Musings at the Museum

the-david1Seeing France by cruising alone the Seine is amazing enough but then when you disembark and wander on your own, the wonders just multiply. The Museé d’Orsay in Paris which I spent three hours in was by far the most instructive and inviting museum I have ever visited, shocking as it was to see how laid-back the staff is. Dozens of people snap away with their cameras and camera apps with nary a word of admonishment from the guards. In fact, in the many small galleries, they don’t even have guards. It’s true that a thin wire at about shin level walls each pictures off from the public but I felt sure that if I’d really wanted to I could have leaned in and licked the very paint on any number of them.

I loved the sculptures too. The young David who slew Goliath is there. Not Michelangelo’s David in his famous beefcake iteration,which you see above, nor Donatello’s David either who looks like a sweet fey youth in his mother’s Easter bonnet.donatello

These are both in Florence.

Here at the Museé  D’Orsay, you see the Antonin Mercié David who looks like this: 

david by Antonin Mercié

But really the  place is most known for its 19th century stuff, works by artists who looked not toward Biblical or Classical themes but more toward landscapes and still lifes and intimate ‘candid’ portraits, of ladies, say, undressing for the bath.

Here inside these walls is Van Gogh, not dead by his own hand at 36, but alive, his spirit shimmering away in the lines of this cathedral he captured in paint.

Van Gogh church Auvers-sur-Oise

Manet lives at this museum too as I said here the other day and Gauguin with his island Edens,and  Cezanne, and of course that long-lived patriarch Claude Monet who could make the same haystack, the same cathedral front at Rouen look a hundred different ways by painting them at different times of the day in a variety of different lights.   

The visit was just thrilling to me. I sat looking at the works as much as I walked those halls and chambers, all oblivious to the fact that inches away on the other side of the wall Time was also ticking away my own life as this video I took will show. I suspect it was a stiff wind and the limber shafts of the clock’s two hands that did it but still, that minute hand is really moving. Signs and reminders all around us, folks, signs and reminders.




Museums in Florence: the Lowbrow Tour

All these Holy Family scenes: you gotta love ‘em. You could write a whole dissertation on the expressions seen on the Virgin’s face alone. My favorite: that “How did  I get HERE ?” look of hers with Joseph’s face a close second. “How did YOU get here?!”

And the Baby Jesus who sometimes looks a lot like Jon Lovitz? He often has a face only a mother could love. Sometimes in the painting he’s squeezing a bird and sometimes a pomegranate. Sometimes he’s got his fingers going in funny ways: “You got a little something right here,” I thought one of them said but Dave insisted it said “YO! Keep your eye on ME, bud! I’M the main event here!” I could see it since I myself caught a look like that in the painting I call “So Whadja Bring Me?”

You can entertain the daylights out of yourself with all kinds of jokey thoughts like this until one day, ONE DAY you stumble into the rotunda that houses the David and it just plain shuts you up. All around you are people sitting on benches just to be in its presence.

That Michelangelo: dead on one level but still alive on so many others. Just think of David’s life: Pops Goliath with a tiny rock; plays harp for the king; BECOMES the king; takes another man’s wife, just because he wants her; sees the first child of this union die as punishment; sings in public for sheer joy though some find it unseemly. He does dumb things, he does great things, he is human. He dies and leave the throne to his kid Solomon whose Psalms are still singing in all our heads still especially that Song of Songs Which is Solomon’s, Arise my love my fair one….And all of this, all of this is in the marble that looks like flesh, like veins, like living muscle in this work that one man made. Ah!