Paris Paintings and a Rhinoceros

Here, now, is the last of my three posts on the May Paris visit.  I wanted to return to the Sainte Chapelle (www.monuments-nationaux.fr), which I had visited as a teenager and found very beautiful. It is a relatively small building, constructed almost 800 years ago. There is a lower chamber, then you climb the steps to the upper chamber where 15 stained glass windows, each 15 metres tall in vibrant jewelled colours, tell more than a thousand different biblical stories. The stained glass has been extensively restored with painstaking care, over a period of six years, and now has a protective layer of glass on the outside, to prevent further damage from the environment. It is breathtakingly lovely.

Staying with the medieval theme, we also visited the Musee Cluny, now known more often as the ‘Musee du Moyen Age’ (www.musee-moyenage.fr) to look at the mysterious and beautiful series of tapestries ‘La dame a la licorne’ (the lady and the unicorn). The imagery, especially of birds, animals and flowers is highly decorative, and I’m sure there are details which could provide a starting point for some contemporary design. The colours are still good and the tapestries are now displayed together in a single, darked room, with spotlights, so the threads seem to glow. Each of the five portrays one of the senses: sight, scent, hearing, taste and touch. The unicorn is an enigmatic figure, who in the final piece seems about to enter the tent with the lady…

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The Musee d’Orsay (www.musee-orsay.fr) was another of our stopping points, where a special exhibition was taking place of work by Pierre Bonnard (‘Painting Arcadia’). Warm buttery colours and richly textured paintings evoked sunny outdoor scenes and warm intimate interiors, like ‘Nu dans un interieur’:

Bonnard: Nu dans un interieur (c) ADAGP, Paris 2015 (Courtesy National Gallery of Art, Washington
Bonnard: Nu dans un interieur (c) ADAGP, Paris 2015 (Courtesy National Gallery of Art, Washington

Another highlight was an evening concert in the oldest church in Paris, St Germain des Pres (www.eglise-sgp.org). The performers – a sextet – nearly lifted the roof of with their hugely energetic and vigorous interpretation of Pachelbel’s Canon, Adagio by Albinoni, Ave Maria by Schubert and Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. The music was led by the very dynamic Bertrand Cervera (pictured in the poster for the concert, seen below) who plays solo violin for the national orchestra (Orchestre National de France).

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Here is a hastily-taken photo (done at the end of the concert, of course!) to give you the idea of how atmospheric it was:

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At the other end of the scale, we also went to the cinema and saw ‘Un peu, beaucoup, aveuglement’  an original and funny romantic comedy about a man and woman living in the same building, but separated by an internal wall. Great fun.

Un peu beaucoup aveuglement

We managed a catch-it-before-they-close look round the Musee Picasso (www.museepicassoparis), which houses a large number of the artist’s works, but which also displays the paintings from Picasso’s own collection including this one by Matisse:

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We took a quick look at the architecture of the Georges Pompidou Centre (sadly, their modern art collection was closed, for re-hanging), and made a rather longer visit to the Sacre Coeur Church in Montmartre – where I was bowled over by the 1923 mosaic of ‘Christ in Glory’ by Olivier Merson, H.M. Mague and R. Martin, said to be one of the largest mosaics in the world:

Christ in Glory

We saw the now infamous bridge over the Seine, on which so many loving couples have fastened a padlock, that the bridge itself is in danger of collapsing!

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Some of the furniture in the permanent exhibition at the Musee des Arts Decoratifs was really eye-catching. This rather splendid rhinoceros is a ‘writing desk’ with various compartments and drawers.

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The accompanying explanatory label shows the ‘desk’ open. It was made in 1966 and the designer was Francois-Xavier Labanne.

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Also a great deal of the activity known in French as ‘flaner’, just strolling: along the pavements, through the parks and over bridges, enjoying the city.

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