It has been one of those things I’ve been embarrassed to admit when asked, but a bit like watching Schindler’s List, reading The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and going to Liverpool, another thing I really should have done by now, especially after having studied Art History, is go to the Louvre.
I can’t really think of an excuse for any of the above: I haven’t watched Schindler’s List because despite its place on the top shelves of video rental stores, its German subject matter, and reports of a shower scene, for some reason, I just haven’t seen it.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide – again, I can’t think of an excuse – God knows I’ve read some shite over the years, The Hunger Games being my most recent example. So book one was decent, but books two and three… if Katniss and Peta had swallowed the poisonous berries at the end of book one we’d all have been put out of the misery that followed. But, the Hitchhiker’s Guide, I just haven’t read.
And Liverpool, well, I could probably get over the way the Scousers pronounce phrases like ‘car key’, ‘melted cheese’ and ‘Martin Skrtel’, pluck up some courage and go to the dubiously titled Culture Capital of Europe 2008, but I’ve digressed enough already.
The Louvre fits the same explanation as all the above; I possibly have even less of an excuse, but the outcome is the same – I don’t know why I haven’t been to the Louvre. So, as you may have surmised from the title of this blog, guess where I found myself last weekend…
So, how was it?
Well, of course it was good; an Art Historian’s wet dream, in fact. But, rather than dwell on the 35,000 works it houses, I want to discuss just one – and that’s our Lisa from Florence. And not even about her, what do you think Wikipedia’s for? No, I want to discuss the experience of going to see her.
With eight million visitors per year, the Louvre is the most visited museum in the world. In footballing terms, FC Barcelona’s stadium and accompanying museum, achieve under half this annually. And if you go to the Louvre for the first time, there’s probably one thing on your hit list and it was certainly on mine.
And so, unsurprisingly, the path to see Leonardo’s Mona Lisa is long; a pilgrimage through Italian history as you contend for space with the other visitors bent on the same mission. Works by nomi familiari (ahem): Cimabue, Botticelli, Lippi, Veronese, Raphael, and the rest, feature along the way, but at the end of every room, is a little sign with one of the most reproduced images in history and an arrow to remind you where you’re heading.
Then, up on the second floor, you take a right turn off the main corridor and this is what greets you:
And, it’s not as if you haven’t been prepared for this. People describe it as one of the great cultural anti-climaxes (there ought to be a list of them really).
But all the while I waited for my turn to see Leonardo’s most famous work, as arms slapped their way across my face, thrusting their camera-phones towards her; as repugnant American accents filled the air; as people shoved me towards the barriers with less decorum than fans at a rock concert; as her smile smirked back at all of us; I didn’t care that I couldn’t get close enough to see his revolutionary sfumato technique. I didn’t care that ten yards and bullet-proof glass was as intimate as I could get with her.
No. I thought very simply: she’s over 500 years-old and she commands an annual audience greater than Lionel Messi. Smirk on that.
By Edward Lines