The Louvre, museum of wonders

louvre archer

On our second day we visited this huge museum twice: in the morning and during their night hours. In between we went to the Cinema Museum which I will write about next week. But first, the Louvre.

Choosing what to see at this vast museum is difficult. We’re not much for paintings so we went to Ancient Babylon. Fantastic choice. Years ago, I had seen the Gates of Ishtar in Berlin and fell in love with the huge beasts in blue and orange. The Louvre extended my love. We spent most of the morning in ancient Syria; the rooms were almost empty.

What is difficult to grasp from the pictures is how enormous the work is.  And of course there were plenty of little articles: details from horse bits, cylinder seals, tiny statues of animals with fantastic horns.louvre door2

louvre doorTwo methods seemed popular: building brick by brick, sort of like a large mosaic, and incised raised images.

Winged horseThis was my hubby’s favorite: the man holding the little lion, after perhaps rescuing it from the snake in his right hand. Notice how his feet are turned in the same direction, like an Egyptian painting.

louvre man lion

Of course we can’t really know what the imagery meant to the people. Take a look at the god carrying the little basket. What was in it? louvre angel

 

Then we went to Egypt, where it was very crowded. I think perhaps the passion for Egypt began with the Tut exhibits which traveled many countries. It’s familiar. Until Berlin, I had no idea about the art of Babylon. But I recommend it.

louvre paintings

A thing to keep in mind about this museum is that it was first a palace. Starting from the medieval period, kings lived here. Much of the extant building is from the Renaissance , but we went into the basement and saw the powerful pillars that supported the building from medieval times. Just a couple of pix: one of a grand entry with steps that allowed horses to mount and another of a typical space, now filled with paintings. (I suspect the ceiling was not glass originally; probably gilt and ornate like we saw elsewhere in the museum. The glass being good for lighting the art, though.)

louvre stairs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the evening we went to African Art. Similarly empty. I keep imagining the power of a king who sat on this chair, slightly leaning back with the fierce face between his legs.

louvre chair

I’ll close with this startled, albeit graceful, statue.

louvre statue

West Virginia Stumps

stump two of themIn May we were out to West Virginia for the first time since autumn and were surprised at the number of trees downed. For miles, the verges of the highway (not an interstate, so imagine heavy curves and narrowish road) were lined with stump after stump. Up in the woods, tangles of fallen trees.

stump batman1It seems that Hurricane Sandy dumped snow on the state. The road we usually travel, had been closed in October for 3 or 4 days because of fallen trees. They are still running along the roadsides with chippers, trying to get rid of all the cut logs.

This set of logs was along a roadside that is seldom used. They remind me of great pumpkins and the crack in the 2nd picture is very batman-like. I liked the ridges from the saw, the bits of green leaf and the little fungus that had grown up inside the most hollow trunk. So…a stump series. Tres arty!
stump double
stump ringsstump mushroom

stump w leaf

Photo: On the Water in Norway

Norway fiordPicture taken in Norway.

This is another of my Daddy’s pictures, taken on our first European trip, visiting my Norwegian sister, Merete.

Coming from Colorado, we were used to mountains, but our mountains are dry. Those in Norway sprout myriad waterfalls and Daddy called them the “leaky” mountains.  Everywhere there was water; the long bays of the fiords along the coastline, the thin silver threads of the waterfalls; when the sun comes out, it’s glorious. 

Actually, sunshine is somewhat of a rarity.  When the sun appeared, Norwegians pulled off the highway, took collapsible chairs from their cars, and basked.  I can imagine the need to soak up as much sun as possible; for a quarter of the year they barely see it, a condition I would find difficult although my sister says winter is cozy.

That summer we drove the scenic route from Oslo to Kristiansund, where my sister’s family lived. It was slow going – up a mountain, down a mountain, around a fiord, up a mountain… 

Once we encountered a tunnel. We couldn’t see the proverbial light at the end; the road simply buried itself into the mountain. However, it was on the map, so in we went. Soon the only light was our headlights. Then the road took a sharp corner. Daddy stopped the car, took a flash light and investigated. Reassured that the road didn’t drop off into nothing, we went slowly on.

I always knew when my parents were worried: they stopped talking. After a very silent half hour, we came out the other side. And there on the road for travellers going the other way was a sign: ROAD CLOSED.

Here’s another of my Daddy’s pix that I love, taken in Germany…

Antique Toaster

Flip flop toaster by Sunbeam. This came with a rather frayed cord. The toast is placed between the two metal grids, one side toasted, then you flip it over for the second side. Typical purchase for my mother who was a lover of odd-ball antiques. She would go for an antique humidifier over a fancy chair any day.

She took pictures in the same way. Whereas my daddy took carefully framed and planned pictures, Mother took pictures of everything. The leaves on an unfamiliar tree, the front of a bus, an unusual traffic sign. When we got home from a trip, she would have hundreds of pictures. Of course, as she said, the English pictures were mostly green fields or sheep. The Greek pictures were piles of stone and olive groves. But looking at her photos the country would emerge.

With Daddy’s pictures you remembered a specific moment: When he dropped the stone into the pond. When you posed for the umpteenth time on a fence with mountains in the background and your stomach was growling. (Those fence pictures always seemed to take place early in the morning before breakfast.)

When Daddy died, Mother took over as family photographer.  At first she found the camera daunting and the shadow of Daddy’s perfection hung over her. I remember her taking this picture of me and two friends in Germany. She adjusted the lens and stepped a couple feet to the left. The sun went under a cloud. We waited. She refocused and squinted into the view finder. She asked us to move closer together. She refocused. Finally my friend’s husband said, “Did anyone ever die waiting for you to take their picture?”

Germany

Color photo taken in Germany by Daddy In the neighborhood of Dinklesbuhl, I believe.

My dad was a great photographer – he took pictures of his architectural projects, but also of scenery. When we travelled for whatever reason, the camera (and the fishing pole) were always in the car. Many a stop was made when the light was just right or a fantastic fence, rainbow, mountain goat, flock of sheep, old stone bridge or other beautiful object appeared. Sometimes – usually a fence or a cliff – the shot demanded a person, artfully arranged. Early pictures show my mother, but later it was us, the children who had to sit still on a bit of rough wood or walk ahead down the forest path, stopping just where the light rayed through the trees. Once he made us sit on a park bench with a fat sleeping fellow; he called that picture “blind date” I think. I’ll have to get a scan of it.

Anyway, usually these stops happened when we were hungry – morning or evening light makes the most magical photos. As we waited for the camera to be focused or the sun to come back out, our stomachs would growl. As you can imagine, we complained mightly. But oh, we treasure those pictures now.

This picture was taken on a trip with my parents in Europe. I was dancing in Germany at the time and they met me, saw the last performance of the season, then took me off for a tour. I was with Daddy and he was trying to teach me some of the tricks of photography. The water was dead still; he pointed out how the photo would look better with rings of wave, found a rock and tossed it. Except the toss was misguided and the rings were at the wrong angle! We waited until the water stilled – seemed forever – then he tossed again. This time was perfect and he got his shot.

Some of Daddy’s desire for making it just right must have come down to me…not in photography, but in writing. Struggling with a sentence or with the order of paragraphs, I can really appreciate what he achieved in his pictures. This one hangs over my fireplace and is much loved, both for the picture and for the memory.