It would not be right to live in Paris and not visit the Louvre (again). Being the first Sunday of the month it was free entry yesterday and we figured that middle-of-winter February might just be one month that the Louvre would have fewer visitors than usual. Not a bad guess. We arrived to join the queue right on 9am for opening time and waited only 30mins in the crisp morning air with the sun peeping above the surrounding buildings. A steadily moving queue in a very picturesque setting was no hardship at all. Once inside, the Louvre is so vast that there is plenty of space to see the treasures, apart perhaps from the Mona Lisa. As the main attraction she always has a crowd around her. Other spaces are peaceful and uncrowded, some visitors had their pencil and paper out sketching statues on display.
The sheer size of the Louvre and the number of pieces of art – significant, well-known or otherwise – is overwhelming. This time we had the luxury of going slowly knowing we can go back again if we want, starting with re-visiting my favourite exhibit the Venus de Milo. She is majestic; the light falls perfectly on her so that she is the focal point of the room, she stands serenely, beautiful and imposing.
We enjoyed seeing certain artworks again having now visited small museums dedicated to the artist to learn more, like Delacroix, or read more about a particular period in French history which makes the art all the more interesting.
My dearly beloved is a fan of tapestries so when we happened upon the collection in the Decorative Arts section (Richelieu wing) we were in our element. Amongst many from the Middle Ages there’s a large late 15th century wool and silk tapestry called “le Repas de Chasseurs” (The Hunters’ Picnic). In it there are women and men drinking and eating, and what look like rabbits or hares the men have hunted strung on poles. It’s the hunting dogs that made us laugh; one is gobbling something (possibly a joint of meat) in the front of the picture and another in the middle of the scene is caught snaffling a segment of pie while his master takes a swig from a pottery bottle. The artist certainly knew dogs. Our old Labrador would have loved that kind of picnic! Here’s a good picture of The Hunters’ picnic.
Further along, we spied another interesting 15th century tapestry called “Le Travail de la Laine” (The Work of Wool). In amongst the mille-fleurs (1000 flowers) background the three characters are each performing a wool-related task. The lady on the right is holding a sheep and has a comb-like instrument with her, the man in the middle is winding yarn from the spool at his feet and the lady on the left has an instrument that was apparently used to make wool ribbon and braid. She has on her belt the little shuttles used with her ribbon loom.
The tapestry makers at this time period did not know how to show perspective in their scenes, the background is commonly mille-fleurs this was the fashion at the time. Later on, tapestries from 16th century onwards start to show that tapestry artists developed skills in creating perspective in the scenes depicted. The history of tapestry is fascinating; the designs, the development of “technology”, the politics and at the heart of it all the materials, wool, silk, cotton that have lasted through history and still look fantastic. The tapestry craft continues in the Gobelins and Aubusson workshops in France today.