“Art and love are the same thing: It’s the process of seeing yourself in things that are not you.”
The Louvre inspires awe before you even step foot inside its walls. You can’t help but marvel at the remarkable intricacies carved into its facade, during a time when men’s gifted hands were their livelihood; the talents they nurtured became their life’s work. It’s a beautiful thing, the recognition that though this place holds so many works of art within its walls, it yet stands as a work of art itself. I can’t help but compare this to people, too. Human beings are beautiful to behold, and yet embody corridors and depths of masterpiece within our walls, if only the time is taken to venture there. The square is buzzing with anxious hopefuls like me and it occurs to me that things of beauty are unifying.
Once inside, I fold in embarrassment at how little of the art I recognize. I can actually see all those words I learned in Art History form a crown around my head like phosphenes- Rococo, frieze, baroque, chiaroscuro- and I curse myself for being not paying more attention. Didn’t I know that someday I would be in Paris amongst all of it?? If only we could have someone pinch us in the important moments, just in case we don’t have the ability to recognize that they are so.
… but there she is, The Mona Lisa, “La Jaconde”. How small she is! And yet, how very compelling. She is just as intriguing as the rumors would have you believe. In English, “jocund” means cheerful or blithe. But I wouldn’t use either of those words to define her smile. “Beguilingly glad” seems more appropriate. I’ve always loved the mysterious coquetry inherent in that word- beguiling. Probably because I’ve never been able to figure out how to be mysterious, and I know how alluring it can be. I don’t doubt there are many things She could teach me. Perhaps her enigmatic smile is a reflection of the subtle satisfaction she gleans from the hoards of admirers she draws each waking day… A true coquette, indeed. It is beautifully sobering to see things with our own eyes that we’ve only ever seen through someone or something else’s lens. Part of me can’t believe I’m actually looking at Her. And yet, I crack my own little enigmatic smile, because… I am. This is my life right this very moment, and it is everything.
Just to Mona Lisa’s right, another crowd congregates around a painting of angels. It imposes, albeit beautifully, nearly the entire wall upon which it hangs. Its size alone ignites splendor in its beholder. The layers of pastel clouds are adorned with all manner of heavenly hosts, some baring only wings, others draped in reverent tones. Some are playing instruments, glorifying the scene above them. All eyes gaze upward, devoting their focus to her, Mary. A crown is placed upon her head and she bows in humble reverence. I think it must be Christ whose hand is encircled in clouds above her head, and the twelve apostles must be the six figures on either side of them. I wonder so much, the devotion that must have burned within the hearts and hands of those who have created masterpieces such as these, whose subject is Heaven.
I venture on, through the “golden sunbursts and marble halls” that adorn this palatial marvel. That phrase is in a song I love. No, a book. How stirring it all is- my very existence, in this moment, coalescing with words that have first been printed on pages and then read so many times that they inevitably have become printed on my soul itself. I want to capture these moments and imprint them there, too.
I don’t believe I have ever actually seen alabaster. I’ve heard things described that way. I always imagined it like this though… The Venus de Milo. She is breathtaking. I can’t imagine how anyone in her presence could manage anything but awe. Her form is exquisite and her lines pristine. Her stomach is so much better than mine. If only someone could chisel mine like that, it would solve all my problems. Anyway. I can’t help but notice that the vacancy in her eyes does make her seem sad. I don’t doubt The Mona Lisa could teach her some things, too. Well, perhaps there are things they could teach each other.
Being here makes me realize that the things we leave behind matter. The art we create with our hands, or our words, our love, our very lives- it all matters. I know very little about so much that adorns the halls and walls here, and I can’t help but think this reflective of my scope in general. But it feels like a burgeoning ember that merely needs to be fed. There is a quote I love that says, “Culture is the widening of the mind and the spirit.” I have been here only a day and already I feel that the world I live in is closer within my grasp and yet the world within me is so much bigger than I had ever imagined possible. I truly want to see everything, everything. I want to experience every good and beautiful and rich thing that exists in this world, and I want to adopt them as part of my soul so that they make me a more beautiful thing, too.