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A Day At The Louvre

If you belong to the Indian subcontinent, as I do, you will not be surprised that I practiced the pronunciation of this oh so revered museum’s name several times. Also, is it possible for anyone to say Musée du Louvre ( myzy dy luve: a slight cough on the last two alphabets) correctly if French isn’t one’s native language? Moving on from the needless rhetoric, I found myself standing outside the museum on a cool autumn morning and nearly two hundred and twenty six years after it opened to the public in 1793.

Now, touristy expeditions are a serious undertaking. I didn’t ever want to hear a friend gasp, “You didn’t see La Grand Odalisque?” as though he had just spotted a snake at my feet. Oh no, I even memorised the artist’s name-Jean Auguste Dominque Ingres- so that I could talk about my experience intelligently on my return home. The Louvre buildings comprise two former royal palaces – the Louvre and the Tuileries – linked together to form a vast, three-sided building, so it required clever planning on my part to cover it in a day. I had bought the ticket in advance, picked the 99, Rivoli street entrance, and worked my way before noon through the many Roman, Greek(gasp-Winged Victory of Samothrace and Venus De Milo) and Egyptian(bigger gasp-Great Spinx of Tanis and Law Code of Hammurabi) sculptures.

I discovered at the end of two hours that the picture of myself meandering through a beautiful art gallery with a map in hand and a stoical pause at every piece of art was rapidly fading. In fact, I am not surprised that writers of espionage books and Hollywood screenplays seldom use The Louvre as the secret rendezvous between agents, and if any have ever done so, I would be happy to be one of those pesky people who point out bloopers, because it isn’t possible to sidle upto a contact and whisper coded conversation in the vicinity of their ears at this museum. The crowds create a hum and movement so intense that it is impossible to stand before a painting in undisturbed contemplation. In fact if you can catch a glimpse of the Mona Lisa over a beehive of heads, you ought to consider yourself very fortunate.

After a much needed cup of coffee and croissant (I needed the carbs to continue my exploration) I found my brain able to function again. I concluded that the charm of the museum lies in the thrill of standing on hallowed ground, surrounded by masterpieces. It is impossible to absorb the beauty and intricacy of every painting, even though they are only a few shoe bites away. I couldn’t help introspecting if I was at The Louvre to see The Raft of the Medusa by Théodore Géricault or to tell people I saw it? I think it’s both. And gauging by the rows of exhausted people at the exit, I concluded that the sheer power of the artworks had sapped them of all energy but they would visit again and urge others to do so because they had imbibed the fact that something greater than an individual’s existence decorated its walls. As for me, I waded through my agenda, ticked off The Virgin of the Rocks, Maestà, and so on and then went to Café Marly for a much needed antidote-French wine- where I clicked a selfie with The Louvre as a backdrop. Hey, don’t judge me-I sincerely did go there for the art.

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