Tag Archives: Louvre

I went to the Louvre yesterday evening. Each time I’m in Paris, I take the opportunity of being here to go look at the French paintings there. If you didn’t happen to already know, I’m one of those people who falls down on her knees before Ingres. Last visit, I spent a large amount of time looking at eighteenth century paintings. This time, I decided to start at an earlier point.

According to the plaques on the wall, the French have not preserved as many of their early paintings as some other countries, so the French paintings really start in earnest around 1400. Among the first presented, if you follow the rooms of French paintings in chronological order, are several featuring the Pieta.When I was young, I really loved Medieval and early Renaissance paintings and I’ve always found them highly moving. When I was in Florence with my sister, tramping from Church to Church to Church like a pair of pilgrims, I joked that if I saw one more beautiful Madonna I was going to convert, and, indeed, that is exactly the effect they are intended to have. The reason those great works were commissioned by the Church in the first place, beyond simply the desire to impress the faithful with the power of the Church, was to inspire religious feelings.

In La Grand Pieta and, next to it, Le Christ de pitie soit tennu par Jean l’Evangelist en presence de la Vierge et de deux anges, both attributed to Jean Malouel, Christ’s flesh is pierced, his blood flowing. The pained sorrow of the onlookers. Who could fail to be moved? Are we moved by the suffering of a god, or only to the extent that we can relate to it as the suffering of a person. To what extent are we moved by the story, if we know it, the story as we can discern it if we do not know it, or by the plastic elements? If we are moved by the formal components, the how is that different from being moved by a work of abstract expressionism? In fact, isn’t that part of what abstract expressionism sets out to do?

However, unlike the abstract paintings, the medieval paintings do contain content and narrative. How did the people who believed these stories feel when looking at the paintings? Can I truly be said to appreciate them, no matter how moved I may feel, if I do not believe them?

Then I got a sinking sense of “What is it all worth.” Somehow, the paintings started making me feel very small and insignificant.

Obviously, I sketched this in another room. It is, I'm afraid, a poor copy of David's self-portrait.

Obviously, I sketched this in another room. It is, I’m afraid, a poor copy of David’s self-portrait.

Well, I just thought that when sketch day rolled around on Tuesday, I’d head on over to the Louvre. It wasn’t on my bucket list because I don’t have a bucket list, but it was one of those things you think to yourself that you’re going to do one day, so Tuesday was going to be the day except – the Louvre is closed on Tuesdays. Therefore, Monday is Sketch Day this week.

My apologies for the poor quality of the photographs. I don’t have a proper set up here for photographing my drawings.

I started in the Cour Marly, which is a court which has been enclosed with a skylight and houses sculptures mainly from the period of Louis XIV. As usual, my subjects were chosen by the location of convenient seating. This is a sculpture of a river goddess.


Here is another sculpture from the courtyard. It is of a pair of wrestlers. I couldn’t find a convenient place to sit, so I drew it standing up, which was a bit of a challenge. The hand of one of the figures is missing. I didn’t just get lazy.


From the Cour Marly, I went into the rooms housing French sculpture from the middle ages. There was a lot of interesting stuff and I regretted not having a stool since there were few places to sit. I began sketching this stone head of an apostle that was located by a window. I had only just begun blocking it in, but I liked the geometric feel, so I left it.

head of an apostle

Eventually, I came across this fabulous sculpture representing death. Death is not simply a skeleton, but he still has some flesh clinging to him. His abdomen is ripped open and you can see his spine. It’s so much scarier than a simple skeleton. Unsurprisingly, this was originally located in a cemetery in Paris.


Still in the French sculpture rooms, I was moving forward in time and entered some rooms with renaissance sculptures. This is a statue of what I presume is Diana with a stag.


Eventually, I moved into the Louvre’s other sculpture courtyard, the Cour Puget. The museum started closing while I was drawing and I never did get the name of this statue of a woman holding an infant reaching for a crown. Considering the period, I would take a stab and guess that it shows Louis XIV during his minority, but it could be XV or Jesus, or any king-baby.


It was such a lovely evening tonight, I decided to just walk around a bit. At first, I wasn’t exactly sure where to go, but then I remembered seeing Michael’s eTravelog. He’s traveling around Europe and he takes some great pictures. In a post about Paris, he had some photos of the Louvre at night, so I thought I might head over there. Do check out Michael’s blog.