I got lots of great information and photos for my project in France. My project is the comparison of urban palaces with their rural couterparts, the châteaux. My final project will hopefully be an essay accompanied by some of my own photos.
On the first day in Paris, we went on a walking tour and saw the Conciergerie, a palace that was also used as a prison that housed Marie Antoinette before she was executed.
The MAN, to which we repatriated the Piette pebble, is housed in a gorgeous building called “le château de Saint-Germain-en-Laye”. It was originally built in 1122 by Louis VI as a fortress and completed by Louis IX.
In 1863, Eugène Millet converted it into a renaissance palace, and it was renovated again in 1962. The castle was initially built in the middle of a forest on the plateau of Laye as a military stronghold, but eventually became a residential building with a surrounding town.
We also visited the Palace of Versailles, which is a ginormous building. The palace had its beginnings as a hunting lodge (albeit a very fancy one) built by Louis XIII. Succeeding rulers added onto the original construction and made it into the distinctive palace it is known as today. It has been used by numerous powers in France as a headquarters or residence. When Louis XIII first built the hunting lodge, Versailles was only a small village. Under the French monarchs, the lodge became a large palace, and the Versailles became a city. Another urban palace we got the opportunity to explore was the Louvre. Although it originally was a fortress, it was rebuilt and expanded many times and became enveloped by the city. I found it interesting that le château de Saint-Germain, Versailles, and the Louvre all originated with some other purpose, but over time became palaces.
When we went into the Loire Valley we visited a few rural castles including the château d’Amboise and château de Chenonceau.
I have numerous great photos of the palaces and châteaux, so now my work is researching the two types of buildings. When we visited them, most offered pamphlets that gave brief histories. I need to do a lot of research to be able to do more comparison. I want to focus on the difference in the purpose and usage of the buildings.
Visiting the Louvre was one of my top things we did in Paris. The whole visit was amazing. Not only was the Louvre filled with some of the best paintings and sculptures ever made, but the building itself has a rich history and is absolutely gorgeous. The Louvre also was a palace, which is good for my project comparing châteaux to urban palaces!
My first photograph is of the Italian painting hallway which ranged from the 13th to 17th centuries. The paintings stretch all the way down the hallway, which is less than half as long as the entire length of the museum, just to put it in perspective. It was interesting to walk the length of the hallway examining the paintings through the centuries. Of course while we were in the Louvre, we had to visit the Mona Lisa, which is in my second photograph.
Although the room had many paintings on the walls, it was obvious that Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece and the painting opposing it, Veronese’s The Wedding Feast at Cana, were the main attractions. Everyone wanted to get as close as possible to the Mona Lisa, which is no larger than the signs on either side of it warning people of pick-pockets, to take photographs of the most photographed painting in the world. This picture in my blog post is not a close up of the Mona Lisa, but one of the room containing it. I found the number of people who flocked to the painting amazing. Through the hubbub, I could hear small bits of conversations in many languages. People from all over the world were there to gaze upon Leonardo’s painting. Although some people were obviously just there because the painting is famous, others did seem to view it critically. So what is truly amazing to me is how people from many different nations and cultures have an appreciation for the same art. The visual arts, much like music, are a universal language that everyone can enjoy regardless of who you are. In my first photo, the museum visitors stretch off into the distance just as far as the paintings. The visual arts are very important to all of us. They preserve cultures by encasing them inside canvases and chiseled stone, whether it’s French sailing ships, Italian feasts, or Roman gods, but art itself also becomes part of the cultures. So before this post becomes too long and goes into territory that has been explored many times before by great minds, I wanted to summarize why these two photographs are so interesting to me. Being at the Louvre, I saw people from all over the world interested in the same things, in a way that I’ve never seen before, and I thought these photos captured that.
Some of my fellow travelers have thoughtfully incorporated meaningful quotes into their posts. So here is the first quote that popped up on a Google search for “Art quotes”
“A line is a dot that went for a walk” – Paul Klee
While most other PA students’ lower year includes plenty of chemical equations and properties, mine was filled with artists ranging from Cimabue and Artemisia Gentileschi to Velazquez and Goya and Marcel Duchamp and Mark Rothko. Taking Art-400: Histories of Art with Mr. Fox for all three terms this year has acquainted me with these artists amongst many others. During class, Mr. Fox would often say things like, “This piece is well worth a trip to (insert cool but obscure travel destination here),” or “When you are in Madrid make sure to see these pieces at the Prado.” A large number of the pieces we studied or other pieces by artists we studied reside in France so this trip has been an art history dream. While art history class exposed me to a myriad of beautiful images, a projector and slide show can only do so much. Here are some “art moments” I had that proved to me that the real thing offers more than just looking at a photo:
Standing in a room full of Duccio and Giotto at the Louvre felt like being Alice in Wonderland: the canvases that these artists painted on are so large, they are placed in a room of magnificent architecture and ceiling work, and the gold paint that they (especially Giotto) painted with still manages to sparkle after about 700 years. I kept circling the gallery looking upward and admiring.
While walking through Versailles our tour guide, Josh, told us about how Louis XIV cultivated both French and Italian artists to show that the French were just as talented as the post-Renaissance Italians. Louis XIV ordered for Bernini to make a bust of him but he claimed to be not impressed by Bernini’s work, thus furthering his nationalistic agenda. After viewing this bust on display in Versailles, I have to disagree largely with Louis. I became a huge Bernini fan after studying Apollo and Daphne during winter term with Mr. Fox and I was able to identify the bust as Bernini’s even before Josh told us. Mr. Fox taught us that Bernini tried to capture moments in time and he really does so in the bust: Louis’ hair appears to be blowing in the wind and his cheek is turned to the side in a mighty position.
After walking through rooms and rooms of impressionist paintings at the Musée d’Orsay, I pushed through a crowd of people to look at Manet’s Le Dejeuner sur l’Herbe. A picture online does nothing to show the stunning deep green tones. I also had no idea how large the painting was and so I walked across the painting several times. I truly felt like the eyes of the nude women were moving as well, watching me watching her. Talk about that in terms of “the gaze” and spectatorship and consumption of nudes in art!
Despite it’s lack of bold colors or a high level of mimesis, the Bayeux Tapestry, in its near 1000-year-old glory, does not fail to impress. Viewing this piece in person allowed me to see the whole cloth at once rather than in fragments and a headset narration system completely immersed me in the story of William and Harold.
“Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.” – Benjamin Franklin
One of the many reasons why I was excited to embark on this journey throughout France even before the trip began was the ability for me to interact with the history and culture of the country. Quite a bit of the information that I have been engaging with during this trip is information that I have either learned and later forgotten or learned and remembered in classes or through reading and researching. However, the experience of being taught a topic on a PowerPoint or in a book pales in comparison to the possibilities that self – learning allows. For example, I was aware of the fact that 50,000,000 million people were casualties of World War II. However, being able to encounter a piece of that history by looking out at the burial sites in Caen made it all the more powerful. The fact that I could walk over to a grave and see the name, hometown, and date of birth and death, gave each of those soldiers a personal story that I’ll always keep in mind when talking about WWII now.
Another example is when we visited the Louvre. I had never seen the Mona Lisa in person though of course I had known about its marvelous prestige. When we reached the Louvre, I made a relative beeline to the Mona Lisa and after taking a few pictures of the famous painting, I just stared at it, attempting to take in each and every detail in my mind’s eye. From that experience, I was able to understand why the Mona Lisa is considered an impressive work of art while the rest of my visit to the Louvre made me ponder what made one work of art so significantly better than another. Questions such as, how do certain pieces of art reach higher levels of prestige than others, when all of the pieces of art are considered to be in the upper echelon and if the current method of viewing art is conducive to truly appreciating these works of art reverberated with me not only when I was in the Louvre, but in my quiet moments afterwards.
The point of this is to say when one is physically, intellectually, and emotionally engaged in learning, the ideas and concepts stick with you more effectively and the best way for one to engage in learning in all of these ways is to actively interact with the topics at hand. I wouldn’t be able to look at World War II from the eyes of a young soldier who is scared and just wants to come home or debate the merits of the current art viewing methods nearly as effectively as I can now because I have these memories to lean on. When you actively engage with what you’re learning, you care about it. Instead of just trying to remember statistics, dates, and details, I now care about what I have been learning on a deeper, more emotional level, which allows me to think about these topics on a deeper, more questioning level. I want to learn and being involved in the learning personally ensures that I will never forget it.
Our new blog assignment is to talk about whether reading about something or looking at a photo is better or worse than being at the actual place or object. I can personally say, first hand, that seeing the actual object is even better than seeing the photo. My second night at the Hôtel Victoria was spent in the lobby with Dr. Blunt, Ashley, Jacob, Camille, Indy, and JT discussing various things in or about the Louvre. Somehow we began discussing the statue of Cupid and Psyche. This is a well known statue, by Antonio Canova, where Cupid is embracing Psyche from behind. I immediatley was attracted to the statue because it was quite delicate looking and had a lot of movement within the two people despite it being stone. Mind you this is all from one single photograph on the Louvre website.
When we got to the museum the following morning Indy and I took off in our own direction, having been to the Louvre before. We decided to skip The Mona Lisa and go straight to the Roman, etruscan, Greek, and Italian sculptures. We began walking through the many rooms when we got to one of the big halls. Indy and I began walking through. We saw tall sculptures of people, gods, pillars etc. but when we got to the end of the room we saw The Sculpture. At this point in the day I had forgotten the piece was in the museum, but when I saw it I had a bit of a freak out. It was a lot bigger than it had looked in the photo. I thought it was going to be small and delicate, but it was large and strong. However despite the size difference, the people had a lot of delicate features. Cupid’s wings were long and beautiful. Psyche and cupid’s arms and legs were smooth and lithe. They looked like they were alive. I enjoyed seeing the sculpture in person much more than looking at a photograph. If I could, I would take the sculpture home with me, but at least I can look at photos and still get some of the thrill of seeing it.