Time is my luxury; time to visit the Louvre Museum again and again. I can make the most of the free entry on the first Sunday of the winter months between October and March to peruse in detail particular collections that take my interest. Luxury is my interest this time.
The newly re-commissioned space in the Sully wing dedicated to the decorative arts of the 18th century opened in June last year (2014) and is, in a word, sumptuous. The collection represents an era when the skills for design, creation and craftsmanship of beautiful decorative pieces flourished in Paris with encouragement from royalty and the privileged wealthy. The exhibition is divided into three time periods:
1660 to 1725 during the reign of Louis XIV
1725 to 1755 the Rococo style, and
1755 to 1790 the reign of Louis XVI, husband of Marie-Antoinette
I especially liked the exhibition style; a mix of expertly selected examples of arts and crafts objects interspersed with faithfully recreated period rooms where newly made soft furnishings together with restored décor pieces provide a sympathetic setting for display of the museum’s collected treasures.
Making my way through the gallery according to the “sense of the visit”, gave me a better appreciation of the evolution of design and style, which is exactly the purpose of this type of presentation; it works. I savoured the overall impression of the ornate period rooms with their gilded and painted wall panels and cornices, stylish passementerie, elegant porcelain ware and splendid inlaid wood furniture; there are dozens of adjectives that could apply – minimal is not one of them.
But with over 2,000 pieces in the entire collection some had to be passed with only a cursory glance, others had me captivated; reading notes, studying the display. Queen Marie-Antoinette’s necessaire, a travelling kit, fascinated me. Ninety-four pieces of equipment adorned with her monogram – an intertwined M and A – in a cleverly designed mahogany case to make her journeys comfortable. Amongst the 94 items there is office equipment, a tray bell and seal, a sewing case, ink well and pounce pot, and compass, items for a light meal including a chocolate pot and beater, 2 drinking glasses, a dish warmer, teapot and tea ball, 2 tea cups with saucers, a broth bowl and small chaffing dish, items for her toilette; a powder pot, cream pot and eyebath, 3 small bottles and a funnel, a mortar and pestle, round mirror, spittoon, and warming pan.
In it’s entirety this is a wonderful collection that provides a real insight into the life of the royals and social elite during the golden age of French decorative arts. I saw exquisite craftsmanship, elegant and sumptuous decoration, but sensed lives of maddening formality and proper taste at the same time. It makes you think.