Month four of A Year in Paris takes you to the courtyard of a little museum – called – the Louvre.
And before it was one of the greatest art museums on the planet, it was a palace – for the kings of France. Converted from an earlier fortress on the site (still viewable in the basement), a palace took flight in 1546 under Charles V. It was the home of French kings in Paris until 1793. Some of you older folks might remember 1793 – there was something underway called the French Revolution – and needless to say the building was conceived of for a new purpose: art! But in the courtyard of the grounds sits an interesting statue, with an interesting history. And while I don’t usually digress here – I’m gonna make an exception this month. For this I am going to borrow a history from a writer named Christina who blogged about the history of this statue in 2013. My trimmed down version is here – but read her full article – it’s delightful.
Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1598 – 1680) was an Italian sculptor who was known widely for his busts. I now copy directly:
“I was surprised to hear the story of a Bernini sculpture that was initially rejected and therefore ultimately saved. As a stipulation in a cease-fire agreement, Bernini was coerced into leaving his beloved Rome to serve 5 months in the court of Louis XIV. In Paris, Bernini dutifully created a portrait bust of Louis balancing his physical likeness with the grandeur that was “the Sun King”. In another piece of royal propaganda, Bernini prepared an equestrian statue of the King dressed as a Roman General. At the last minute, Bernini decided to carve the king smiling. Louis was furious when he saw the final piece and wanted to destroy it. Thankfully cooler-headed advisers counseled the King against this and had the face of the rider re-carved as a Greek General to “correct” the issue. Still a somewhat disappointing sculpture for Louis XIV, the altered statue was relegated to a far section of the gardens of Versailles, the King’s palace at the time. About a hundred years later, revolutionaries stormed Versailles destroying images of the kings. Bernini’s statue was spared because it obviously no longer depicted Louis XIV. However, because of its placement at a far corner of the gardens, it continued to sit unnoticed for centuries. In the mid-1980’s, I. M. Pei was selected to re-design the courtyard of the Louvre. To fit with his modern aesthetic and dramatic plans, he wanted all the statues and monuments removed from the palace courtyard, with one exception. I. M. Pei loves Bernini’s work and as a tribute, asked for a copy of the altered Louis XIV equestrian statue to be placed in the courtyard. Thus one of the few works designed by Bernini and executed in France by him could be incorporated into the greatest art museum in the country. The original stone statue remains at Versailles, although now it is inside and protected. Already in the shadow of the Louvre’s beautiful architecture and massive art collection, many visitors probably don’t notice the Bernini in the courtyard. Even fewer people probably realize that this beautiful piece survived an angry monarch, a violent mob and potential oblivion to come to a place of honor today.”
Obviously – I noticed. But there you go.
So enjoy month four of 12 months of Paris – still all shot in June 2016. So why not click on a link below to find a lovely desktop for the month ahead. Enjoy!
Mobile-esque (no calendar) versions:
- iPad (and adjustable by you for all other phone / tablet versions)