the travels & travails of an escaped lab rat

Painting: Musée d’Orsay

For me, the most impressive thing about the collection at the Musée d’Orsay wasn’t the actual paintings themselves.

Don’t get me wrong, some of them — many of them, in fact — are undeniable masterpieces.

But what strikes me the most with every visit I make to the museum is how the artwork is displayed and presented to the public. While some exceptions need to be made for delicate pieces (such as charcoal, conté, and watercolour-based works), the vast majority of the paintings on display are simply hung without intervening glass, and visitors are allowed to approach as close as they like to each work — provided they don’t actually touch it.

To me, this is absolutely mind-boggling. No glass to reflect the gallery lights means I can view and appreciate the paintings as the artists intended. But no intervening glass also means no protection if some sociopath decides he wants to go on a vandalism spree…or, God forbid, I should suddenly develop an urge to sneeze while admiring.

Here are some of my favourite paintings from the permanent collection on display at the museum.

Impressed with impressionism.

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Museé d'Orsay - Amaury-Duval - Madame de Loynes (2008)++Museé d'Orsay - Degas - Au Café dit L'Absinthe (2008)++Museé d'Orsay - Degas - Madame Jeantaud au Miroir (2008)++Museé d'Orsay - Manet - Berthe Morisot with a Bouquet of Violets (2008)++Museé d'Orsay - Manet - Le Dejeuner sur l'Herbe (2008)++Museé d'Orsay - Maxence - Femme a l'Orchidée (2008)++Museé d'Orsay - Monet - Woman with Umbrella (2008)++Museé d'Orsay - Renoir - Bal du Moulin de la Galette (2008)++Museé d'Orsay - Renoir - La Liseuse (2008)++Museé d'Orsay - van Gogh - Self-Portrait (2008)++Museé d'Orsay - Vermeer - Astronomer (2008)++Museé d'Orsay - Whistler - Whistler's Mother (2008)++

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Paris: Palais du Louvre

The Palais du Louvre is an actual former royal palace. Its origin dates back to the medieval period, and the original 12th century foundations can be visited and viewed underneath the current museum. Its present structure evolved over time (starting with a great razing in 1546 by Francis I to make way for larger royal residences), with each of its inhabitants invariably adding to it during their stewardship.

The Palais du Louvre was the actual seat of power in France until the reign of Louis XIV, who moved his government to Versailles in 1682, and it remained the formal seat of authority until the end of the Ancien Régime in 1789.

Since the fall of the Old Order, the palace has housed the world-famous Musée du Louvre (opened to the people in 1793 with an exhibit of 537 paintings — the majority being confiscated church or royal property) as well as other government departments (including the designation of a wing as the personal apartments of Napoleon III during his reign).

Currently, the Musée du Louvre holds more than 380,000 objects and displays more than 35,000 pieces of art in eight curatorial departments across 60,600 square metres of space dedicated to the permanent collection. It is the world’s largest and most visited museum, playing host to more than 15,000 visitors a day.

In my mind, the majority of those visitors fail to take the time to experience and appreciate the Palais du Louvre in their rush to see the Musée du Louvre. The building, the courtyards, and the exhibt spaces are as much treasures in their own right (yes, even I.M. Pei’s controversial Pyramide and his leaky Pyramide Inversée) as are the objects and works of art on display within.

Next time you’re in the Louvre, look around and see what everyone else is missing.

The museum earned US$2.5 million to allow The Da Vinci Code to film inside its galleries.

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Palais du Louvre - Entrance from Rue de Rivoli (2008)++Palais du Louvre - Exterior (2008)++Palais du Louvre - Exterior (2008)++Palais du Louvre - Exterior (2008)++Musée du Louvre - Inside the Pyramid (2007)++Musée du Louvre - Leaky Pyramids (2007)++Musée du Louvre - Denon Wing - Ceiling (2008)++Musée du Louvre - Denon Wing - Ceiling (2008)++Musée du Louvre - Denon Wing - Ceiling (2007)++Musée du Louvre - Denon Wing - Ceiling (2007)++Musée du Louvre - Cour Marly (2008)++Musée du Louvre - Cour Puget (2008)++Musée du Louvre - Grande Galerie (2008)++Musée du Louvre - Salle Rubens (2008)++Palais du Louvre - Apartments of Napoleon III (2007)++Palais du Louvre - Apartments of Napoleon III (2007)++Palais du Louvre - Apartments of Napoleon III (2007)++Palais du Louvre - Apartments of Napoleon III (2007)++Palais du Louvre - Napoleon III's Bust (2007)++

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