In French the word Galleria also means shopping centre (mall). I think the play between gallery and galleria is appropriate because a visit to the Louvre is like a visit to a large, crowded shopping mall. Many of the people going there are tourists intent on seeing the big name art works. The worst are the tour groups who seem to just want a photo of themselves beside the art work. The Mona Lisa and Venus de Milo as celebrities.
My first day was a shock. It was exceptionally crowded, uncomfortably so. I went early but by midday I had had enough. I was feeling claustrophobic, just as I do in crowded shopping centres. The second day was miraculously different. No where near as many people.
The highlight, and the surprise, on the first day was the medieval section. Very impressive. The antithesis to the aesthetics of the Greco-Roman tradition. The Gothic in all its darkness and melancholy. Death, suffering, ugly faces and bodies, and faith that God will somehow lift the corruption of the world. I didn’t take photos so I’ll use reproductions. The first is Malines’s The Infant Jesus as the Saviour of the World and the second is Conrad Meit’s Adam et Eve.
The Malines is interesting because Jesus is a child and is depicted naked. I find this odd. It is in a sense, linked to the Meit. The Judeo-Christian attitude to nudity has changed over time. In some religious art nudity is seen as a symbol of pre-Fall innocence. Jesus can be depicted naked because he is without sin and the Meit shows Eve about to tempt Adam. Note how neither Adam or Eve attempt to hide their nudity. There are no fig leaves, no whisps of hair or strategically placed hands, and whilst you probably cannot make it out on the reproduction, Meit depicted Eve with a vulva. This would seem to be an oddity. Ever since then its either been miraculously smooth pudendas or some form of discrete covering.
Overall the real highlight has been the statues. Because they are three dimensional you need to walk around them. A two dimensional reproduction can’t hope to capture the real thing. The real standout for me was Premiere secret confie a Venus by François Jouffroy. It depicts a young, post-pubescent girl confiding her first ‘erotic’ secret to Venus. The girl’s face is exquisite.
And in the Italian painting section the ‘find’ was Francesco Albani’s Diana and Actaeon – surprising because the nymphs are depicted as young adolescents.