THATMuse

When you think of the Wild Things of Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are you might as well think of Gorgons. As any American who grew up since it was published in 1963 will remember Max was sent to bed without his supper because he roared his terrible roar and gnashed his terrible teeth and screamed his terrible scream too wildly. A forest grows in his room and he’s transported by sea to where the Wild Things live, but Max cows them easily, and becomes the King of All Wild Things by staring them down, unblinking as he holds their yellow eyes steady. Perhaps because Sendak had a soft side, or perhaps because children’s book publishers wouldn’t have permitted it, but Max doesn’t behead The Wild Things as Perseus did their predecessor, nor does he make the Wild Things as terrifying as Gorgons. He couldn’t have.

The very word Gorgon means Dreadful or Terrible in Greek.  They were popular in Greek mythology – if you looked them in the eye you’d turn to stone. Perseus famously outsmarted the most famous of the Gorgons, Medusa, by looking at her in the reflection of his shield, and then beheading her serpent-haired head. Sadly for her, Medusa was not immortal as her two Gorgon sisters Stheno and Euryale were.  They were said to be the daughters of the sea God Phorcys and his sister-wife Ceto (a sea monster).

Red-figured cup by Douris, 480-470 BC, Cerveteri, Etruria now in the Vatican Museum. The python is regurgitating Jason (gross, eh?!?), the Golden Fleece hangs from a branch while Athena looks on with her aegis bearing the Gorgon and helmet with winged lioness, http://www.wikipedia.com

Often they were depicted as having fangs and skin of a serpent, and hair made of poisonous snakes.  Sometimes they had wings of gold, brazen claws, tusks of a boar.  Lionesses and sphinxes are often associated with them, and generally they were used in architecture to protect the building – for instance temples protecting the oldest of oracles (the oldest stone pediment in Greece, dated from 600 BC, is from the Temple of Artemis at Corfu and what is in the primary location, smack dab in the middle of the pediment? A Dreadful Gorgon of course).

Disk Fibula Gorgoneion Bronze with repoussé decoration, Boeotian production under Corinthian influence, second half of the 6th century BC. From Asia Minor, at the Louvre http://www.wikipedia.com

So why do I linger on Gorgons? Perhaps because, apart from protecting temples and installed protectively in architecture, Gorgons frequently appear in Greek pottery….  Greek Pots could very well figure in a good Food and Wine THATMuse. Likewise Gorgons would be prime suspects for a Bestiary THATLou, which remains unscheduled as such but is bound to pop up sooner or later. For instance this Gorgon Pot found in the Sully wing would be a great cross-purpose pot for both the Food + Wine THATLou as well as a Bestiary hunt, no?

Gorgon Painter Dinos, taken from Google Images

What makes it so special is that it is one of the first pots to have a continuous narration (where one piece of art depicts the story at different stages) of Perseus’s story, where he’s running from Medusa’s Gorgon sisters (as seen below). The pot scene is so famous that history named the painter the Gorgon Painter, though he of course did many other pots in the 6th century BC.

Gorgon Painter Dinos, 580 BC, taken from Wikipedia

More on all these topics – Gorgons, Food+ Wine THATLou, Bestiary, Greek Pots – soon. For now I’ll leave you with a hyperlink to Maurice Sendak’s obituary in the NY Times from this past May.

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

Would that THATLou be so creative

What more appropriate to the Beauty & Bestiary theme (or the Ladies au Louvre theme) than to linger on Three Graces (of which the Louvre has many – from Lucas Cranach’s to the Borghese 3 Graces) Bestiaries are fantastical animals, such as griffins, centaurs, unicorns, even gargoyles. They appear in all sorts of fun places, such as scrutinising Paris a-top the belfry of Notre Dame (Gargoyles), or overlooking Darius’s Palace at Susa (Griffins), as written about in the Benetton of Near Eastern Art.

So until I’ve reached a decision for the next THATLou, I’m going to linger on these two subjects, the Beauty and the Beast, and if you have a say on which subject would make the best THATLou theme, please feel free to either vote on the THATMuse facebook page or leave a comment here.

Three Graces (1482) detail in Sandro Botticelli’s Primavera at the Uffizi, Wikipedia

What personifies beauty or ladies in the arts for me are The Three Graces. The Encyclopedia Britannica (1974 edition) defines The Three Graces:

Greek = Charities, Latin = Gratiae. In Green religion = Goddess of Fertility. The name refers to the pleasing or charming appearance of a fertile field or garden. Their number varied in different legends, but usually there were three: Aglaia (Brightness also Elegance), Euphrosyne (Joyfulness also Mirth, Good Cheer) and Thalia (Bloom also, Youth and Beauty, Festivities).

Depending on the legend, they’re said to be the daughters of Zeus and Hera (or Eurynome is the daughter of Oceanus sometimes) or Helios and Aegle (a daughter of Zeus). Frequently the Graces were taken as goddesses of ‘charm’ or ‘beauty’ and hence were associated with Aphrodite (the Goddess of Love), Peitho (her attendant) and/or Hermes, a fertility and messenger god.

In early times they were often represented with drapery, but by the time the Romans got to them they were usually full-fledged flashing us: Unembarrassed of their beautiful form, and usually draped around one another opposed to in drapes. More to come on them this week.

Three Graces (1503-1504) Raphael, Museée Condé, Chantilly France, WikiPaintings

An example of Bestiary, to wait their turn and be covered after lingering on some beauty with various Three Graces…

Centaur, Borghese Collection Louvre, http://www.ArsMagazine.com

* The first image of the Three Graces is a sculpture by Antonio Canova (1814-1817), which is currently at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, who launched a public campaign to purchase it, much the way the Louvre bought Lucas Cranach’s Three Graces with another museum grassroots campaign.

Cranach’s 3 Graces, with journalists, http://www.artdaily.org

In November 2010 the Louvre was made aware of a Lucas Cranach’s The Three Graces, which had been in private collections since it was painted in 1531. There’s another lesser Three Graces by Cranach at the Nelson Atkins Museum in Kansas (seen below), but this 1531 Three Graces was not only unknown to the general public it was in pristine condition.  Henri Loyrette, Director of the Louvre said “the work’s astonishing perfection, its extreme rarity, and its remarkable state of preservation allow it to be called a ‘national treasure’”. That’s a big endorsement, by a very big fish. Internationally speaking, that is.

The Louvre scrambled to raise the enormously small amount of 4 million euros, but their acquisition department could only raise 3 million (does make you wonder), so they made an unprecedented on-line appeal to individual donors for the rest. Within a month they raised the 1 million euros from an estimated 7000 donors (initially the papers said it was 5000 donors, but the Louvre later corrected the figure).

Lucas Cranach´s Three Graces (1531) 24cm x 37cm, oil on wood, image taken from in.artinfo.com

What I don’t understand is why, when the National Gallery of Scotland raised 50 million pounds (in 2008 for Titian’s 1559 Diana and Acteon from Lord Sutherland) or the Tate raised 5.7 million pounds (for a Rubens drawing, The Apotheosis of James I (1628) — when Viscont Hampden threatened to sell it abroad, god forbid) was it such a big deal for the Louvre to appeal to the public for a measly one million euros? Why are we talking such small potatoes? Le Monde said that the average donation was 150 Euros, and that a quarter of the donations hovered around 50 Euros. That’s great. Grassroots is important, but the figure does pale in comparison. Another quandary – how could it have been on sale for so little when Henri Loyrette – the man himself — director of the Louvre!, said that it was a candidate to become the Louvre’s “Next Icon”? I can’t underline, bold, italicize, emphasize this point enough. Let us not forget that Picasso’s Nude, Green Leaves and Bust sold for 106 million dollars at Christie’s in NY in May 2011, that Munch’s The Scream sold for 120 million dollars at Sotheby’s, again in NY, in May 2012. They’re fine paintings, sure, but to my single-minded eye the talent that Lucas Cranach has over Munch and Picasso trumps them. Moreover, doesn’t age count for anything these days? Guess not.

1535 Three Graces, by Lucas Cranach the Elder, in Kansas at http://www.nelson-atkins.org

This treasure is currently (as of Feb 2017) not on view because the Louvre has closed half of the top floor of Richelieu (yes! HALF!) for many months. Usually it’s on the 2nd floor Richelieu, Room 8; This is in a side room in the 16th Century German section.

Lucas Cranach the Elder (1472 – 1553) was friends with all of the big hitters of his Renaissance Germany: painter Albrecht Dürer, reformist Martin Luther, and the various Electors and Emperors for whom he painted. Apart from being a very successful painter, he was a estimable businessman with a license to sell wine, an elected member of the Wittenberg town council (several stints), owner of a publishing press (in addition to the 400+ paintings by him, there are more than 100 separate woodcuts in the form of book illustrations and six engravings), owner of numerous properties and an apothecary. An example of his social stardom: in 1523 he hosted King Christian II of Denmark as a guest to his home.

Lucas Cranach´s Three Graces, 1531

For most of his life he was court painter to Friedrich III the Wise, Elector of Saxony (who Charles V would later accuse of treason, and who Cranach followed into exile), and in this role he had an enormous workshop (where his sons, Lucas the Younger especially, flourished). Like Rubens and painters in general, his workshop was what allowed him to be so prolific. Many of his paintings are only in part by him,  and were also in tribute to his talent at hiring talent.

As was written about in the last post (the Next Louvre Icon), an exception to this is the recently discovered The Three Graces (1531) which was done by Cranach’s hand alone, according to Vincent Pomarède, chief curator of the Louvre’s Painting Department. Apparently laboratory testing showed that there were no preliminary studies underneath the painting, which is what brought the museum to this conclusion.

The work’s small size (24cm x 37cm, Oil on Wood) indicates that it was commissioned for a patron’s home. Louvre curators speculate that this allowed Cranach to make the subjects all the more provocative, with a black background that focuses the viewer’s eye on the women’s flesh. The fundraising website said the painting emitted a “disturbing eroticism.” But this eroticism was not uncommon to Cranach’s work. Take for instance, the Louvre’s own Venus Standing in a Landscape (1529). She, too, is buck naked holding the signature thin veil as clear as saran wrap.

Venus Standing in a Landscape, 1529, taken from commons.wikipedia.org

The identity of the three nude women in The Three Graces – seen from the back, the front and in profile – is not certain. The Louvre’s fundraising website (which is one of the few sources addressing it, since the painting has been in various private collections since it was painted in 1531) wondered whether it could be an allegorical representation of Charity, Friendship and Fidelity opposed to its namesake, The Three Graces. The woman in the center has that unusual flat hat which counters the argument of it being an allegorical representation. The woman on the right clasps her raised ankle, almost looking like she’s stretching for the 100 meter dash.

Just to show you that Cranach didn’t only focus on soft porn — here’s another of the treasures from the Louvre’s collections is Portrait of Magdalena Luther, daughter of Martin Luther.

Cranach’s Magdalena Luther (1540), taken from http://www.portraittimeline.com

PS from the last post (where I tell you the whereabouts of this gem) – I’ve been asked about the sale of The Scream: During the Sotheby’s auction it was bought by a private collector. It took 12 minutes of the price climbing for this 1895 pastel version of it. Edvard Munch painted four Screams, three of which are in Norwegian museums. This 120 million dollar version was sold by Petter Olsen, a Norwegian shipping magnate whose grandfather was friends with Munch. A good Op Ed on the sale – making it the most expensive painting in the world at the moment – can be found in this NY Times article by Pulitzer Prize winning Art Critic Holland Cotter.

It’s funny how these posts come about. Because of the last post concluding the Three Graces series, I’ve had the Borghese Collection at the Louvre on my mind. However, there are so many places to start on this topic, and so many paths to stray to. A rocky relationship between Italy and France is certainly one (think the Italian Campaign of 1796-7, where Napoleon made his name), as is the actual collection of 695* incredible antiquities (the Sleeping Hermaphrodite, the Borghese Gladiator, the Three Graces, to name a few). Just how these antiquities got to the Louvre is worthy of a large part of Marie-Lou Fabréga-Dubert’s two-volume tome “La Collection Borghese au Musée Napoléon,” published jointly in 2009 by Musée du Louvre Editions and the publishing branch of the Beaux-Art de Paris. The NY Times reviewed it favourably here, and as with any good review the Times provides great morsels from the book.

Borghese Gladiator
The Borghese Gladiator at the Louvre

Then there are the personalities — Napoleon has never been short on providing history with anecdotes, his brother-in-law Prince Camillo Borghese of the Roman nobility, is of course the source of the collection and then there’s Napoleon’s sister and Camillo’s wife, Pauline, whose salacious habits were already well established in her first marriage to General Leclerc (I believe “Bacchanalian Promiscuity” was attributed to her when she was in Haiti with General Leclerc).

And of course we can’t overlook the minor characters — minor to history, but with entire wings and courtyards named after them I guess “minor” is relative. Dominique-Vivant Denon (Director of Imperial Museums), and Ennio Quirino Visconti  (“overseer” of Roman Antiquities at the Musée Napoléon — what’s now the Louvre), were responsible for the mammoth task of getting the antiquities from Rome to Paris — no easy feat when the British had an embargo in the Mediterranean which made the French travel overland. Denon, Sully, and Richelieu will certainly have their THATLou posts at one point or another (concerning both the wings as well as the colourful characters of French history). In one of my first posts I wrote about the Visconti courtyard, which is about to be all over the press when the new Islamic wing opens this September (supposedly – the opening’s been postponed for a few years).

Villa Borghese, Rome
The Villa Borghese gardens

PS/ I can’t seem to get to the bottom of just how many antiquities Napoleon (mmm, sorry, I mean the French State) bought from Borghese. Wikipedia, which of course isn’t to be trusted, says it’s 344 antiquities. A figure I’ve seen in other googled sources (who perhaps used wikipedia).  When addressing the Borghese Kylix the Louvre’s website says Napoleon bought Borghese’s entire collection — which of course can’t be right as there’s a small museum with  just a few Berninis on the Pincian Hill in Rome called the Villa Borghese (photographed above, where Denon and Visconti started their shipping process). So though I haven’t read Mme. Fabréga-Dubert’s 2-volumes, I have chosen to go with her figure of 695 pieces. If for no doubt because I’m from NY and trust the editors of the Times to at least quote her correctly.

Galleria Borghese Extra Info:

HOURS: open Tuesday – Sunday, from 8:30 – 7:30 pm

ADDRESS: Piazzale del Museo Borghese, 00197 Roma (in the middle of the large park, Villa Borghese)

THATMuse Recommendation: Purchase tickets on line, before you go (they can often be sold out as it’s one of the best museums in Rome, with Bernini, Caravaggio, Canova and the lot!)

Perspective epitomizes the marriage of Arts + Sciences, so it should be no surprise that I’m providing this as the give-away clue to all those clever BAC-aged youths who’ll be on the hunt for Science at the Louvre tomorrow afternoon.

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.

Tomorrow a group of Science-Ac’ students will be scouring the Louvre for 25 pieces of art that marry Art with Science. For instance a double-sided David and Goliath painting by da Volterra  inspects the Centripetal and Centrifugal forces of David’s use of the sling. But as such physics strays from typical THATLou reading I’ll do a give-away that’s a bit closer to home.

Here are two works of art in two separate wings on two separate floors of the Louvre. One is by a Northerner (Dutch) the other by a Southerner (Sicilian), but both are true masters of perspective in entirely disparate ways. Scientific perspective is an approximate representation, on a flat surface (such as a canvas or paper), of an image as it is perceived by the eye. The two most characteristic features of perspective are:

  1. Objects are drawn smaller as their distance from the observer increases
  2. The distortion of items when viewed at an angle (spatial foreshortening)

In art the term foreshortening is often used synonymously with perspective, even though foreshortening can occur in other types of non-perspective drawing representations.

da Messina’s Christ at the Cross

CHRIST AT THE COLUMN Antonello da Messina (1430-1479), 15th C Italian Painting

This fine painting is tiny, only .30m x .21m wide, so in a reversed way it pops out among the Italian Painting gallery. Antonello’s acquaintance with the rules and foreshortenings of Tuscan perspective allow him here to show a living, monumental Christ whose Passion thrusts itself upon the viewer. This immediacy is enhanced by the illusionist handling of the knot in the rope: set at the bottom of the composition, it appears to rest on the frame, as if on the ledge of a window opening onto the divine. During his apprenticeship in the Naples of the Princes of Aragon – collectors of the work of the Northern painters – Antonello acquired Flemish oil painting techniques: the layering of paint and glazes creates depth and subtle transitions from shade to light, while also enabling meticulous realism in physical terms and in the stroke by stroke rendering of Christ’s hair and beard. Science Ac kids are asked to pose with his pained expression (just think of all Christ had been through at this point). To me he’s saying “how much bloody longer do I have to go through this torture?” It’s a fantastic painting.

de Hooch Card Players in an opulent interior

CARD PLAYERS, Pieter de Hooch (1629-1684), 17th C Dutch Painting

During his decade in Delft (Holland), Pieter de Hooch was deeply influenced by the color and strict lines of the art of Carel Fabritius, who also influenced Vermeer (huh, Vermeer’s Astronomer may just be nearby, then!). de Hooch developed a personal style that proved a success, basing his compositions on a colorful, artful use of perspective, with figures fitting harmoniously into the overall scheme. His works are subtly illuminated with lateral sources of light and often feature a series of rooms leading from one to the next. The lines of the marble floor tiles here draw the viewer’s attention to the vanishing lines of the painting. The spatial elements opening onto the exterior-windows and half-open doors are punctuated by a contrasting play of light, accentuating the lines and volumes. For an extra fifty bonus points have your team point to the small hint of another room in this charming scene. (and yes for you hawk-eyes, the pretty girl in the foreground is cheating with her lad).

The general rules are quite simple: Teams (of 2 to 4 people) must photograph themselves in front of as many pieces of art (treasure) on the list as possible, within the given amount of time.

ROLES + STRATEGY

There are four main roles for each team (one person can easily have a few qualities): 

  1. Reader – the hawk-eyed, lawyer-like soul who picks up bonus questions embedded in the text (perhaps during strategy this person can skim and underline those bonus questions)
  2. Navigator, good with a map
  3. Scribe & Organiser (perhaps put an alarm on phone 15 minutes before the end time?)
  4. Scanner, the visually-oriented one, quick to scan an area for your treasure. Kids usually excel at this last role.

STRATEGY: we recommend writing the red # identifying each treasure onto your map, in the area where you expect to find it (just look at the bold identifying lines in the text and match up the highlighted tags on your Louvre map). Please note, one can answer the knowledge-based bonus Qs even without having found the treasure. THATLou prep can be found on the blog (look under the “Category” list for your theme, for instance here are the Beauty & Bestiary articles, where answers to bonus questions can be found… Meanwhile building up anticipation to your Louvre visit!).

NAVIGATION: Each room is numbered at the Louvre & those room numbers and wings are identified on your hunt. HOWEVER! The team who strategises does best, why we recommend writing the treasure number on the map in the room you expect to find it.

MANAGING EXPECTATIONS: You will NOT find all the treasure within 2 hours, done intentionally so that hopefully after your hunt (& a break) you’ll want to return to find the remaining treasures at a leisurely pace. Have fun on your hunt and hopefully when you’re done you’ll not only feel camaraderie with your team, but feel an individual sense of ownership of these great halls and will want to return to actually LOOK at the art (opposed to winning a game, albeit a great one)!

RULES

  1. Concerning the photographs, please only use one phone/camera per team. The photographer can change, but one camera / phone facilitates tallying scores.
  2. Teams must stay together at all times and must not run: If you are seen more than 3 meters apart you will lose 10 points per foot you’re found apart and (!) the team who sees you apart will gain in your lost points! (& yes, there was just a switch from meters to feet… you don’t want to learn conversion the hard way, stick together!).
  3. No external help… If seen speaking to a Louvre employee or fellow tourist you’re automatically eliminated; Likewise, no using the internet, no GPS, or anything other than an official Louvre map (hardcopy) during the game. No phoning your Art Historian Aunt for help, either!
  4. Must meet back at arranged finish point at precise time (we will synchronize watches and agree to finishing time beforehand). Each minute late merits 2 negative points – per minute! – but remember, no running Sometimes there are strategic reasons to be late, but be careful – if you’re more than 10 mins late your team’s ousted (ouch!)

TOOLS & TIMING

A camera/phone per team with freshly charged batteries in that phone/camera (important point!) & comfy shoes (photography’s allowed in the museum, without flash).

The Hunt lasts 90 minutes to 2 hours (or longer if you opt for this), but we need a minimum of 20 minutes prior to hunting time for a brief history of the museum, to review rules, distribute hunts, pencils + highlighted maps per team & to allow teams to strategise.

HUNT TYPES

CLASSIC HUNT You’re not met after the hunt, but we provide each team with an answer sheet (in a sealed envelope). You can also ask for “friendly competition” (against another family), though we can’t guarantee this.

LUXE HUNT We spy on teams as they’re playing & for a wrap-up at the end to help tally scores & have a light-hearted prize-giving ceremony (includes Kid Packs, but not entry tickets & is for 6 people or fewer)

LOUVRE ENTRY TICKETS & LINES

ETICKETS: We strongly recommend you get your tickets from the Louvre website directly (here’s the link in English), as they allow you into a much faster security line than the tickets. Alternatively the Paris tourist board offers “Paris Museum Pass” (hyperlinked) which covers city monuments (incl: Louvre & Musée d’Orsay, Versailles, etc). However, please note that although it is sold as a ‘skip the line’ pass, the line for these is much longer than the Louvre’s own e-tickets.
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Please note:

Please note, this is not a guided tour, but a treasure hunt. You’re met at the beginning outside the museum, provided with a brief history of the museum, your THATLou host will accompany you into the museum. Within the museum lobby your greeter will orient you with the map, show you the hunt and how to strategise, then off teams set to find their treasure!

Please note we have a 20-minute late policy. Automated bookings are available opposed to emailing back and forth. Various conditions apply (‘friendly competition’ (to play against another family, although this is not guaranteed, automated bookings are non-refundable & are limited to 3-5 people families)