THATMuse

The THATMuse blog has content pieces about the actual museums where you’re hunting, but we’ve also amassed plenty of recommendations of what to do in Paris and London apart from your museum time. Check out our “Travelling in Paris & London” category on the blog for pieces from kid-friendly parks, cafes and toyshops to romantic cocktail lounges near our museums. (Want to see other parks in London & Paris? Check them out here: Part 1, Part 2)

Here’s the third part of our 3-part series on parks by Daisy de Plume, expat mother of two boys growing up in both cities (and THATMuse founder).

REGENT’S PARK

path under vine trellises and arches in Regents park

Impossible to distill the breadth of this green oasis in NW London, this was yet another hunting ground of Henry VIII and kept in royal hands long after John Nash planned this 410-acre park. For kids the choices abound, from the London Zoo with over 20,000 animals and nearly 700 species to the boat pond which is easily as big & verdant as Central Park’s. For the water weary, there is also a separate Children’s Lake open on weekends and on school holidays where kiddie pedalos are available for hire (either for the whole family, 28£/2 adults, 3 kids or children’s pedalos for only 4£ for 20 minutes). With plenty of playgrounds, the snazziest is near Hanover Gate, which has a timber tree house for older kids within a large sandpit for tots. HIDDEN KID TREASURE: Since he was 3 Storsh’s favorite part of Regent’s Park has been the Rose Garden, a secluded circle included in Queen Mary’s Garden. With about 12,000 roses and 85 single-variety beds, the garden’s laid out with five-foot rose bushes, divided into centralized beds that you can circumnavigate. It’s there that we compare the smells of the roses, inspect their thorns, laugh at some of their dippy names (Lady Marmalade? Bees Knees? Betty Boop?) and then Zulu-like play a savage game of hide-n-go seek/tag. As there are generally so few people, I don’t mute Storsh’s yelps of joy, fear of being found and general exuberance.

JARDIN DES TUILERIES

Flowers and sculpture in front of Ferris wheel in jardin de tuileries

The 23-hectare gardens connect the Louvre (where the kings lived), to Place de la Concorde (where the kings lost their heads in the French Revolution, site of the guillotine). The gardens we know today date to 1664, by André le Nôtre, Louis XIV’s Versailles gardener. The name comes from the tile factories (tuile means tile in French) they replaced when Catherine de Medici built the Palais des Tuileries with accompanying gardens. From a kid point of view the Tuileries has plenty to offer, from a wonderful playground with a behemoth steel jungle gym, popular hammock and roundabout, to two lovely boat ponds for pushing 1920s boats with sticks, not to mention a carousel. HIDDEN KID TREASURE: It’s easy to miss the sunken trampolines that are off the Tuileries central allée. They’re at about the level of the WH Smith bookstore, between the carousel and Place de la Concorde, yet plenty of Parisian parents don’t know about them. These trampolines, divided by padded frames, cost €2.50 for 5 minutes a pop for kids aged 2 -12. A great way to get their energy out after a morning Treasure Hunt au Louvre! METRO: Tuileries (line 1), Concorde (lines 1, 8, 12)

The THATMuse blog has content pieces about the actual museums where you’re hunting, but we’ve also amassed plenty of recommendations of what to do in Paris and London apart from your museum time. Check out our “Travelling in Paris & London” category on the blog for pieces from kid-friendly parks, cafes and toyshops to romantic cocktail lounges near our museums.

Here’s part two of a 3-part series (you can see Part 1 here) on parks by Daisy de Plume, expat mother of two boys growing up in both cities (and THATMuse founder).

ST JAMES PARK

pond in St James's Park London with view of Whitehall and the London Eye

The oldest Royal Park in London is St James’s, dating from 1532 when Henry VIII acquired it as a deer park. Surrounded by three palaces (Westminister, St James’s and Buckingham Palaces), it’s the backdrop to numerous movies from Woody Allen’s Match Point to James Bond’s Die Another Day. The kids will remember the lake from 101 Dalmatians, starring Glenn Close and Jeff Daniels where a chase is set through St James’s that ends with a splash. HIDDEN KID TREASURE: Apart from the recently renovated children’s playground, wander the grounds for an Animal Hunt, counting how many types of furry & winged creatures you can find; from robins & woodpeckers to squirrels & bats, St James has more than 17 different species of waterfowl alone. The most famous bird residents are the pelicans, found on Duck Island. Storsh loves it when we catch the daily feeding, their long necks and big, gaping mouths go flapping for their food. These comical creatures have been here since 1664 when the Russian Ambassador gave them to Charles II for the park. Linger over Blue Bridge for a Coot fight. Those black birds with white foreheads (where we get the terms “Bald as a Coot”) are territorial and mean, they’ll fight anything that swims or flies! Whilst on the bridge, quiz your kids on a bit of London history, the park they see is by the hand of John Nash, the architect and planner of St James Park, as well as Buckingham Palace (viewable from the bridge). If they’ve been to Trafalgar Square or Regent’s Park, Nash’s name will again be bandied about. For longer stays, grab a sandwich and rent a stripy deckchair for an hour for just 1.60£. Open Daily, 5 am – midnight

JARDIN du LUXEMBOURG

Flowers and lawns at Jardin du Lexembourg

There are so many kid-treats in Jardin du Luxembourg that Napoleon dedicated it to “the Children of Paris”. In the 1600s it was originally laid out to accompany Marie de Medici (Dragon Lady Queen of France she holds the key to THATRue’s Latin Quarter hunts!)’s Palais du Luxembourg, which now houses France’s Senate. The 25 hectares hosts 1920s boats you can stick around the boat basin (3€ a pop), a delightful pony trail, a Punch & Judy-like puppet show and one of the city’s best playgrounds, tailored to all ages (Paid entry, with a guarded gate). For artsy families you can go statue-stalking as there are 106 sculptures to track, or for photo buffs there’s always a photography show exhibited on the garden’s fences. HIDDEN KID TREASURE: Since the delicate and discreet Merry-Go-Round is the oldest in Paris, I nominate this for our hidden treasure list. Designed by Charles Garnier, of Opéra fame, this 1879 weather-beaten carousel has the added attraction of having a “Jeu de Bagues”, where kids try to spike iron rings onto their sticks. No easy feat for those older kids on the peripheral circle of horses (and mesmerizing for waiting parents: the attendant re-loads the rings with hands as fast & graceful as a gazelle!). Unlike many of the city’s other carousels, Garnier’s animals swing from above. METRO: Odéon (line 4), Notre-Dame-des-Champs (line 12), Luxembourg (RER B)

Discovering Paris with THATRue: An Intern’s Perspective

I arrived in Paris on a Saturday morning with a layer of sleep that glazed my eyes, but the genuine anticipation of beginning my THATLou internship on Monday– not to mention living in the most amazing city in the world — made that daze of jetlag fade away.  My internship did not start slowly; I would be jumping into my first THATRue hunt on Thursday and my first client would be the Dutch Embassy (a 70-person party). There was no way I could shake off the nervous-excitement that I felt for that day, so I spent the rest of my weekend glossing over the blogs that pertain to the power-hungry queen, Marie de Medici; pre-text to the hunt.

Monday morning I took to the streets of the Latin Quarter by myself, with my hunt in hand and with the job of making corrections if needed. My goal was to get used the treasure hunt layout and then to become familiar with the route. I remember as a little girl visiting the Luxembourg Gardens and picnicking there with my family, but I was in no way familiar with this particular area of Paris, nor the history that belonged to it, so this experience was completely new for me. The immaculate façade of St. Sulpice surprised me most, known for its lopsided architectural design; the second largest church in Paris took me back to my memories of reading the Da Vinci Code. The brass line echoed thoughts of the Holy Grail, but in stark reality the church despises Dan Brown for his fabrication, which I had a good laugh about– I knew the Dutch Embassy would get a kick out of that. I spent most of the hunt inside the church, not only because of the gorgeous organ, or the incredible sundial, but because one of the clues was hidden under layers of construction and I went in circles trying to find it. That sneaky Delacroix!

On the day of the hunt for the Dutch embassy, I arrived to the meeting point an hour early, taking in essential preparation time, plus my nerves were rising to an obscene level. I sat in front of the clock in one of the perfectly placed lawn chairs that surround the Gardens, enjoying an espresso and my view of Le Sénat. Once Annie, in charge of the hunt and the Odeon trail, and Maria, another helper leading the Pantheon trail, arrived I began to set into reality and my nerves calmed down a bit.

At 10 am, a sea of multi-colored ball caps bounced down the right-hand set of stairs leading to Le Sénat. The Dutch Embassy had arrived, all 70 sporting different colored baseball caps that separated them into teams of four, brilliant! Annie provided the teams with the instructions; Maria and I handed out all the materials and then gave each team a time to depart, letting them go in 3 min intervals.  All of the teams were determined and ready start their treasure hunts, a lot provided playful banter with other teams in confidence of their future victories. Once all of the teams departed it was time to keep a stealthy look-out on the trail and tail behind. Oh what fun that was! My pink cap team (the last to depart) in the St. Sulpice hunt, was gearing up to take first place, it was amazing to watch them surpass the rest of the teams, as they were the first to complete the treasure tasks inside St. Sulpice. They remained in the lead, although neck and neck with the orange team for quite a while, but remained triumphant in the end beating the orange team by a mere two minutes. To see all 70 smiling faces after the hunt was really gratifying.  It’s the most fun and perfect way to see the Parisian world and its past and I was so lucky to be a part of it.

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

Livia Drusilla, first Empress of Rome, was indisputably the most powerful woman in the Julio-Claudian Roman Empire. All Julio-Claudian emperors were her direct descendants, despite having a childless marriage to the 1st Emperor of Rome, Augustus (formerly Octavian Augustus, back when there was a triumvirate and Rome was a Republic). This marriage lasted 50 years and by all accounts was a partnership of two clever minds. Livia (58 BC – 29 AD) saw to it that her son Augustus’s step-son, inherited the throne. This, despite the fact that Augustus intended five others to inherit the throne (all of whom happened to die, some under rather suspicious conditions).

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

Because this bust is basanite (a volcanic rock), it’s believed to have been sculpted just after the Battle of Actium (2 September 31 BC), when Octavian Augustus seized Cleopatra’s kingdom (the loss of this naval battle caused Mark Anthony to commit suicide). This would have made Livia 27 years old, already an able leader just as cunning as her Egyptian counterpart, Queen Cleopatra.

With senators on both sides of her family, Livia was not only the crème of the Roman aristocratic crop, she also had financial independence from Emperor Augustus (and from her former husband, the father of her two sons) through being granted the ‘marks of status’ in 35 AD, which was rarely granted to women. Soon thereafter she was also granted the sancrosancitas, which gave her the same rights Augustus had.

Tacitus described Livia as malevolent and called her a “feminine bully” and Robert Graves had a ball depicting her shrewd ambition in I, Claudius as the epitome of a scheming matriarch poisoning anyone who crossed her, and anyone who got in the path of her son Tiberius inheriting the throne (though Graves did a great service to widening our BBC knowledge of Roman History, he might have been slightly fictitious). But no one questioned the fact of either her cunning intelligence or her absolute power. Second only to her husband. The Julio-Claudian family tree can be slightly complicated with brothers and sisters marrying (Caligula, for one), but all of the Emperors stemmed from Livia. Tiberius (14-37 AD) was her son, Caligula (37-41 AD) her grandson, Claudius (41 – 54 AD) her grandson, Nero (54-68 AD) her great-grandson.

With so many anecdotes under her belt, Livia is a perfect candidate for plenty of THATLou Themes, from Kings + Leaders to Ladies at the Louvre or seen as Ops holding wheat she could even be suitable for the Thanksgiving Food + Wine hunt. Wheat was free in Rome, which is perhaps why their bread is so delicious … 2000 years of practice with the forno certainly shows off! As for her Cornucopia, abounding with fruit, there’s another larger one found two rooms over in this Denon ground floor (Rez-de-Chausse, in French).

And if you’re ever hunting at the British Museum, keep an eye out for several elegant busts of our favorite empress there in the Roman & Greek antiquities section! Keep an eye out for a bust of Livia dressed as Ceres (the Roman goddess of the harvest) as she might just make another reappearance in our THATBrit Babes & Love Hunt.



Things in bold are sometimes references to bonus questions…

Emperor TIBERIUS, 2nd Emperor of Rome (14 – 37 AD)

Emperor Tiberius, 6.8″ statue found in Capri, now in the Louvre
Emperor Tiberius, this 6.8″ statues was found in Capri (where he’d retired from Rome)

Stepson of Augustus (first Emperor of Rome), Tiberius was an impressive military man, with several significant battles under his belt. He wasn’t, however, very well suited to civilian life in Rome, where his mother, Livia, insisted he stay toward the end of Augustus’s life (to ensure that he inherit the throne). To further secure this inheritance, Livia also had Augustus (never fond of his awkward stepson) force Tiberius to divorce his wife, whom he loved deeply, in order to marry Augustus’s adulterous – and fun – daughter, Julia. The marriage was a fiasco, however it served Livia’s purpose perfectly. Pliny the Elder named Tiberius the “Gloomiest of Men”.

Second emperor to the Julio-Claudian Roman Empire, Tiberius was a sick, corrupt, perverse man, and very fond of his equally sick, corrupt and perverse nephew, Caligula, who would inherit Tiberius’s throne. From Seneca to Suetonius, Caligula was a depraved, insane tyrant. The latter accused Caligula of incest with his sisters, Agrippina the Younger, Drusilla and Livilla and say he prostituted them to other men. Famously he also is said to have made his horse, Incitatus a consul and appointed him a priest.

bust of Emperor Gaius Caligula, Louvre Paris
Emperor Gaius Caligula, a sick puppy who reigned 37-41 AD. Louvre.fr

The Roman Empire, established just a few Emperors before, was going to hell, until the stammering, stuttering cripple, Claudius inherited the throne (the Praetorian guards named Claudius Emperor in 41 AD after Caligula’s assassination, as he was the last male adult of the Julio Claudian left). He proved to be an able leader, focusing on canals, aqueducts, bridges, balancing power back toward the Senate (after Tiberius and Caligula had purged much of Rome of a voice), and winning many provinces under his reign (Thrace, Pamphylia and beginning the conquest of Britain to name a few). Sadly for the Roman Empire, Claudius was married to another Sour Grape and was followed by nephew Nero (reigned 54 – 68 AD), who was yet another sick puppy. The last of the Julio-Claudian Dynasty.

 Emperor Claudius (reigned 41–54 AD), part of the Borghese Collection at the Louvre
Emperor Claudius (reigned 41–54 AD), part of the Borghese Collection at the Louvre

Yesterday El Argentino and I went to the Louvre to nose about an area we’re both shamefully ignorant of – the near eastern antiquities. I probably couldn’t come up with one of Alexander the Great’s campaigns, and the area between the Euphrates and the Tigris rivers (Mesopotamia, Sumer, Babylon, etc) is buried down deep in my memory. The last time (and first time) I really gave the dawn of civilisation a thought was probably in the 6th grade when we had to study the invention of the wheel, Gilgamesh and irrigation. This last one quite an abstract concept for pollution spouting city kids.

But those early folk, from Cyprians to the Levant in Palestine and Jordan, have provided me with some wonderful THATMuse fodder – the Bestiary (fantasy animals, such as unicorns and griffins) hunt that I’m working on now, especially. And El Argentino, a buff of all things Roman and Greek (be it a military campaign, tragedy, philosopher or amphora pot, he’s your man) feels like he needs to round out his education for when the kids start asking questions.

Over the next week I’ll feature a few of the Near Eastern treasures that we came across. And who knows, perhaps one of them just might pop up in one of the themed THATMuse Louvre treasure hunts!

Ain Ghazal. neolithic sculpture. At 9000 years old, Ain is the earliest work that the Louvre

Meet Ain Ghazal. At 9000 years old, Ain is the earliest work that the Louvre has in its possession. And actually, Ain is only with the Louvre for 30 years. The Jordanians have generously lent him to the Louvre for 30 years (although I thought it was funny that some Louvre curator arrogantly mentioned that ‘this loan would be renewed by tacit agreement’).  32 of these cute little fellows were found in two separate pits, after a 600 meter road was built across the archaeological dig.

From looking them up on Wikipedia, apparently some of these Neolithic people buried their dead under the floorboards in their homes (later pulling the skulls out), but most of their dead were just thrown in garbage pits where domestic waste was trashed… Throwing grampa in the trash, hmm… Rather detracts from the allure to these ‘cute little fellows’, don’t you think?

Introducing one of the most amazing Mesopotamian artefacts, The Lamassu. Meaning “protective spirit” in Akkadian, he is one of a pair who was usually found flanking the doorways to Assyrian palaces. Winged bulls or lions with human heads, they served as mythological guardians. One of the things I find so clever about them is why they have five legs; If you look at them from straight on, they’re standing at attention, still. If you look at them from the side, they’re walking. The British Museum also has six Lamassus, one of which has some graffiti of the board game, the Royal Game of Ur scratched between two of their legs… Guards who were clearly stationed at the gates, idling the time away.

side view of Assyrian winged bull lamassu sculpture 7th Century BC, Louvre Paris

But back to the Khorsabad room in the Mesopotamian section of the Louvre: These guys are somehow comforting, or perhaps what’s comforting is the space they’re in. It smells earthy, I suppose of the gypseous alabaster they’re made of. With the grey-but-bright Paris light shedding in, there’s something intimate about the well-proportioned L-shaped room lined with Sargon’s treasures. And then there’s size. Our friends here stand at nearly 4 and a half meters tall, making me feel. Well. Very human. They’re from the palace of Sargon II, who reigned from 721 – 705 BC; it was square in shape with 158 towers & had a 24-meter thick wall encompassing 3 km². Nothing so piddling as our French Khorsabad room at the Louvre. But sadly we don’t have much of Sargon’s treasure left.

side view of Assyrian winged bull lamassu sculpture 7th Century BC, Louvre Paris

In the 1840s and 50s the palace, named Dur Sharrukin, was excavated by the French consul general to Mosul (yes, of Iraq), Monsieur Botta (and yes, his name is in bold — perhaps an answer to a bonus question?). Heart-breakingly two shipping incidents caused much of the excavations to go missing: one through the boat sinking and the other to pirates. They must have been strong pirates as two 30-ton statues went missing.

I haven’t done much digging myself, but I do have to wonder why some Indiana Jones character hasn’t gone looking for the ruins at the bottom of the Tigris river, where the first ship sunk.

Anyway, this endearing Lamassu could appear in any number of THATLous. His strong, architecturally-necessary form makes him suitable for an Architecture + Structure hunt, and of course, the fact that he is neither animal nor man, but an imaginary compromise places him in the blurred line of Beauty + the Bestiary (fantasy animals, like unicorns) theme. Or, since two of their three components are animals, I bet they’re also in the Kid-Friendly Animals in Art theme (the purpose of which is to avoid crowds)? Lucky you’re reading this here, to get a leg up (or five!) on your THATLou adversaries!

woman stood between two guardian lamassu sculptures, Louvre Paris

And where do you suppose you’d find these gentle giants? In the Mesopotamian department (yellow on the map), not too far from the Near Eastern collection’s Ain Ghazal, the Oldest Piece at the Louvre or Ancient Iranian treasures like Darius the Great’s Frieze of Archers + Griffins who are just around the corner in the Sackler collection of the Sully Wing.

Till our next visit to the Louvre, this will be my penultimate highlight concerning last weekend’s visit to the Near Eastern antiquities wing.  It’s been tricky to choose what to profile since El Argentino and I had so many surprises and discovered so many delights.

In choosing this third finale I hoped to find a thread which holds the three completely different pieces, from completely different places together. First we had our rather morbid friend, Ain Ghazal with his silent watchful eyes. He’s from the Levant (which describes both a culture and a geographical area between Egypt and Turkey, Iraq and the Mediterranean), but Ain really stands out, because at 9000 years old he’s the Louvre’s oldest piece. That’s pretty cool.  Then we had our adorable Assyrian Lamassus, curiously smiling down at us as they protected Sargon’s palace. Endearing and gentle, the Lamassus put proportion back in the idea of palace, with their monumental size.

So with size and age for themes, I nominate Darius I’s winter palace at Susa.  Son of Cyrus, father of Xerxes, Darius I (522-486 BC) was the most successful of the Achaemenid kings. Under his rule the Persian Empire stretched from Greece to India. A melting pot of styles, Achaemenid art is defined by seemlessly combining many elements taken from different cultures. I guess one could think of it as the Benetton of Near Eastern Art. His palace at Susa (east of the Tigris River) celebrated all sorts of his victories, and not just through storytelling as his Greek contemporaries were painting on their pots, but through methods and materials as well.  Darius was big time and he wanted you to know it.  So big-time was he that this entry shall be two-fold, in my weak attempt to do his winter palace justice: art today, architecture to follow.

Wall frieze of a lion, Darius's Winter Palace, Susa Iran

King of the beasts, the lion figures an important role both royally and religiously.  A frieze of lions ran along the top of the wall in the first court Darius’s visitors entered. The provenance of the glazed siliceous bricks and its composition as a frieze is from older Mesopotamian traditions, found for instance in the 2nd millennium temple of Kara-indash in Uruk. The repetition of a symbolic animal was typical of Babylonian art, where its significance was more religious. Yet the clear knowledge of anatomy, and the attention to details such as his wavy mane was true to Achaemenid Persian art.  A little artistic UN, all in one palace. By 480 BC it was estimated that 50 million people lived in the Achaemenid Empire.

Sphinx in Darius the Great’s winter palace at Susa, Iran
Sphinx in Darius the Great’s winter palace at Susa, Iran

Apart from these turquoise lions Jacques de Morgan, the archeologist leading the excavations from 1908 – 1913, found bas relief friezes of griffins and sphinxes, archers (with duck heads at the top of their bows) and immortals — among plenty of colossal double-headed columns which we’ll linger on in another post.

A Persian Griffin painted wall sculpture in the Sully wing of the Louvre
a Persian Griffin in the Sully wing of the Louvre

What does that mean for you? Well, a lot of THATMuse points if you know where on Sully’s ground floor (ground floor in French is RDC, Rez-de-Chaussée) to find them in the “Antique Iran” section that’s yellow on your Louvre maps… Oh here, you’re good enough to be reading this THATLou homework, these precious creatures are in Room 12 and 13!

One of Darius's 'Immortals', coloured tiled sculpture, British Museum
One of Darius’s ‘Immortals’ in Room 52 of the British Museum

Apart from appearing in the Beauty + Bestiary (fantastical animals, such as unicorns, dragons and griffins, etc), Darius’s palace at Susa could certainly be pertinent to plenty of other THATLou themes – Kings + Leaders, Animals in Art, or even a possible Beauty + Bestiary… You never know!

You’ll even find Darius at the British Museum, which has some amazing friezes commissioned by Darius, including several lavishly dressed warriors carrying spears, possibly his ‘immortals’, a 10,000-strong élite fighting force that helped him to invade western Punjab, Scythia and Sindh.

The Three Graces

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

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

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

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

In our most recent THATMuse post we lingered on an introduction to the Borghese Collection at the Louvre. Though necessary, it was honestly a bit sober. So in developing this story line (before getting to the actual crux — an item or two of the collection itself!) I thought we needed some juicy gossip. And what makes for juicier gossip than scandal? It’s hard to top the stories of Messalina, as touched on in a previous post, but Pauline Borghese, Napoleon’s sister and wife to Prince Camillo Borghese, certainly comes a close second in “shock” factor.

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

She was the beauty of the family, 6th of the 8 children born to Napoleon’s parents in Ajaccio, Corsica. At the age of 16, in 1796 (just as Napoleon was starting to make his mark on history, during the Italian Campaign), she fell madly in love with a 40-year old syphilitic philanderer. To distract her, the family married her off to one of Napoleon’s soldiers, General Victor Emmanuel Leclerc (whom Nappy incidentally caught her being let’s say, indiscreet with behind a screen at the Palazzo Mombello in Milano — but I get the idea he didn’t share this morsel with his family).

Despite having a son by Leclerc (Dermide, whom Napoleon, ever the control-freak, named), Pauline set herself up with many a lover. The family was posted to Haiti, which is where she may have developed her taste for sleeping with black men. It is well documented (a small bit of trivia that I remember from high school when we had to spend time at the Museo Napoleonico in Rome. Just as an aside, these completely un-useful bits of trivia is exactly how my history teachers hooked me on their rich subject) that she was in the habit of having her large black servant, Paul, carry her to the bath every day, and would spend an inordinate number of hours receiving guests from the bath – talk about being hungry for attention! She’d also apparently use ladies-in-waiting as foot servants — literally stepping on their backs.

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

Unlike either her older brother (who spent a large part of his life being her PR spin doctor, in addition to being self-appointed ‘Emperor’ of Europe) or Messalina (3rd Empress of Rome and a flagrant hussy), Pauline didn’t seem to have any ambition — her interest was pure frivolity and sex. Eight months after Leclerc died she secretly remarried the handsome Prince Camillo Borghese. This rush infuriated Napoleon (Ironically with such a sister, Napoleon tried to instill a code of good morals. Compare Jacques-Louis David’s Portrait of Mme. Recamier (1800, at the Louvre) to Antonio Canova’s sculpture of Pauline – which at her request was nearly nude and posed as Venus Victrix – 1805-8 at the Galleria Borghese). Throughout her infidelities, there was a modicum of decency and even loyalty about her. Though she swiftly cheated on Borghese — who was forced into selling a large part of his family’s art collection to his nouveau-riches self-coronated Emperor brother-in-law — she also secured Camillo the post of Governor of Piedmont and guardian of Napoleon’s prisoner, Pope Pius VII (two tasks Camillo coveted). And though she caused a lot of trouble for her brother (who adored her), she is also the only Bonaparte sibling to have supported him after he was deposed and sent to Elba.

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

In fact according to Alistair Horne’s The Age of Napoleon, she liquidated most of her assets to go and live with Nappy in Elba and better his situation (although she kept her pretty frocks `to make him happy`). Among her assets was a sumptuous little number on rue du Faubourg St-Honore which she sold to the Duke of Wellington after the Battle of Waterloo, and which since then has been the British Embassy of France. Apparently Wellington “gained the respect of the Parisians when, as the victor, he could have grabbed it for nothing, but insisted on paying the full price.

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

Just as a small reminder – when little morsels are randomly placed in bold, it just may mean that those could conceivably arise as answers to bonus questions. The Borghese Beauty is applicable to any number of THATLous, since the Borghese Collection has the Three Graces (Beauty), wild satyrs (Bestiary), wonderful Craters (Food & Wine), and Roman Sarcophagi (Skull Scouting Halloween Hunt), etc.

English historian Alistair Horne has written a number of great books on Napoleon and his time. And here’s a good New York Times article about the Borghese Collection au Louvre (no bonus questions – just if interested).

Last time we wound our way from considering the Prado and Spain in the general, to zeroing in on a contemporary replica of Leonardo da Vinci’s  Mona Lisa. In our last post we shamelessly lingered on poor Leonardo’s sex life (with the weak excuse of saying “hey, the Prado La Gioconda may have been by this pupil / servant / lover, Andrea Salai, so we better delve into some sodomy charges, right?”).  In so doing we also trashed Leonardo to a small extent to say that THATLou prefers plenty of Leonardo’s contemporaries. In other words, we’ve really been all over the place, from Madrid to Paris, and through Leonardo’s boudoir. Now we aim to turn a slightly more positive note, one which isn’t quite so NY Post Page Six, or Hello!Magazine trashy. And we can also shake this ‘we‘ing. What, do we think we’re royal or something, with all this smut?

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

Let’s start with touching ever so briefly on some examples of masterpieces by Leonardo’s contemporaries. da Vinci studied in Verrocchio’s Florentine studio alongside Pietro Perugino, Sandro Botticcelli, and one of my all time favourites, Domenico Ghirlandaio. I won’t examine any of these three painters in depth, just want to drop you off with some of their paintings herewith. And then our next post, concerning Andrea Salai, will be the conclusion to this round-about Prado Mona Lisa series. It’s timely to consider Salai, as his paintings may just become a spot more valuable if conservationists decide that the Prado’s La Gioconda was by his hand and not by Francesco Melzi.

My favourite painting at the Louvre by Domenico Ghirlandaio (1449 – 1494) is constantly being lent out. I guess this is a tribute to how good it is, but I find it very annoying indeed when I find the flimsy little paper hand-scribbled by some curator apologising for the fact that it’s gone missing for another few months. It’s a great painting. Despite his grotesque nose, the Old Man’s look is so quiet and calming as he considers his grandson. You can nearly see him thinking.

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

Another Leonardo contemporary who I prefer is Sandro Botticelli (1445 – 1510). Though I didn’t include his Louvre Venus and Three Graces when I was considering various Three Graces in July (including the recently-discovered Three Graces by Cranach ‘s – which is just unsurpassable), I’ll take this complete non-sequitur as a chance to include it herewith. Couldn’t you picture this Venus and Three Graces in at least one THATLou? Perhaps a Ladies at the Louvre hunt, or better still the Love Hunt which is due to take place for couples and lovey-doves the evening of Friday 14 December?

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

Pietro Perugino (1446 – 1523). He’s a tricky one to choose a fave at the Louvre, because there are so many good ones. There’s always something tactile for me with Perugino. The paint is so smooth and the colors so uniform that he makes me want to stroke the canvas. Anyway, if I have to choose, I’ll go with his St Sebastian (which as a total aside, I was interested with how many St Sebastians we came across at both the Thyssen Bornemiszia, as well as the Prado. Do the Spanish have a thing for him, perhaps?).

After today’s segue-way of some top-tier Renaissance painters, the next post will take a step down (or back?) and worm its way back to the likely painter of the Prado’s version of La Gioconda – and will take a look at Andrea Salai’s paintings. That Little Devil!

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.