I was passing by the millionth statue of some small-penised Greek god when it came out of nowhere and landed on me like an Osakan sumo troupe – museum fatigue. While I’m all about antiquities, I’m afraid I’m not much for the tourist life generally, tending towards the extremely claustrophobic when it comes to crowds, so perhaps I should have been better prepared. And yet, trapped deep in the clutches of the mindless herd-like masses, I could feel panic start to set in.
The Louvre is big. You probably know this. However, you have no idea how large the Louvre can truly be until you are caught in the grips of a full-scale art overdose while trapped behind a sea of vacantly milling Germans, Italians, Japanese, Americans and Koreans, all of whom seem almost homicidally intent on getting ahead of you, just so they can stop without warning directly in your path in order to photograph a blank bit of wall or fragment of stairway.
It was this morning that it occurred to me. Today is the first Sunday of the month – the day when all the municipal museums of Paris throw open their doors, forget their entry fees and welcome all and sundry. I’d been making excuses for not having done the stations of the tourist cross since my arrival, but I was running out of reasons. It was, I decided, time to pay my dues at at least one of the populist altars of culture.
One short hour later, there I was. Yeah, it was the Louvre. Looking like, well, the Louvre. A lot has been written about this particular institution and the wonders contained therein, so I will save the overview in favor of a couple things that struck me as worth mentioning.
The short-bus Madonna and child.
Why does every ivory statue of the Madonna and child (and believe me, there are enough to make one seriously amazed that the elephant population wasn’t rendered extinct sometime in the 16th century) seem like both are afflicted with Down’s syndrome?
How did the French go from generally kicking ass during the period of Charlemagne to living in the sort of place my grandmother would feel right at home in? No wonder the French lost the Franco-Prussian war if this was the sort of place they were planning it.
Apparently you checked your balls at the door in the 19th century France.
This is not to say that the collections in the Louvre aren’t incredible as well as incredibly and exhaustingly thorough. However, once you abandon all hope and enter here, just make sure you always keep an eye out for potential escape routes.