Friday, January 11, 2013

Royal Treasures from the Louvre -- Day 2/6

Walk: Legion of Honor (docent tours focus on Royal Treasures from the Louvre), Mindful Body
Distance: 2 miles and take yoga class

It is challenging coming home from the simplicity of a yoga class to thoughts of the excessive but exquisite finery from the personal collections of Louis XIV, XV, XVI, Marie Antoinette and Cardinal Mazarin.  This afternoon was my third trip through the Royal Treasures from the Louvre exhibit at the Palace of the Legion of Honor, and with each visit it is easier to disengage from the extreme juxtaposition of how the French royals lived compared with the rest of the French people - or with virtually every society since.  By now I'm free to admire the scrupulously precise craftsmanship that went into the breathtakingly fine pieces of hard stone tables, vases, porcelain, silver, furniture of that time. 

When my eye first caught the hard stone vase below, it honestly took my breath away.  Dainty but quite literally perfect.  Stunning. Standing about a foot high. This is the kind of achievement that can only happen when the finest craftspeople from the face of Europe are brought together - as they were by Louis XIV - to create treasures.  For the vase below, the work would have involved the most talented of at least the following craftspeople: gemologist to find the stone, a lapidary to cut and polish, a metal worker to form the metal, an enameler, a silversmith.  It may have taken thousands of man hours, even years to bring to fruition.

Judgement aside about the decadently lavish lifestyle of the last of the Bourbons, the craftspeople who attended to their 'needs' were some of the most brilliant as well as artistically and technologically proficient in the Western European world and the beauty and quality of their works are perhaps equalled since then but  not surpassed.

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