France 1500: between the Middle Ages and the Renaissance (That's my translation. I didn't bother to look up theirs.) We're always thinking of the Renaissance as coming up from Italy. It did, but it also came down from Flanders. France sits in the middle and was as much under the influence of artists from the north as from the south. I hadn't realized how much or, at least, how it was all happening at the same time. In my head, I had Italy first and Flanders following. They have paintings, of course, but also sculptures and illuminated books and tapestries. The books were interesting because they weren't all religious books. There again, I was stuck in thinking that it was prayer books and manuscript copied bibles and other religious books that were illuminated, but it turns out all kinds of books were. Of course, by 1500, they were printing books and they were printing them with ready-to-illuminate woodcut illustrations, just like coloring books. Well-known artists were filling in these coloring books, so there!
Some of the scuptures they have in this exhibit still have traces of their colors, some have even more vibrant colors than just traces, so you can really see how they were originally -- very lifelike. On some of the Italian-influenced ones, the fabric, carved in the stone, is so delicate and fine, it's hard to imagine how that could be carved. There is also a lot of wood carving. There is a piece from the Palais de Justice in Rouen and since we were in Rouen admiring the Palais de la Justice just two months ago, I found it particularly interesting.
There's a Leonardo da Vinci portrait of a young lady -- the photo at the top of this page. She's got the same smile as the Mona Lisa, doesn't she? There's no landscape behind her though. It's "La Belle Ferronière" (commentary in French). She's very pretty, I think. Also, we could get up close to look at her!
Much of the art was on order. Anne de Bretagne, first, wife of Charles VII, then Louis XII, started and was followed by Louise de Savoie. It was the women who were the patrons of the arts. And since Louis XII and François I won some wars in Italy, a lot of artwork and artists came from Italy as war booty. The exhibit is interesting, varied, and the works come from lots of different places we don't have access to, so it's not the same as some eshibits that pull in pieces from the Musée de Cluny and the Louvre. I believe this exhibit will be going to Chicago, but I can't find my way back to the page where I think I saw that, so you'd better check.
If you're planning a trip to Paris, you can prepare for Grand Palais exhibits on line and you can download the audio guide (€3 via paypal) if you want. I can't wait to go back again and concentrate on certain pieces.
When we left home on Friday, the idea was to see the Monet exhibit, also at the Grand Palais. But, I had to renew my "Carte Sésame" and as we approached the hall, I figured the line would be longer at the desk at the Monet exhibit than at the France 1500 one. I think I was right, because there was no line at all at France 1500. If you are in Paris for any length of time that would permit you to see several exhibits, the Carte Sésame is worth it. You don't have to stand in line to get into the halls; you can go as many times as you want; with the duo card, you can go with anyone you like because only the cardholder has to be the same person; you get access to the conferences and you get a discount at the audio-guide desk and souvenir shop. If you already have a card for the Louvre or Orsay, you get a discount on the Carte Sésame, or if you have the Carte Sésame, you get a discount at those museums for their cards. And to top off the advantages, cardholders can get into the Monet exhibit as early as 9:00 from Friday to Tuesday, so I think we'll take advantage of that one.
So, that's what we did last Friday. After the exhibit, we walked up the Champs Elysées to the Charles-de-Gaulle RER station, stopping on the way for a coffee and tiramisu at the McDo Café! Very cheap and very good tiramisu and coffee for much less than anywhere else.
Today is Tuesday and I have to get ready to go into town to the library.