters did not. Moreover the number of deaths due to famines, wars (100-Years War, the 30-Years War), let alone the Plague were enough to send heads spinning. During several bouts of the plague in the 14th Century an estimated 800 people died a day in Paris, the Plague of 1418 poured nearly 50,000 dead into CDI over a five-week period, in 1466 another 40,000 perished in Paris. With the swelling of such numbers, mass graves were created. They’d leave a pit open till 1500 cadavers filled each crevice, then close it off for the worms to do their decomposing jobs, filling another 1500-body pit just inches over.

Plan de Turgot, de 1730
Plan de Turgot, de 1730

Imagine the stench of your Saturday morning marketing – how could the Crown allow such (un-)sanitary conditions to co-exist? That’s your Hallowe’en cliff-hanger for the day. I’ll continue this gory CDI glory tomorrow, and shall get us back to the Master of the Morbid! Thus, hopefully, auguring the spirit of Halloween (smiley-face, exclamation mark)!

Things in bold tend to refer to bonus questions…

Going out with a bang, I’m concluding our visit to Darius 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.

Bull Headed stone capital from Darius' Winter Palace, Susa, Iran 6th Century BC. In the Louvre Paris

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.

Reconstructed face of Bull Headed stone capital from Darius' Winter Palace, Susa, Iran 6th Century BC. In the Louvre Paris

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?

visitor looks us at Bull Headed stone capital from Darius' Winter Palace, Susa, Iran 6th Century BC. In the Louvre Paris

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!

La Columna Persa, Parque 3 de Febrero, Buenos Aires
La Columna Persa, Parque 3 de Febrero, Buenos Aires

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.

visitor looks us at Bull Headed stone capital from Darius' Winter Palace, Susa, Iran 6th Century BC. In the Louvre Paris
man standing in foreground for scale

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 post you 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!

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…

The Louvre Greek and Roman Antiquities, from louvre
The Louvre Greek and Roman Antiquities, from louvre.fr

Ok, enough horsing around here, we’re going to cut strait to the chase and give you a sample, a teaser, a piece of the hunt! Which THATLou, you ask? Well, the below morsel is particularly great because it could fit into any number of near-future hunts.

Meet the Cross-Purpose Greek Pot, a world-famous Dinos by the Gorgon Painter…

There are two THATLous that this Dinos would be perfect for

– as the previous Gorgon post discussed, the very word the Greeks gave these ghoulish creatures means Horrible or Terrible. Terribly appropriate for Beauty + the Bestiary THATLou. Bestiary has been touched on here and there in past blog posts with Darius the Great’s wonderful Frieze of Griffins, and those gentle protecting Lamassus).

– And where would you find a Dinos other than at a symposium (FEAST) that the Greeks lingered over endlessly (appropriate for Foodies in France who may just opt to see the Louvre from the perspective of Food + Wine)? Of course a Dinos fits in there perfectly, to ground the floating debauched bacchuses from flying about, perhaps a bit too much wine needs some water!

Anyway, enough chatter from me. Here’s your hint, take it and run for the THATLou prize!

Gorgon Painter Greek pot at louvre
Gorgon Painter Greek pot at louvre, taken from Eschatology.com

ATTIC BLACK-FIGURE DINOS, by the GORGON PAINTER

Cerveteri (from Athens, Greece), Circa 580 BC

Clay, H 93cm

A Dinos was used to mix water and wine – and stood on a tall stand so the servants didn’t have to stoop during the long banquets that Dinoses were made for (The Greeks drank a lot of wine, but always diluted). This early Attic Dinos is of particular importance because it gave the Gorgon Painter his name – referring to the scene on one side of the pot with Perseus being chased by the Goggle-Eyed Gorgons, after he murdered their sister Medusa, shown collapsing after Perseus lobbed off her head: Death taking hold of her before our very eyes. Remember Medusa had turned all those who dared look in her eyes to stone. Perseus was clever enough (with Athena’s help) to approach her using the reflection of his shield like a rear-view mirror, thus avoiding his demise. The Gorgon Painter is one of the earliest masters of the Black Figure technique and a pioneer of the Attic tradition of figurative decoration on pottery. There is a convergence of influences on this Dinos – among the series of bands of friezes with alternating plant motifs and animals, including bestiary such as sphinxes and mermaids there are also male figures, a reference to the Oriental tradition of the Master of Animals.

POINTS: XXX (depends on the hunt)

Denon, lower ground floor, room 1 (in the “Pre-Classical Greek” section next to the Islamic collection)

Attic Black-Figured Dinos, by the Gorgon Painter
Attic Black-Figured Dinos, by the Gorgon Painter, Louvre.fr

This is the only vase by the Gorgon Painter – who was prolific – to depict a complex narrative, but also the first Attic vase to do so at all… Don’t nod off — this is interesting enough stuff folks, to merit some bonus points!

For a background on Athenian red and black-figure vase painting the Met has a thorough summary here. As for their shapes, Wikipedia has a wonderful collection of photographs with their names – which if you click on the names will of course lead you to their purpose. Click here for that visit.


Remember if things are in bold it may just mean they’ll help you out with bonus questions embedded in your treasure hunt… In other words, worth taking note of!

Caravaggio’s Medusa (1598, Uffizi, Firenze)
Caravaggio’s Medusa (1598, Uffizi, Firenze)

Tomorrow night is the first of a two-part THATLou series hosting an international law firm. Having lawyers, accustomed to scrutinizing small print, go a-hunting excites me no end, especially when they’ll be after imaginary creatures like bestiary (for balance they’re also after beauty). Will they catch this hint? Is that one too obvious? What about this bonus question — too involved? I’ve had loads of fun considering it all. And as a free-be to these fine solicitors, I’m posting the most involved bonus question here on the night before. Ironically, given their trade, they probably won’t have time to read beforehand, so I guess it’s good they’re clever enough to think on their feet to write a limerick in honor of one element of either of the below tales, both attached to the below sample treasure (NB this is expanded text, no piece of treasure has more than 10 or 12 lines, as you don’t have enough time to digest more whilst out on the prowl):

Géricault’s Raft of Medusa (1818-1819) Louvre
Géricault’s Raft of Medusa (1818-1819) Louvre

THE RAFT OF MEDUSA

Théodore GÉRICAULT (Rouen, 1791 – Paris, 1824)

19th Century French, H 4.91 x W 7.16m (in other words “Grand Format”)

The ‘Hope of Rescue’ is how Géricault chose to paint this painting, which stands as an icon of Romanticism. The Medusawas the name of a French Royal Navy frigate that set sail in 1816 to colonize Senegal. With over 150 soldiers on board, when the ship wreck took place in the Atlantic, they had to build rafts due to a shortage of lifeboats (talk about health and safety!). Only 10 people survived the 13-day odyssey, and the stories of cannibalism and brutality which ensued caught the fascination of Géricault, as well as contemporary journalists and the general public alike. This French number is famous enough to be studied in any introductory Art History class (please note the composition of two pyramids), but it’s the news story behind it that captures the interest of the general public.

The frigate was named for Medusa, the frightening Greek mythological creature with poisonous snakes for hair (talk about Bestiary!). To name a frigate Medusa in and of itself is a strange choice. Poseidon, God of the Sea, had been madly in love with the Gorgon sister Medusa, but when she spurned his love, he turned both her and her two sisters into monsters with snake hair. Poseidon also placed her in total isolation, by cursing her with the conversation-stopper-quality of being turned to stone if you met her gaze!

Aided by Athena and Hermes, the mortal Perseus went to the end of the world (where Poseidon had exiled her) to challenge Medusa, who’d been making trouble. He cleverly used the reflection of his  shield to avert her gazeand protect himself. When he got close enough to behead her, a volcano of blood sprouted, and from each drop of blood sprang more horrible creatures – Pegasus (a winged horse) and Chrysaor (a winged giant boar) – who were believed to have been Medusa’s children with Poseidon. Bestiary spawn bestiary, of course!

Perseus with Medusa’s head, Piazza della Signoria, Firenze
Perseus with Medusa’s head, Piazza della Signoria, Firenze

So here’s the give away: take an element of this fantastic story – be it 19th Century French frigate or Greek mythology – and spin it into a limerick, for muchos puntos. Now how’s that for impetus for thinking of the quickest rhyme for frigate? Perhaps mitigate? Go to it, Lawyers!


Caravaggio’s 1598 painting of Medusa (at top) is among the most famous images of her in art (rightly so!), and just down the street from where she lives at the Galleria degli Uffizi is this statue of Perseus, with poor Medusa’s brains dangling from her beheaded neck (his perfect frame is standing on her body). My mother always said that what I called dangling brains was in fact her hair, but I say pshah! What child doesn’t like gore – and that gore doesn’t look like snakes, does it? The story of Medusa is also covered in this Greek Dinos — a Greek pot measuring a meter in height and filled to the brim with diluted wine … My those Greeks liked to drink! Both of these pieces of treasure often appear in the same hunt and cross reference each other so to reinforce the story — perhaps highlighting what instrument allowed Perseus to get close enough to slice Medusa’s head off!


This Gericault Raft of Medusa is certainly a juicy number. Being such an iconic piece of French Romanticism (and Louvre “Greatest Hit”) I dare say it also appears in the Public Hunts “All Things Gaul” hunt held every Bastille Day (works only by Frenchmen) and in the Halloween Death hunt.

Here are lovely write ups of the first Halloween Hunt, one in Aussie in France the other in Colleen’s Paris. The former write up includes the following limerick (unfortunately I’m not at liberty to post any of the clever limericks the lawyers wrote due to client confidentiality)


Poseidon the god of the sea
Rarely took time for a pee, but
He pulled down his trunks
Screamed “you are all skunks”
And did it before all who could see

Noted elsewhere in the blog, strictly speaking the term “Bestiary” covers Medieval European imaginary creatures such as Unicorns, Griffins, Dragons, etc. For the purposes of you seeing a broader expanse of the Louvre, however, the Beauty + Bestiary THATLou theme stretches the definition of Bestiary to Egyptian Sphinxes, Greek Centaurs and as you see here, the likes of half-human Gorgons.

Alex ze Great

boy points to Alexander the Great statue on Louvre treasure hunt
Drew finds Alex on a Kings + Leaders THATLou, as written about on Lorrythetruck.blogspot.com

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.

stone corridor inside the Bastille
photo by Chirag D. Shah, found on Flickr

So who is the THATLou King of Bastille Day?

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?

medieval image of french king phillipe-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 on the battle of bouvines showing horses and riders

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!).

stone corridor inside the Bastille
photo taken by Sophie-G.net

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!

mounted military figures parade for Bastille Day with Arc de Triomphe in the background.
Photo taken from Kid Culture

Another piece which may just appear in All Things Gaul is Géricault’s Raft of Medusa, as written about in Medusa as Bestiary.

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…

Painted study of a Crowned Crane, Pieter Boel (1622 – 1674), Louvre

The fact that this painting of a Crowned Crane, also known as the Royal Bird, was painted from life was revolutionary in the 17th Century. Before Pieter Boel (1622 – 1674) animals had mostly been painted from stuffed animals and for their emblems and allegories (Durer being an exception, he regularly painted from the real deal, too).

Boel apparently set up shop in the ménagerie at Versailles, where a small octagonal pavilion was surrounded by enclosures in which exotic and domestic animals were kept in semi-liberty. His paintings, which were nearly scientific, were then used by the tapestry manufacturer Gobelins; this crane, for instance appears in the foreground of the month of August in “The Months” tapestry (aka The Royal Houses). I, for one, prefer Boel’s fine plumage to that of the wall carpets (don’t you think of Persia for carpets?). But one
mustn’t quibble, tapestries are quintessential to France’s history, and as a Charles Le Brun painter (as the animal-expert), Boel played an important role in France.

 Boel's August in “The Months” tapestry (aka The Royal Houses), Louvre Paris
Boel’s August in “The Months” tapestry (aka The Royal Houses), Louvre Paris

Gobelins, found in the 13th Arrt (at the metro station named after it), was Louis XIV’s royal tapestry factory. It was Henri IV (my favourite king, as he fought for his inherited crown for 20 odd years before he just pooped out and converted to Catholicism in order to rule France. As he said, “Paris is worth a mass”) who rented space in Gobelins for his Flemish tapestry makers — more than 200 of them, I believe.

Boel was born in Antwerp, though I’ve had trouble discerning whether the Louvre considers him Flemish or French — he died in Paris, and was a member of Charles le Brun’s team of painters for Gobelins; Although since Flanders was a part of Burgundy, I guess I history blurs the lines of distinguishing whether Boel was Flemish or French. His naturalist studies are all over the Richelieu wing of the Louvre (the most pleasant of the three wings, because it’s 80% less crowded than the Denon wing!) from 17th C France to 17th C Flanders, to adjoining stairwells where these fine parakeets can be found (“room 20” is actually at the top of a rather grand stairwell).

Gobelins table mosaic with images of birds

Ooops! Did I say that out loud? What if you go on one of the THATLous? This fine plumage could very well be in an Angels + Wings THATLou, or of course the Animals in Art. Not to mention the fact that Boel’s Versailles role & Gobelins contributions make him a fine candidate for All Things Gaul!  Anyway, to put THATLou and the Louvre aside for just a minute (they does seem to nose its way in everywhere!) both our Indian bull from yesterday’s post and these Flemish French flocks are fine renditions of naturalists paintings. From the Met to the Louvre, India to Versailles, these creatures seemed to prevail in the 17th Century.