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Published: February 28th 2017
We’ve reached the final week in Paris before heading back to the US for the winter months. We had quite a bit of “housekeeping chores” before leaving as well as deciding what we needed to take home, take stock of what we needed to buy back in the US to bring back to the boat, set up with someone in the marina to “watch” the boat while we were away, setting up the dehumidifier to drain into the sink, and eat down the food we still had in the refrigerator/freezer. Even with the need to do these things we wanted to check out a few more places in Paris before leaving.
Our marina neighbors told us about a small museum that they enjoyed – it is dedicated to one artist, Auguste Rodin. It sounded like a place we could fit in this week. The museum is housed in a private mansion that he had been a tenant in at one time. The artist donated his collection of works of art to the State resulting in the start of the museum in 1916. We found out that there is another museum dedicated to him located in another home he donated near
Paris. The majority of the work in this museum is by Rodin himself, but he also donated pieces from his personal art collection which included works by Vincent Van Gogh and others. The home itself was built in the early 18th
century and then later used as a school for girls. When the school closed in 1904 the State took it over and rented it out to artists. Among the tenants were writer Jean Cocteau, painter Henri Matisse, dancer Isadora Duncan and poet Maria Rilke. In 1908 Rodin discovered the place and rented out four of the rooms, but became the sole tenant by 1911. They have preserved one of the rooms as it would have looked while he was living there.
As beautiful as the home is, of course the main attraction is the work of Auguste Rodin who lived from 1840-1917. After entering the garden which displays many of Rodin’s sculptures your eye is first caught by his famous sculpture, The Thinker. It is set on a pedestal in a small courtyard surrounded by trees where you can sit and relax studying this wonderful piece of artwork. In this particular location you can see the top of
Very Original Name of a Business
at least you know what they have - plenty of wine!
the Eiffel Tower and the dome roof of Les Invalides (part o f the Army Museum). It was a cool but sunny day so we first took our time wandering through the garden. It includes a rose garden, large flowerbeds, a beautiful wooded area and a more formal garden off the rear terrace to the house and a large water feature. As it was late in the season the gardens were not in bloom, but there were plenty of sculptures to enjoy on your walk here.
The Burghers of Calais sculpture is one that commemorates an event during the Hundred Years’ War when Calais, an important port of France was under siege by the English for over a year. The King of France, Philip VI ordered the city of Calais to hold out at all costs, but unfortunately as Philip could not resist against the English, starvation set in and the city was forced to surrender. The King of England, Edward III offered to spare the city if six of its top leaders would surrender themselves with the unspoken expectation that they would be executed. The King of England demanded that they wear nooses around their necks carrying the
keys to the city and castle. Eustache de Saint Pierre, the wealthiest of the town leaders volunteered first and five others joined him. Rodin decided to capture this event which was a mixture of defeat but also heroic self-sacrifice in this sculpture that was commissioned by the city of Calais. He was able to capture the emotion on the five people that gave of themselves to save the city in the resulting sculpture that took him 5 years to complete.
The well known “The Gates of Hell” is what resulted from Rodin’s commission from the Director of Fine Arts in 1880. He was asked to create a pair of bronze doors for the entrance of a new Decorative Arts Museum that was planned, however, never opened. Rodin was given the freedom to decide the theme of the piece. Rodin was inspired by Dante’s “Inferno” for this piece. It was supposed to be completed in 5 years; however, Rodin worked on it for 37 years, working on it until his death. More than 200 human figures appear on the doors with some of them designed for the doors, but later removed and made into individual sculptures. Some of the well
The Door of Notre Dame is So Tall
and lots of sculptures as you enter
known ones are “The Thinker”, “The Three Shades” and “The Kiss”. Rodin imagined Dante’s world as a world with limitless space without a gravitational pull. Viewing it this way gave him the freedom to create figures with no rules in their poses, sexuality and emotional gestures. He took this freedom to create figures expressing human emotions such as punishment, suffering as well as forbidden love, maternal love and contemplation. The Gates of Hell were never cast in bronze before Rodin died and only existed as a full size plaster model. It was cast in bronze later with the first one located in the Rodin Museum in Philadelphia and the second one at the museum in Paris.
After strolling though the gardens we finally entered the house to walk around numerous other works of art by Rodin. We learned that most sculptors would use plaster casts as a way to secure their compositions as clay would deteriorate if it wasn’t fired. Rodin did the same, but different from other artists he would make multiple plasters and use them as pieces in a variety of sculptures, in other words, using the same parts of the body and figures into new compositions.
As an example he would mould parts of the body such as a leg and make numerous plasters of that same leg. He then could use this same mould of a leg in numerous sculptures to create new figures.
Rodin visited Italy and was thoroughly impressed with works by Michelangelo. As a result he returned to France and started on a life size male figure whose realism brought him accusations of casting the work from a living model. It was the statue called “The Age of Bronze”. It was a criticism that stayed with him for quite some time, therefore all the rest of his sculptures were done in either a larger or smaller than life size scale so others could realize that the work was original or not just a cast of a real person.
Rodin’s work is compared to Michelangelo and he was widely recognized as a great artist of his time. Some of his work is left in a state where some feel it was not completed, but this increased his influence on more abstract sculpture of the 20th
century. He is known to have been the artist that was able to ascribe emotion-laden representations
Some of the Windows Shining Through
the double wall structure of Notre Dame
of humankind. It was a wonderful experience to be able to walk around his numerous sculptures and feel the emotions of the sculptures as they almost felt alive.
We thoroughly enjoyed visiting the Rodin Musee and learning so much more about this artist with the help of the audio guides provided. Now when we see a Rodin in other museums we will have a better understanding of its creation and how the artist worked.
We always enjoy seeing a city with its night lights but hadn’t taken the time to do it much in Paris. Fortunately on our walk back to the marina from the museum the city lights came on many of the iconic buildings in the City. Fortunately we even got to see the Eiffel Tower lit up. The Tower used to be bathed in light every evening, but as an energy conserving measure they only keep the lights on for 5 minutes every hour. We were glad that we were in view of the Tower when they were on. It is always something to see familiar buildings that you walk by during the day transformed at night – it is quite a show indeed!
With our time ending in Paris before leaving for the US Bob said we had to at least visit Notre Dame before we left. We have walked by it numerous times, but never took the time to walk through it. As always we take our time exploring a place like this and make use of the audio guides as we learn many of the details that we would never see without their assistance. Notre Dame is known as one of the best examples of French Gothic architecture. In 1160 the cathedral in Paris at the time became “the Parish Church of the Kings of Europe” and the Bishop at the time decided that the Cathedral that was dedicated to St. Stephen was not worthy of this noble role. It was decided that a new Cathedral was needed therefore ground was broken in 1163 on the present day Notre Dame. The high altar was consecrated in 1182, the western facade completed in the mid 1240’s and finally completed in 1345.
It was not originally designed with the famous flying buttresses you see today, but as the walls of the Cathedral got higher they started to have stress fractures causing the
walls to push out. This was when the flying buttresses were added making it one of the earliest buildings to incorporate them into the structure. Statutes were added on the outside to help support the columns due to the height of the walls.
Cathedrals are many times beset by damage and Notre Dame is no exception. During the 1790’s many of the religious imagery was damaged during the French Revolution. At the time of WWII there was a rumor that the German’s were going to attack the Cathedral so they were pro-active and removed many of the stained glass windows and re-installed them after the war. Fortunately the large rose window which was installed in the late 1240’s was not damaged. As for facts and figures about the size of the building itself – it is 426.5 feet long, 115 feet high and 157.5 feet wide. To give an idea of size the rose window has a diameter of 33 feet and the diameter of the pillars inside is 16.5 feet. For those of you that are familiar with a football field Notre Dame is about as wide as the field and 66 feet longer! It is definitely an
impressive Cathedral and well worth a visit to learn the history of its building as well as view the magnificent architecture, sculptures and other art work.
With only a few days remaining in Paris we spent time figuring out what we could take off the boat that we didn’t need but could use back in the US in our house and what would actually fit in the suitcase. Now that we have a house in the US our thoughts are that we can cut down considerably the amount of clothes we need to carry back and forth – we can have our winter and summer clothes in both places. With this in mind we went through our clothes and figured on what we could use at home hopefully making future trips easier. Of course we know we will always need to get things to bring back to the boat that we can’t easily get in Europe (spare parts for the boat, etc) so will never eliminate 2 bags of luggage each time – but in previous years sometimes we have had to have 3 bags between us!
We heard that there is a large Christmas market in Paris
One of Two Major Screen in Notre Dame
with very detailed sculptures telling the stories
each year and on one of our walks we had seen them setting up for it with the installation of an ice skating rink and plenty of booths for vendors. The first day of the Christmas Market was our last day in Paris so we headed over there to check it out. There were lots of vendors with the typical Christmas items for sale, but there of course were a few unique ones. Food-wise they sold the usual sausage and hot dogs, but we really enjoyed an amazing cup of hot chocolate made with their fantastic French chocolate – what a treat! They also seem to like waffles here in France and saw many on sale with plenty of fancy toppings on them – we decided to pass on these, but they looked like they would be a great treat.
We saw many people enjoying the ice skating rink and shopping for holiday gifts, but a couple of things we saw were unusual. One of the exhibits people seem to enjoy going through was one labeled “Thriller” which we couldn’t quite get the Christmas connection with. We even got to see “Uncle Sam” on display which surprised us!
Well, this week went by quickly but we completed the packing making the 50 pound limit per suitcase and then set our alarm for very early in the morning that last day as we had to first walk to the train station as the bus to the airport left from there. It was only a few blocks that we had to walk pulling our suitcases and with the early morning hour and no traffic it was an easy trip. The bus to the airport was running late, but fortunately we allowed for that and didn’t have any problem getting to the airport in time to check in. Our flight to New York went smoothly and we even the bonus of a 3rd
seat as the flight was not full. We rented a car in NY and drove up to Greenwich, NY which ended a long last day and a lovely 6 weeks in Paris.
Now to get back into living on land again for a while! It will be nice to have time with family, friends and to complete some more work on the house.
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