Have civilisations always had a fascination with their own history and with the history of other civilisations? Did the difficulty of travel give further mystique to foreign lands and peoples? Do we gain any better understanding of our own times through studying ancient cultures and civilisations? When did the first museums appear?
The Louvre certainly has an amazing history – stretching back to the 12th Century and earlier. A visit to the Louvre was on all the family’s wish list and today was solely earmarked for a day in this famous museum. Clearly opinion is divided over the modern glass pyramid entrance – however it forms an amazing atrium over the main entrance to the Louvre. We had thought that the Hermitage in St Petersburg was massive – the Louvre takes it to another level again. Thankfully this time we didn’t lose anyone!
What we found that we did lose was a sense of perspective – you are exposed to such a wide range of fantastic art and displays that we found that we started to experience sensory overload. It is hard to comprehend such a vast collection of collections being in just one place, and also to realise there are even more musee around Paris!
We did have some favourites though. The first of these was the ancient Egyptian collection. We had heard that the Louvre had one of the best collections of ancient Egyptian artefacts and it did not disappoint. In particular, all the children gave the mummy display careful attention – showing details from embalming processes, to the range of organ storage jars, to the actual detail of the wrapping of the mummy. The detail of the hieroglyphs inside the mummy “coffins” was also incredible. The carved hieroglyphics on some of the carved stone tablets are incredible in the detail and consistency of the images – did the Egyptians have a typeset that they used on these?
Another “must find” display was the Code of Hammurabi. The older children and I had previously studied this obelisk-like diorite stele on which the sixth Babylonian king, Hammurabi, had recorded the laws of the land back in approximately 1800 BC. Written around the same time as the Epic of Gilgamesh, the code demonstrated just how ordered early society was in near East cultures at the time. Standing in front of the Code it was hard to comprehend that this had been crafted some four thousand years ago! There were also rooms full of fascinating carved wall panels from the Mesopotamian region circa 1000+ BC.
There was debate about whether we “needed” to see the Mona Lisa – but majority rule won and we found ourselves (along with several hundred others) queuing to view the famous lady. We clearly are no real art buffs as general consensus is that we just don’t get all the fuss about Lisa. Sure, her eyes ARE amazing and do follow you anywhere in the room, but the overall impression is of a dark and indistinct portrait! We must be in the minority though as the room was packed full of admirers (or maybe they all thought the same as us ). Turn around from Lisa though, and on the opposite wall there is an amazing picture of the wedding Feast at Cana! (if you really need to see a pic of Mona Lisa check out our Flickr images )
Today was our last full day in Paris – no one is eager to leave Paris, but we are all looking forward to the next leg in our journey. From our brief stay in Paris we have lots to consider – how has this exposure to such a wide range of historical information and artefacts helped us better understand the times we currently live in? How will it impact our lives in the future? All good questions …
Tags: 2012, postcard: France