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The Louvre, Leonardo et al.

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One of the reasons (if not the reason) we chose to go to Paris for our anniversary and various birthday celebrations this year was to see the Louvre's staging of this major international Leonardo da Vinci show, on the 500th anniversary of his death.


On May 2, 1519, the great Italian Renaissance genius died at the Château du Clos Lucé. This is why the Louvre holds almost a third of his corpus of paintings: those he brought to France were purchased by François I and entered the royal collections, which probably already included The Virgin of the Rocks and La Belle Ferronnière, acquired by Louis XII. This outstanding set of paintings, which formed the beginning of the Louvre’s collections, was supplemented by twenty-two of the artist’s remarkable drawings.


The fifth centenary of the Italian master’s death is therefore a unique opportunity for the Louvre to bring as many as possible of the fourteen to seventeen paintings now attributed to Leonardo, according to specialists, to join the five large paintings in the Paris museum. The exhibition will include a large selection of drawings and a small but significant group of paintings and sculptures that will provide some tangible context.



Evidently it was quite difficult to wrest some of the non-Louvre owned da Vinci works that were displayed, as the WaPo reported:


(You want to mount a Leonardo exhibition? Knock yourself out. Understand first, though, that you’ll have to beg to borrow works from a Saudi despot, the Queen of England, Bill Gates, and the U.S. and Russian governments; defeat a bunch of Italian nationalists in court; and placate a gang of Leonardo experts as vicious and territorial as stoats.)



It was intense. Obviously crowded (remember Michelangelo at The Met?), but I had scored early entrance tickets, so at least there weren't a million people already inside.  And using techniques honed over years, I was able to get up close and personal with whatever works I wanted to (well, except her, you know the one upstairs). One cannot be moved after seeing a show like this.


The only other stuff we went to see were some Spanish and Italian paintings. You know, that guy Goya, who was pretty out there. Not only philosophically, but at the end of like a mile long hallway in the Louvre, sit the Goyas.  Here, his Still Life of Sheep's Ribs and Head - The Butcher's Counter:




These were also pretty great...one for each season, painted by Giuseppe Arcimboldo, in the mid-1500s.


Here are 2 of the 4 seasons, Summer and Spring:






Not a bad way to spend half a day (any longer, and it's Stendahl Syndrome).

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The Louvre is just so physically exhausting, even more than the Prado. But that sounds very worthwhile.

It was amazing.  And yes, 3 or so hours in any museum, and I'm a goner.


I think one could spend months at the Louvre and not see it all. I say that often about the Met too, and look forward to the redesigned galleries!

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