An embarrassment of cultural riches – c’est ça, Paris. I treated myself to the following in my first three-four days here:
- an exhibit at the Maillol Museum, a private museum in the 7th arrondissement, of paintings by the prolific Italian woman painter, Artemesia Gentileschi. She was active in the first half of the 17th century, living and painting in: Rome, Florence, Naples, and London. Her paintings – portraits, historical, mythological, and biblical in subject matter – are superb. She was very successful during her lifetime, and her paintings were in aristocratic and ecclesiastical collections. Like many of her contemporaries, she fell out of fashion after her death. She was rediscovered by art historians in the early 20th century.
- an exhibit at the European Center of Photography, in the 4th arrondissement, of photographs by an Italian photojournalist (who divides his time between Rome and New York), named Paolo Pellegrin. Terrific, moving, wrenching photos of: Iraq, Afghanistan, Sudan, Lebanon, Kosovo, New Orleans in the aftermath of Katrina, on and on. If you like great photojournalism, google him to see some of his images. He’s won lots of awards.
- the permanent collection of the musée de la Chasse et la Nature, in the Marais. This is another private museum, in a beautiful 17th century mansion. It’s not just stuffed animals and guns, though they are there and handsomely presented. There are wonderful 18th century paintings and drawings of animals and plants, e.g., by Desportes and Oudry; and contemporary art involving animals and nature. It’s one of my favorite museums, for the sophistication of the presentation, the quality of the collections, the building, and the fact that it’s never crowded.
- a concert of late 14th-century music at the medieval museum, the Cluny Museum, on the Left Bank. The group was the Ensemble la Camera Delle Lacrime. French, despite the name, they specialize in early music. This concert was a cycle of music composed for the monks at the Monserrat abbey to sing to pilgrims. The music is rooted in the southwestern French-Catalonian early language called “langue d’oc.” The performers were a man, who sung (often a capella), with one of the purest, strongest male voices I’ve ever heard; and two women, who played medieval flutes or occasionally sung with the man. The setting was the stone hall at the Cluny Museum that displays 13th-century sculptures from the facade of Notre Dame (I can’t remember why they were separated from the church, but they were). The acoustics were very good, and almost every seat was taken.
From that beautiful concert, I walked back to my apartment around 8pm. It was still light as I walked along the Left Bank quais by the Seine, over the bridge to the île St. Louis, and then along the Right Bank quais. How lucky can you get?
Some photos taken on my walks to and from the concert; I like the last two below of a pretty Parisian, whose mixed prints made her a walking Vuillard painting. She had come out of an apartment on the île St Louis and, I guessed, was on her way to see someone just across the river on the Right Bank. She was free, graceful, and quick in her stride, unencumbered by any purse or the like – just the cell phone for a friendly chat as she walked.