Monday, September 7, 2009

The Art of the Postcard: Faces in the Crowd at the Louvre

Profile of Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta (detail, oil on wood) (1450) by Piero della Francesca (1422-1492)

I’ve received so many responses to my earlier post on ‘Lost Masterpieces’ and our Save the Postcard movement. Here are some more great works of art—captured on postcards. Yes, Save the Postcard.

While in Paris recently, I made my usual pilgrimage to the Eglise St-Sulpice to view and regard and inspect and enjoy the superb Delacroix Biblical epics painted on the massive walls and ceiling dome in the chapel just to the right of the entry door. (A note to viewers of these thrilling paintings: there is a light switch on the wall, hidden to the left that you can click on for better viewing. An old coin-in-the-slot operation has been superceded by frugal timed switches. The pale light does help illuminate on a winter afternoon or a cloudy summer morning.)

At St-Sulpice, I stood and took in the rich and delicious color palette of ‘Heliodorus Expelled from the Temple’ with its wild movement of horses, soldiers, burning buildings, screaming on-lookers, curtains billowing, gold coins tipping forward, and wild and kinetic action in every inch. Two other Delacroix works include ‘Jacob wrestling with the Angel’, St Michael and the Archangel vanquishing the Demon.’

I took a short cut out of the church through the heavy wooden door behind the altar (and to the left of the most exquisite chapel), and headed down to rue de Seine. Gerard Mulot patisserie is an essential stop for French food culture viewing, and for a quick café crème. To accompany: an exquisite slice of clafoutis of fresh fruit (cherry, white peach, or raspberry are among my seasonal favorites).

Refreshed, I head down rue de Seine, stopping to look in my favorite antiques galleries (a future post). I turn left along the quais, past the new Dries van Noten boutique (a future post, it is a must-see for the décor and the collections), and past Sennelier, my favorite art supply shop (where I buy my watercolor paints)…and across the bridge to the Louvre.

After a sweep through the Denon galleries and a reconnoiter to see my favorite sculptures in the Roman and Greek statuary rooms, I headed back to the Carrousel arcade. The book shop/post card shop was on my itinerary.

The Contessa del Carpio, Marquise of Solana, detail, oil on canvas, 1493. By Francisco de Goya y Lucientes (1746-1828)

Would there be a selection of post cards? Are art post cards indeed disappearing—to be replaced by digital images or dispensed with altogether?

There was the familiar wall of postcards, with the Louvre’s greatest hits. I selected a group of portraits shown here. (I’ve learned from experience that landscapes, in miniature, don’t hack it, and small postcards depicting massive works (“The Wedding Feast at Cana’ by Veronese, for example) make a mockery of the painting’s grandeur.

Portrait of the Infanta Marie-Marguerite, daughter of Philippe IV, King of Spain. Oil on canvas, by Velasquez (1599-1660)

Gertrude Alston, future Lady Alston, oil on canvas (1761) by Thomas Gainsborough (1727-1788)

Portrait of Lisa Gherardini, wife of Francesco del Giocondo, called Mona Lisa or La Gioconda, (1503-1506) by Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519).

I also found a Georges de la Tour painting of a card game. And I could not resist buying the post card of the Mona Lisa (which I never visit any more—seeing work through tinted bullet-proof glass with gaggles of the Nikon flashers is not my idea of viewing and enjoying a painting.)

After purchasing these precious postcards, I made my way to the adjacent post office, bought some superb stamps, and posted a selection to my friend Theadora. Mission accomplished.

Marina Waldstein, the Ninth Marquise de Santa Cruz, oil on canvas, by Francisco de Goya y Lucientes (1746-1828)

Now I have these compelling miniatures to gaze at, inspect, admire, and rediscover.

Long live art postcards. And bravo to the Louvre administration for offering such a beautiful array. I will be back.

Portrait of Francois 1, oil on oak panel. By Jean Clouet (1485-154)


little augury said...

and you Paint Too? what a wonderful jaunt thank you for taking me along, is the postcard is in the mail? la

A Thousand Clapping Hands said...

I never could understand why people feel compelled to photograph the Mona Lisa. Or Versailles, for example. I prefer to buy a book with photographs by a professional.
I still send postcards but can't even remember the last time I received one.

Diane Dorrans Saeks said...

Hi Little--and Hi Catherine- we walked along the rue de Seine, and admired, for the millionth time, the wonderful paintings of Delacroix. Important to note that you could walk into the ST SULPICE chuch many times, and not notice the small chapel to the right, with the huge Delacroix paintings. You cannot see them as you enter...must walk into the chapel to view.
Yes, Catherine...I see visitors taking digitals of Monet paintings or sculptures and art. They do not look, they snap a digital. You are right they would be mediocre. But at least they are in a museum.
Now, on my desk, I have Matisse paintings, an Ingres I love, several Monets, and I gaze at them when I am writing. Yes, they are tiny, but they capture me and enrapture me. I can look at the detail all day--which of course you cannot with an original, at a museum.
Will keep you posted...on post cards. (Yes, no-one sends them any more.)

Gaj said...

Lovely post, merci. So true about which images or paintings can be properly captured in the postal card format, I am in total agreement with you. I never receive postcards anymore and rarely send them myself but do ardently collect them with considerable discrimination, could spend hours in the Louvre or National in London or the Met or Modern searching the racks. Its also something about the paper, the weight, that matte finish, and even the style, font and placement, in which it is identified on the reverse. Not so far from a fetish, no? Excellent postcard selection, speaking of appropriate and well photographed images, can be found at the Museum of African Art on the Mall in Washington. Good hunting!

Laura [What I Like] said...

This whole post is so beautiful, but I have to admit I had a hard time concentrating after I saw the words "new Dries Van Noten boutique". You tease us so!

ArchitectDesign™ said...

Oh how I wished you had written this before I left for Paris! We were in that chapel and I had no idea it had anything by delacroix! It was my favorite church though by far! How odd that you describe the very walk we took and even stopped in Sennelier! And yes - i sent many postcards home! Whats more fun than receiving a postcard?!