vendredi, août 04, 2006

Inner Spaces

With the arrival of Leslie, Anne, Annie, and now daughter Anna and her boyfriend Steffen, we have done a lot more sight-seeing. It's something I had put off, knowing I'd have ample opportunity when family arrived. (And I should add that there is another family member here, Anna's cousin Anna, or Anna Maria, who is in Paris on an internship with Vogue. Since Leslie's middle name is Ann, Steffen and I have been made honorary Ann/Anne/Annas for this trip so we can feel a part of the group.)

All but me spent the day at Versailles today. I went to work and to my language class. I had seen Versailles many years ago, though it would certainly be worth another visit. The reports that are coming in as different family members straggle back are highly enthusiastic.

A couple of highlights of recent excursions:

--The Marmotant-Monet museum in the 16th is a beauty.
--The Jardin des Plantes is another of the grand parks of Paris.
--The Lutetian arena, complete with large combat pit, tiered seating and animal cages dating from the 1st Century AD, once situated well outside the walls of Paris (or Lutetia) but now comfotably close to the center of town, is a pleasant diversion from shopping and going to market along the rue Mouffetard.
-- The Rodin Museum offers an exceptional display of the work of Auguste Rodin, including plaster models, studies in marble and bronze, and fully realized works of great power. He took Michelagelo as a master guide, but it is interesting to observe how deeply saturated with the individualism and romanticism of the late 19th Century his work is.
--Sainte Chapelle is indeed the gem everyone says it is, a marvel of airy grace and precise beauty. But a chapel is not a cathedral, or even a chuch.

The great delight of Paris as far as I am concerned, at least as of today, is its glorious churches and cathedral. I hesitate to attempt comment on the architecture and design, but I'm comfortable saying that they inspire in me great admiration and wonder, moments of transcendent peace and joy, and intellectual challenge. We went again this morning to hear the magnificent organ at Saint-Sulpice. Just the 15-minute prelude to mass ensured a successful day. (Much to my chagrin, I got so involved in other things this afternoon that I completely forget I had planned to go to hear an organ fugue by Lizst at La Madeleine.)

A brief repeat visit to Saint-Eustache confirmed its Renaissance-cum-Gothic splendor. And, like other artifacts the Parisians have placed in public places to set grand off with common, sacred with mundane, serious with absurd, two things bear mention here. A clay sculpture depicting the departure of agriculture and farmer from Paris upon the demanagement of the markets of Les Halles to Rungis, just a bit grotesque and Fellini-like, sits well in its chapel niche alongside other works celebrating events and figures from earlier eras. And out front, in the courtyard that is really along the church's side but serves to link the church to the new Les Halles space, passers-by delight to a large stone face and hand. It takes quite an object to stand up to the mass and beauty of Saint-Eustache, but just as the I.M. Pei pyramid works in the courtyard of the Louvre, this piece of whimsy holds its own alongside the church.

(See photos of some of these spaces above.)