8:46 am

Louvre, Revisited

I went back to the Louvre last week, specifically to the see the Praxiteles exposition.

Praxiteles was a Greek sculptor from the 4th century BC. Virtually none of his work is known to have survived intact. Most of the bronze work was melted down, and the little that survives is corroded and fragmentary, while the work in marble has at the very least been chipped if not broken. As a result, most of what is known about Praxiteles’s sculptures comes from written accounts.

So, how do you put together an exposition for an artist who has no surviving, complete work?

  1. You display the fragmentary work, and
  2. You display the copies and pastiches of his work

So, there are multiple variations on, for example, the Aphrodite of Cnidus: Praxiteles is credited with being the first to sculpt female nudes. There are also variations on Apollo Sauroktonos (Apollo the Lizard Slayer: how’s that for an appellation to strike terror in the hearts of your enemies?) and the Leaning Satyr. In addition, the exhibit included several statues of a woman who may or may not have been Phryne, who may or may not have been Praxiteles’s lover.

I was a little disappointed by the exposition: the multiple variations on just a few prototypical pieces were redundant.

I also wandered around the rest of the Louvre, since I hadn’t seen everything my first visit (and still haven’t with this second visit). As usual, I mostly focused on sculpture. The last time there, I had missed Canova’s Cupid and Psyche:

I think I found my lion friend in the same room:

He’s particularly engaging in closeup, although the picture doesn’t do him justice:

I spent a couple of hours wandering around the Decorative Arts, which I very much enjoyed. I don’t know how I missed it before. And I visited the Islamic Art collection, which is the newest and not yet complete addition to the Louvre’s permanent collections. There were some lovely pieces, but it doesn’t really come together well yet.

Tourist season has not begun in full force yet, but even on a weekday afternoon, the crowds are starting to mount up:

The public buildings in Paris, such as churches and palaces, never cease to amaze me. I have enormous difficulty wrapping my brain around constructing places on such a grand scale. The only thing comparable we have in the States are shopping malls. And will people still be going to, say, the Mall of America in a few hundred years? (Oh, Lordy: I hope not!)

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