Why Mona Lisa?

Paris appeals to people from all over the world. The city’s reputation for high fashion, great food, and romance makes it a much-loved destination. When visiting Paris, there is no end to the exciting and beautiful things to see. Still, there is a near-hysterical contagion to see the Mona Lisa in the Louvre.

Inside IM Pei’s glass pyramid

It is such a destination, the museum, the largest museum in the world – both in collections and square feet under roof, has twisted itself into a pretzel to accommodate all the eager visitors. Cultural Critic Jason Fargo recently wrote an opinion piece for the New York Times, It’s Time to Take Down the Mona Lisa asserting “Leonardo’s painting is a security hazard, an educational obstacle and not even a satisfying bucket-list item. It’s time the Louvre moved it out of the way.”

Borrowed image–crowd around Mona Lisa

He offers some great ideas and strong support for this, and I agree. I recently went to the Louvre while the Mona Lisa temporarily relocated so the gallery could be renovated. There were new admission restrictions, cranky guards, lines in different places. I gave up and went away. Later in the day, I tried again. I had no intention of seeing the Mona Lisa, been there, studied that, and I do not need a selfie in front of it. I wanted to explore the Louvre Palace itself, examine the interior, find some lesser-known items, and discover something new.

Palais du Louvre’s western wing is the Decorative Arts & Design Museum. There were no lines, no crowds, and an excellent display of art, both the very old and some very new.

Antoon Kings illustration

Somehow wherever I go, I find flowers. After climbing a grand staircase to the top floor, I find an exhibition of “The Magical Garden of Antoon Krings.” Here nestled among the flowers were bees, frogs, hedgehogs, and blackbirds. These beautiful caterpillars and butterflies come alive in a garden of children’s storybook art.

Antoon Kings illustration

Krings, a contemporary French artist, and illustrator has written over 100 books for children bringing adventurous garden creatures to life.

Winter

Further along, I found the carved stone faces of representing the seasons of winter and summer made for models in the grand fountain near the Eiffel towers.

Summer

These were just the models made in preparation of the entire fountain plan, isn’t it grand they were kept and are displayed today?

Fashion from another era

This historical painting provides a fashion show of clothes worn then.

Fashion of the current era

The streets of Paris mimic the same style today!

My fondness for flowers leads me to a painting of floral details. So easy to examine here than in the garden where we might overlook them.

Partial ceiling view in Louvre

By not getting into the main entrance of the Louvre in the early morning, we came back at 5:30 pm, on Thursdays, the museum stays open until 9:30. We had fewer crowds, and we had lighting! The ornately painted ceilings brightened when the lights came on, and there was an entirely new, to my eyes, exhibition on view. The muddled paint colors competing for natural lighting during the daytime suddenly brightened with the additional lights. Greens, golds, and skin tones glowed. It was stunning.

King Ramesses VI

I found this limestone shard with a profile of Egyptian King Ramesses VI, the fifth pharaoh of the 22nd Dynasty, a singular portrait, simple lines, and still today, stunningly beautiful. Artist is identified only as “a workman from the late Ramessid period whose job was to decorate royal tombs.” (Louvre) Isn’t this smile as mysterious as the Mona Lisa?

It can be so overwhelming to explore the enormous collections of great museums. I have seen enough ancient greek statues, Madonna & Child paintings, ditto for portraits of Kings and great battlefield victories. I will not rush to see it all. I’m not in a competition to see someone’s top ten list. It has taken years to reach this realization, and now I want to really see. Looking closely, I’m searching for small bits of color. I’m looking for a detail the artist spent years learning to perfect. I want to really see what’s in front of me. I’m seeking contentment to be in the presence of a collection of work deemed worthy of preservation. If only for a moment, I want to share space with this work of art.

Ceiling in Louvre

Museums are a collection of creative moments made over time by individuals with passion. I believe that everyone who lives makes some contribution to this world. Perhaps this is one reason we have so many museums. For many, their contribution is a creative action. It may be a mechanical invention, an illustrative representation, or broadly defined as it may be — a work of art. I wonder why we should all line up to see the Mona Lisa?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.