When we were at the Getty Center, I was surprised to see a lovely collection of Rembrandts and particularly this recently famous self portrait done early in his career, painted on copper. A crucial aspect of Rembrandt's development was his intense study of people, objects, and their surroundings “from life,” as is obvious in paintings as his early self-portraits and the Saint Paul in Prison of 1627. Even by Dutch standards, Rembrandt's preoccupation with direct observation was exceptional and continued throughout his career. This painting captures the universal emotion of laughter and joi de vivre of life which contrasts so sharply with his later self portraits. Timothy Potts, director of the J. Paul Getty Museum said “The Getty Museum possesses the most significant collection of early Rembrandts in the United States, and if you had asked what addition would best cap it off, the answer would have been a self-portrait, which many regard as his greatest and most sustained achievement. But the chances of finding such a work seemed negligible, until the rediscovery of this painting in 2007. It is unquestionably one of the most remarkable works of art to become available in recent memory.”
The Hall of Battles is longer than the Hall of Mirrors, 394 feet, and is lined with huge paintings of French victories through the ages, including oils by Delacroix and Fragonard. Its creation was the idea of Louis-Philippe I, King of the French and it replaced apartments which had been occupied in the 17th and 18th centuries. There are literally hundreds of busts and 39 paintings, I will not present them all.
If you are visiting the Eiffel tower and looking for something else to do, you might consider the French Maritime Museum at the Trocadero, the largest in the world. Apart from Napoleon’s canot, seen below, another striking feature in the first room at the Paris Musée de la Marine is the painting of the arrival of Napoleon III at Gênes in 1859, by Théodore Gudin seen above.
In 1748, Henri-Louis Duhamel du Monceau offered a collection of models of ships and naval installations to Louis XV of France, with the request that the items be displayed at the Louvre and made available to students of the Naval engineers school, which Duhamel headed. The collection was put on display in 1752, in a room of the first floor, next to the Academy of Sciences; the room was called “Salle de Marine” (Navy room), and was used for teaching. King Charles X decided to create the maritime museum in 1827, which he named the Musée Dauphin but after 1830 the name was changed to what we know it as today, the Musée de Marine.
The Palais Garnier is probably the most famous opera house in the world, a symbol of Paris like Notre Dame cathedral, the Louvre, or the Eiffel tower. It is an elegant 1,979-seat opera house, which was built from 1861 to 1875 by Napoleon III for the Paris Opera. This is the thirteenth building to house the Paris Opera since it's founding in 1669 by Louis IV. The Opera has now relocated to L’Opera de la Bastille as of 1989 and the Garnier is used mostly for ballet. The new opera house has had some issues with appearance and acoustics but both “opera houses” are sold out for every performance.
The selection of the architect was the subject of an architectural design competition in 1861, a competition which was won by the architect Charles Garnier (1825–1898).
‘Gypsy Girl’ (also known as ‘Bohemian’) is an oil painting on wood created by Frans Hals in approximately 1628-1630. It depicts a young gypsy wench who appears to be slightly leaning her right arm on a table or counter, and bears a sly and somewhat mischievous smile on her face. Each brush stroke has been exquisitely executed as to create a particular elegance to her burly physique. She seems to be facing a window that illuminates her face, drawing the viewer’s attention to her voluptuous breasts. She dons a red overdress, with a low-cut white shirt underneath. Hals well-known portraiture talents are most apparent in ‘Gypsy Girl’ as he masterfully contrasts her hardened street-smart appearance with the soft, natural beauty of her inner self. She seems happy with her life.
Hals was a master of a technique that utilized something previously seen as a flaw in painting, the visible brushstroke. The soft curling lines of Hals' brush are always clear upon the surface: “materially just lying there, flat, while conjuring substance and space in the eye.” Hals was fond of daylight and silvery sheen, while Rembrandt used golden glow effects based upon artificial contrasts of low light in immeasurable gloom. Both men were painters of touch, but of touch on different keys — Rembrandt was the bass, Hals the treble.
The painting above is titled “Young Man in a Mitre” (jeune homme a la mitre) by Pieter Van Mol, date unknown. I find this painting to be very beautiful and almost impressionistic. The face and hair are very finely executed while the details of the mitre and robe seem to have been intentionally blurred. The face seems bathed in light, and it is the face and hair that draw you in. The subject seems serious but perhaps because of the hair and age, I feel a tension between the responsibilities of the clergy and the natural exuberance of youth.
I saw this lovely painting at the Louvre, and was struck by the pose and detail of her hair. The painting is titled “Young Woman Combing Her Hair” done in 1635. Salomon de Bray’s skills at observation are evident as is the lighting which seems oddly fresh and vibrant for a Dutch painter. De Bray's artistic development is not well documented. In 1635 he seemed to favor half-length figures, which at that time had become rather old-fashioned. By about 1640, his work showed the influence of Rembrandt van Rijn's “chiaroscuro”. The term chiaroscuro refers to a strong, self-conscious juxtaposition of light and shade which results in a stunning visual effect in a work of art. The technique was initially pioneered by Leonardo da Vinci, further developed by Caravaggio, and finally perfected by Rembrandt. I still maintain that the painting above is a masterpiece and despite the genius of Rembrandt, the above representation is very modern.
For me and apparently many others, Vermeer is a guilty pleasure. His paintings are so few and so small that it is hard to get enough of them. I sometimes find myself looking, when we travel, to see if any museums in the area have a Vermeer. Fortunately for me, the Louvre has two. I often wonder why a similar small masterpiece, the Mona Lisa has such a large crowd perpetually glued to it's location while these two small, but exquisite paintings are usually left to themselves. If you visit the Louvre, spend time with with these paintings, the pleasure will last long after you leave. Normally I photograph with the frame, but because these are so small, so beautiful and so loved by everyone, I have enlarged just the painting for both.
I could not bear to include these paintings in with the sculptures on my post concerning the Rodin museum, so I thought I would include them in a separate post. The painting above is by Edvard Munch, the Norwegian painter made famous by “The Scream”, seen to the right.
There is no evidence of Rodin and Edvard Munch (1863-1944), the most important Norwegian artist and etcher of his generation, ever having met. Yet the sculptor’s work greatly influenced the painter’s production, and today the Musée Rodin is still the only French museum to own a canvas by Munch.
The painting pictured above is the famous “Bathsheba at her Bath” by Rembrandt (1654) hanging in the Louvre. Some think this Rembrandt’s greatest nude. The traditionally accepted identification of the model is of Rembrandt’s partner Hendrickje Stoffels, who would have been 28 at the time of the painting. The intimacy of this portrait is inescapable, she is in her boudior rather than outside, her body is imperfect (hands, belly, breasts) making the onlooker feel the reality of the portrait. Her face has a sense of timeless contentment, or perhaps sorrow at the impending events, something really hard to pull off, reminds me of the enigmatic face of the Mona Lisa. Behind her lies a passage of richly painted drapery composed of browns and ochers that impart a golden warmth. Around her rests a thickly painted background of white chemise; set against this, her naked flesh stands out for its solid form and the amazing application of paint. This portrait was performed by an older man, freed from the lust for pornography, instead painting an intimate reality of his lover.