I’ve started sending myself an email that has the exact addresses of the places I might visit – this makes it a quick copy/paste to Google maps walking directions, or using the Metro app for best public transportation route, or showing to taxi or Uber drivers what to plug into their maps.
Since the Louvre is closed today, I have options – Do one of the audio walks, visit one of the small museums or head for a market. The weather – a few degrees cooler than is has been helps me choose, and I call Uber for a ride to the Musée Jacquemart André, 158 Boulevard Haussmann. This is an exquisite jewel box of a museum, that reminds me of the Frick in New York City.
They also have a free app, that I preferred to the audioguide offered at the door ( I tried both) https://itunes.apple.com/en/app/musee-jacquemart-andre-application/id582936499?mt=8. It is a sad truth that the dim lighting required to preserve the works and the placement of paintings can mean that the Fran Hals portrait that’s a muted glimmer high up in a darkened corner in dim room in real life, is as clear and vivid as if I held it in my hand the sunlight, with subtleties of texture and brushwork easily visible on my iPhone screen.
What the screen lacks is scale and three-dimensionality, what reality lacks is everything else. This is not true (or as true) with sculpture. Even dark rooms and remote placement offers more to direct experience that the flattening screen image.
Back to this mansion, which was a marvel of its age, with walls that would sink down into the basement by way of hydraulics to accommodate tout Paris society. The version the museum puts out is charming and civilized – they loved each other and both loved art and he had pots of money which they spent hand over fist on the best art they could find. They differed only in that he preferred the Venetian artists and she championed the painters of Florence. I take it a face value and my visit is a pure pleasure.
This includes my brunch, since I’d had nothing but that cup of tea. I lined up at the café door promptly at noon. I expected pastries and maybe a sandwich but it was ever so much nicer. The regular menu blew my skirt up by naming every dish after a painter; Watteau, Bellini, Chardin, Mantegna, Fragonard, Ruysdael, Canaletto, Van Dyck. There was a special themed menu (as did the Isabella Stewart Gardener when I visited Boston in December) created for the current exhibition; De Watteau à Fragonard, Les fête Galantes. I opted for duck breast in honey and soy, with risotto and It was divine.I read my Nook, glanced around the cheerful company from time to time, and cleaned my plate down to the shine.
Two French ladies were seated next to me and they sounded like finches perched on a fountain. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WmdBSn-34E8 A rapid and variable sequence of warbles, with a lyrical, burbling undercurrent. The French language seems to have a naturally musical quality. Perhaps it’s better to listen to the sound uncontaminated by meaning than be distracted by content.
I took in the special exhibit and, once again. the preparatory drawings seemed superior to many of the finished oil paintings.
Refreshed in spirit, off to the Joséphine exhibit at the Musée de Luxembourg (19 rue de Vaugirard) The audio guide was something of a hagiography, and I quickly realized how few facts I knew about her or Napoléon. The exhibition claimed the 5’6″ Napoleon was average height for the times, though as you can see by her charming fur-lined and beribboned walking boots, Joséphine wore flats. That is why I have spent most of the evening chasing biographies of Joséphine around the Internet instead of writing my blog. I have sworn to have lights out early, as bleary vision is the bane of the museum visitor.
Dropped by the jewelry store that has the bracelet I’ve coveted. I’ve been back twice to look at it. I can’t justify it, but I decide if it’s still there, I’m going to get it. It’s as delicate as a filament in a light bulb with I Love This Life engraved on a delicate silver bar, a twisted thread of aqua blue tying it on. Very simple. I walked in, and walked out wearing it ten minutes later. From the bracelet to the optometrist. Secretly worried the frames wouldn’t be as fab as I remembered but no, still totes adorb. Moment of unexpected hilarity. As the clerk checked the fit of the glasses, she handed me a card to read, to check the acuity of the prescription lenses.
I started laughing. I couldn’t read it, but that was because it was in French. I could see it with perfect clarity.
A fantastic day.