THATMuse

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)


THATd’Or was created to provide both an overview & interactive visit to the world’s greatest collection of Impressionist paintings (whilst pumping art-adrenalin!). When your hunt is over you’ll regroup, toddle to one of the museum cafés and open the all-important sealed envelope containing your answer sheet. Once your tootsies are rested and score tallied, our HOPE is that you’ll want to return to the galleries together, to see the art in a leisurely manner (kids on separate teams may want to show off what they found). The Musée d’Orsay gives very little information in its ID tags, so if you return with hunt in hand, you can linger on your treasures (& those gems between treasures). Another goal is to try to sprinkle in French trivia/history on Paris sites so that when your family is out on the town connections to these Impressionist masters might be made to various important landmarks. 

The general rules are quite simple, each team must prove they’ve seen their treasure by photographing themselves (one or more team members – the more the merrier!) in front of the artworks. The point is to have seen as many of the treasures as possible within the given time & get an overview of the former railway station. Some bonus questions are craftily embedded in the text (a carrot to read every word!). The answers to all the knowledge-based bonus questions can be found within the treasure text – it’s just a matter of your team playing to its strengths (who reads fine print with hawk-eyes, who excels with maps/navigation, who’s most visually oriented? The first two qualities are often found in the same person and children are generally stealthy ‘scanners’ once they see the image they’re sussing out).

Please note that no FLASH photography is allowed in the museum – so be sure to turn off the flash on your phone/camera before dashing off on your hunt!

RULES 

  1. Please use only one phone/camera per team – the photographer can change, but one camera / phone makes score-tallying easier.
  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 (& 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… You’re ousted for asking a guard or fellow visitor directions! Likewise, no GPS, no internet nor anything apart from the hunt & official Musée d’Orsay map (hardcopy)
  4. Must meet back at Bartholdi’s Statue of Liberty (all time is synchronized by the large gilded clock overlooking the main hall, easily seen from most of the museum) at the precise pre-arranged end time. Each minute late merits 2 negative points – per minute! – but remember, no running Those who are 10 minutes late are disqualified (sometimes there are strategic reasons for being late, but be careful!).

TOOLS & TIMING 

Comfortable shoes, freshly charged batteries in your camera/phone & a keen sense of curiosity! We provide the THATd’Or hunt, pencils + map of the Musée d’Orsay.

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. When booking, you can opt for “express lane” tickets (22€/adult, kids under 18 enter free).