Sunday, 13 January 2013

A day at the Louvre

Picture: MS

I just made it to Paris before the end of the Late Raphael exhibition, which I'll review more fully when I've had chance to digest it.  I got fully ten hours at the museum doing it as a daytrip on Eurostar - hurrah for late night openings!  The afternoon was spent in the print room looking at some more Raphael drawings.  The picture above is the view from my desk - it's a massive, magnificent room.  It was no problem getting an appointment, but I struggled a bit with the meaning of the 'red items' that could be seen only once.  Turns out it means that you can only request them once, ever - they keep a record of which drawings you've looked at, and on subsequent visits you can't request any 'red' items that you've seen before. 
I saw the best of the late Raphael drawings that weren't on display in the exhibition, including the Study for an Apostle for the Transfiguration (detail below), which was included in the exhibition in Madrid, but not Paris.  Seeing it in natural light in the print room gave a better appreciation of the immensely subtle shading than would have been possible in the artificial light of the exhibition.  I'd read the catalogue of Late Raphael before going and cross-checked the drawings I wanted to see, but to no avail - the catalogue reflected the Prado version of the show, and didn't include large swathes of the Paris exhibition, including a number of drawings that I fruitlessly requested in the study room.
Picture: MS
I didn't have time for much except Raphael, but I briefly saw the exhibitions of Giulio Romano drawings (excellent) and Luca Penni (so-so), both scheduled to complement Late Raphael.  On the way to Penni, I stopped off to see Poussin.  One thing I love about Poussin is that he's so unpopular - even when the rest of the museum is heaving, Poussin rooms always seem to be havens of tranquillity.  I needed that as a break from the scrum at Late Raphael. 
The damage done by the inexplicable, inexcusable, stupid Louvre Lens project was in evidence everywhere.  Jonathan Jones had a good article on it here.  The hang in the Large French Paintings room (below) is unbalanced by the removal of Delacroix's Liberty Leading the People (how can this be permitted to leave the Louvre?  It is the Louvre!). 
Incredibly, Raphael's Baldassare Castiglione was taken out of the Late Raphael exhibition to go to Lens.  Many museums have surrendered their most important works for this landmark exhibition, but the Louvre cut short its own loans because the absurd Lens project had to have everything immediately.
There were lots of conspicuous gaps, well-documented at The Art Tribune, which gives us the apposite term The Gruyere Museum.  I dread the next development - the Louvre Abu Dhabi.


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