The complete Mona Lisa kidnapping story
Paris through the Ages (by Arthur Gillette)
(Off beaten path: A MUST
Michel Dansell formulated this very well in his “Paris Unattended.”
“To love Paris is not explainable with a guidebook that leads you through the city. To say: “Paris je t’aime” doesn’t mean anything, since all reasons are good — and none is frankly the issue! To love Paris, it’s more than you can explain, it’s in yourself! There is the Paris of the ice-cream-eaters, organized tours, history professors, and those damn guide publishers always keen to explain the slightest column or gargoyle, the smallest portal, the straight boulevards of Haussman, the age of Notre-Dame, and a whole lot you’ll find in any guide…
I will try to explain Paris differently; I’ll take you by the hand and tell you some anecdotes between the historical and descriptive sites. I’ll enhance it from time to time by pictures—as long as they don’t take up too much space ;-).
The 1st arrondissement is principally the arrondissement of the French Revolution that started in the equivocal and popular area of the Jardins du Palais Royal, behind the Comedie Francaise. It stayed quite hot in that area for a long time after that. The area around the Palais Royal is a very strange and unique quarter. Very busy and crowded all day (especially during lunch hours in the sacrosanct lunch bistros that pushed out of the ground like mushrooms) with people working in the district, travel agencies and staff from all kind of shops. But once the night sets in, it looks more a stone desert. The 1st arrondissement is of course dominated by the most famous and greatest museum of the world (according to the French): the LOUVRE MUSEUM. The visit of a city in itself as I would call it, is impossible in one day, even in two, or be prepared to have sore feet for about a week!! One of the now deceased president Mitterand great ideas to stay a great figure in Frances’s history was to leave some huge renovations and new buildings in Paris. Besides the now much criticized Grande Bibliotheque he decided in the early 80’s to consecrate all his energy to the promotion of art and culture. First something spectacular had to be done about the main square in front of the Louvre entrances: why not a pyramid. So a glass pyramid was set of the ground and became the main entry of the Louvre, giving access to the main wings of the museum. What a cabal this project unlatched!! Pro and contra fought each other through the media and the dispute is not over yet. Even my readers are very divided about the matter. Quote the” Guide du Routard 1998”: The cost–75 million FF– makes it the most expensive roof in the world. (photo above is the cafe Marly). The cleaning of the windows was done initially by high mountain guides but since it seemed that it was too dangerous a robot replaced these experienced and fearless mountain climbers” (unquote). But the pyramid stands there now and nothing will change that.Personally, I like it, like it even very much. The contrast between futuristic architecture and the Louvre buildings is very refreshing in my opinion. Anyway, a very positive result of all the Louvre refurbishings is that the part of the museum that was occupied earlier by the ministere des Finances had to move due to and liberated a surface of 22.000 square meters.
I postponed and postponed but once I HAD to start including the most important landmark and museum of Paris in my Paris site: THE LOUVRE MUSEUM. In arrondissement one of the Paris visit page I have already resumed a brief essay about the birth of the Pyramide du Louvre and the project of the New Louvre.
I will often make references to the “New Louvre” or the “Grand Louvre”, but what happened to the old Louvre? The answer is: a lot! Astonishing changes have been made, not without the known controversies, poisoned press reviews and other sweetness that happen all over the worlds in such cases. But he new Louvre became a tremendous success. The world’s largest museum is still labyrinthine, but a joy to discover for old hands as well as first-time visitors. And only the French would be so bold as to completely re-do their major world museum.
The greatest museums once started as small. Originally a medievalfortress, built by Philippe Auguste, around 1200 at the weakest defence point of Paris in a place named “Lupara” which will become “Louvre”. When this fortress lost its military role, Charles V (1364-1380), by extending the edifice made it a chateau where he established his extensive library in one of the towers. But soon, the Hundred Years War, the nauseating odours of the open sewers around the chateau making the atmosphere unbreathable, the attraction of the chateaux in the Loire valley moved everybody out of Paris for more than one and a half century. If you want to have a good picture of the impressive beauty of the medieval Louvre, you have to read “Les très riches heures “ by the Duke of Berry. Art historians thought for a long time that this breviary with splendid miniatures was just an idealizing description of the Louvre, but a recent research proved that the old medieval chateau of Charles V really looked as a fairy tale castle.
The comebacks to Paris lead to the destruction of the medieval chateau fort. In 1546 François Ier decided to build a residence in Renaissance style.
Blue prints were made by the architect Pierre Lescot and he led the building works during the rest of his life. Successive monarchs added and destroyed until 1672, when Louis XIV, wary of Paris, moved to Versailles. Later, a palace (palais des Tuileries) was built by Catherine de Medicis and connected to the Louvre by Philippe Delorme and Jean Bullant. Louis XIII, then Louis XIV, Lemercier and Le Vau will add the rest of the constructions around the actual “Cour Carrée”. A lot of water will flow under the Pont Neuf before the Louvre was finally intended to have an artistic dimension thanks to Henri IV and Catherine de Medecis.
The nucleus of the huge art collection was already made by François Ier,centuries earlier. He sent a certain Andrea del Sarto to Italy to “chase” some masterpieces and make bronze copies of Antiquity sculptures. That’s how François Ier left 4 Raphaels, 4 Leonardo da Vinci (of which the famous Mona Lisa) and a Tiziano Vecello.
The Louvre fell into disrepair until the Academy of Arts chose its empty halls for “painting salons” in 1725. During the revolution, in a rare moment of creative fervour, forgetting to guillotine some poor clods, the rebels decided to inaugurate the palace as a museum, ironically fulfilling the plans of the French kings, and especially the king they had just beheaded. Opened in August 1793, the museum benefited greatly from the royal treasures and from Napoleon’s subsequent efforts to relocate much of Europe’s artistic wealth. However, after the Waterloo disaster, many of the stolen masterpieces were reclaimed.
Finally, the Paris Commune in 1870offered history one of the most impressive and stunning architectural perspectives: La Voie Triomphale (The Triumphant Road). A unobstructed view from the statue of Louis WIV by Le Bernin and the Arc du Carrousel until the Grande Arche of the Defense passing the place de la Concorde and the Arc de Triomphe. How did they manage that? Very simply, by putting the palais des Tuileries (built by Catherine de Medicis, remember?) on fire, which stones were scattered all over France, even so far as America.
–Vie et histoire des arrondissements de Paris, ed.Hervas (1985-1988) –Nouvelle Histoire de Paris, ed.Hachette –Histoire et dictionnaire de Paris, by A.Fierro, ed.Laffont, 1996 — Guide du Routard 1998-1999 (Ed.Hachette) –Paris, 2000 d’histoire, by J.Favier, ed.Fayard 1997 –Naissance de Paris, by M.Fleury, ed.Imprimerie Nationale 1997 –« Louvre-la visite », by Pierre Quoniam (ed. Reunion de musées nationaux 1997)—“Les très riches heures “ by the Duke of Berry—“Down and Out in Paris and London”, by Georges Orwell.