I did say, if you remember, that we'd get some culture as soon as the weather turned cold. Well, it has and we have. Suddenly, yesterday, it was cold. Not cool, not chilly, but cold, as in get out the down jackets and mufflers cold. We'd been meaning to go to the Venetian art exhibit at the Louvre and this seemed a good time to do it.
The sky was a bright, bright blue as we entered the I.M Pei-designed pyramid and descended into the sea of other museum goers, and the colors stayed bright in the Tintoretto, Titian and Veronese exhibition, which tried to explain the rivalries and similarities among these three. Frankly I want to see the paintings and I get bored by the cultured British voices telling me things I don't particularly want to know, so I passed on getting an audioguide and moved through the crowd relying on the signage, which was really quite good. The paintings ranged from mythological allegory (lots of Danaë being showered with gold) to incisive portraits of the powerful of the time. I came across one portrait of a father with his young son leaning against his leg that I recalled seeing at another exhibition at the Luxembourg Palace several years ago. It was like meeting an old friend.
I find I love attending exhibitions in Paris. There are always lots of women of a certain age explaining things to each other, pointing out the shading here, and how the foreshortening in this painting made it much more interesting than the one next to it, and of course you must see the painting by Pietro So and So in Hamburg to really understand... I get such a kick out of eavesdropping I sometimes follow them around just to hear the end of the dicussion.
I had never given much thought to how much people who could no longer see art might miss it. There was one woman walking around with a man who was obviously visually impaired to some severe degree. She read him the notes next to each painting and told him what she thought. It was wonderful, touching and perfectly ordinary.
Another cold morning as we woke today, and we took off for Fontainebleau, where an exhibit of contemporary design was contrasted with the furniture and objets in the archive collection of the Chateau. The modern pieces seemed to be just plopped down in some of the rooms of the Chateau and that meant you had to walk through the entire building to see them. It wasn't very successful as an exhibition, but the Chateau is great.
Unlike Versailles, which seems like Disneyland for the Bourbons, Fontainebleau makes me believe Francois I and Henry IV and the others actually lived there, with all their complicated wives and mistresses. It is, if you can say this about a giant castle, homier than Versailles. And there are some lovely things in it; busts of the great kings, carvings of real and imaginary beings, monograms of the battling Diane de Poitiers and Catherine de Medici, tapestries, paintings, porcelain.
This painted fabric feels like you could wrap yourself in it right now, doesn't it? And stand looking through the waving glass of this window imagining the 16th century, the same time, I realize now, that those three painters in Venice were busily competing with each other.