The Louvre

How could I have got to fifty odd, have been to Paris many times and never
visited the Louvre? Pas possible! Queues snaking round the pyramid,
strikes, other things to see, eat and listen to all did their bit. I
finally made it yesterday evening - and friday evening when it is open
until late is great time to go.

And what a feast! The greatest anywhere surely? It is beyond cliché so I
won't try more hyperbole but only four impressions.

The first is size; not of the place - though that is awe-inspiring - but of
many of the paintings which you thought you knew intimately but of which I
actually had no concept  because photographs give you no inkling of their
scale: the Raft of the Medusa by Gericault  or the Death of Sardanopulos by
Delacroix are but two examples

The view of the Nike of Samothrace, the monumental Greek sculpture of an
armless winged Victory over the prow of a stone ship is unforgettable from
the end of a gallery looking as you do from below to its place at the head
of a flight of stairs. How wise it was to position it there rather than below
the IM Pei pyramid, as once considered, where the view would have been from

Just beyond the Nike is a damaged fresco by Botticelli with women of striking - and modern - beauty . . Am I the only person on the planet to have been disappointed by the Birth of Venus in the Uffizzi? The Louvre, with its wonderful collection of Botticellis, restored him to me as a painter.

And the fourth is the famous self portrait by Rembrandt - surely the
greatest ever. No painting I have ever seen  looks into the melancholic
soul of the subject in so moving a way: disappointment, exhaustion and
sadness leach out of the frame - moving me to tears.


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