France Day 25 Of Men and Modernity


While going through the 15th and 16th century paintings from the Netherlands and Germany in the Richelieu wing of the Louvre, I started looking at the many portraits of men and wondered if I could find a painting of a man similar to the Mona Lisa. The problem with most portraits of the period is that the subjects tend to be in a detached, documentary pose and are rarely looking at the viewer. I was about to give up on the idea, but then I came across a self portrait of Albrecht Dürer which struct me as Mona Lisa-like. It was Dürer’s first painted self portrait, done when he was 22 years old and most likely to be sent to his fiancée, Agnes Frey.  A marriage had been arranged for Dürer while he was living with his brother in Basel in 1493, and Dürer and Ms. Frey were married upon his return to Nuremberg in 1494. While Dürer’s self portrait predates Mona Lisa by about 10 years, he paints himself in a similar pose and light, and he engages the viewer with his direct eye contact and pleasant countenance. I may find other male Mona Lisa’s, but so far Dürer’s self portrait is the front runner.

After the Louvre we went to the Musée l’Orsay, which is an old train station converted into a museum. Photographs are prohibited in the Orsay, but I managed to get a shot of the inside and the shot through the clock looking at the northern skyline of Paris. One commentator described train stations as being secular cathedrals to modernism with the clocks being their alters. In the evening we went to the Center Pompidou, and looked at the modern art. It’s interesting to go from the Louvre and Orsay’s formal, hands-off settings to the Pompidou’s modern, more interactive environment. You get a nice view of the Paris skyline from the Pompidou and the last photo with the Eiffel Tower in the distance is from the 4th level inside the Pompidou.