Paris intensifies the senses. Thus a tendency toward hyperbole on my part. Of course not every sight, not every sip, not every bit of duck or croissant, not every oil painting or musical concert—not every single experience is The Best, The Most Exquisite ever. I am not so learned that my thoughts reek with great profundity. I am not a legitimate connoisseur of wine. Nor am I a music critic. I did not study art. So for me it is a matter of what appeals. What tastes good. What feels right. And yet, having grown up on the banks of the Mississippi, I know something about being inspired by the majesty of a river. And as it flows through Paris, the river Seine inspires. Having come to appreciate a good bottle of wine, I am happy to have an endless choice of French Bordeaux and Burgundies available in literally every restaurant, no matter how tiny the place. With a lifetime spent enjoying wonderful restaurants in so many places, I can recognize a really good melding of flavors coming from even the most mundane of kitchens and ovens. Likewise, with an genuine appreciation of most every kind of music, but particularly classical music, I am in heaven when my choice for an evening concert—every evening—is not whether, but which one. And certainly with art, especially flat art—oil paintings, water colors, pen and inks, and the rest—I have spent so very many hours in museums and galleries, at exhibitions and in private homes, admiring art, discussing art and appreciating art, that for the greatest art museum in the world to be just a short walk away . . . well, these are the reasons I have come to Paris.
I went again today to the Louvre. I roamed. Found myself alongside one of my favorites, Lucas Cranach the Elder (Ancien to the French). I took a picture of the one I liked best. They have a room full of 16th century German art, and I also photographed a self portrait of Albrech Durer, the best of the bunch in my opinion, but it was out of focus and since Durer was never out of focus I will try again later. Here, within the dozens and dozens of galleries displaying French art (no surprise about this), are four of the most monumental paintings ever. By Charles Le Brun, who painted mostly in Paris in the 17th century, they depict what is titled The History of Alexander, centering on various of his conquests, with the subjects being more personal and human in dimension than political or military. These were painted with the thought that they would find a place on the walls of the palace out at Versailles where Louis X1V was holding forth, Le Brun was one of king’s men, but apparently politics intervened and they were instead displayed in another venue. But here in the Louvre they are together in one huge gallery and it impossible not to be awed by them. They are so enormous that I could not even take a picture of them . . . couldn’t stand back far enough. Goodness are they show stoppers.
Quite a lot of space is given to Nicholas Poussin, probably the French painter of the 17th century who gets the most acclaim, but he is not one of my favorites, so no snapshots. I do like many of the works of George de La Tour, and his humorous painting called Le Tricheur (The Cheater) caught my eye because it appears on the cover of a great little paperback book I have called Uppity Women of the Renaissance. How nice to see it in person.