Saturday, April 25, 2009
Veronese, The Wedding Feast at Cana, 1563
Going to the Louvre is still my favorite thing to do on a Friday night in Paris. Even though I do it regularly, I am never anything short of blown away by the extravagance and excess of this museum. It's so insanely rich and so far removed from anything that resembles the reality of my life, that everytime I go there, I feel as though I have stepped inside a fantasy and my mind starts to believe I am part of this world. The surface measurements of many of the paintings - by Delacroix, Gericault and co. are sometimes twice the size of my apartment. The way I approach it - every time - is I go with the intent of seeing only one, at most, two rooms. It's a time consuming place to be in - there's always lots of climbing up and down stairs, getting lost in the rabbit warren of Catherine de Medici's house, and then there's the absolute must of people watching. With limited time on our hands, and a friend from out of town by my side, the chosen room the other night was the Mona Lisa's.
The Mona Lisa herself is now hardly visible. She sits behind layers of bullet proof perspex, which is then mounted on a wooden screen that dwarfs her and does not complement her complexion. In turn, this screen sits behind a semi-circular wooden barrier which itself is behind a rope that, unless you are in a wheelchair, the very alert guards will ensure you do not cross. Why bother even trying?
But, it's still worth following the signs through the Denon wing to her room, because she looks out at the most extraordinary Veronese painting. Despite the fact that at 70 m sq. The Wedding Feast at Cana is about twice the size of the average two bedroom apartment in Paris, all eyes are focussed on the Mona Lisa. Apparently the Benedictine Monks of the San Giorgio Maggiore monastery in Venice commissioned this immense painting in 1562 to decorate their new dining hall. And it had to fill the entire wall. Somehow, I can't see the Monks going in for lunch everyday and being inspired to get closer to God by looking by this painting. It's so full of life, laughter and excitement. And the colors, even in reproduction, are luminescent and shine much brighter than the star the Mona Lisa has become.
Still today, when I see this painting, I am filled with joy and amusement as I notice all the details in the painting that I didn't see the last time I was there. I love the dog poking his head through the balcony in the upper left hand corner. His master above him looks as though he is straining to get into the painting, not wanting to be left out of the action. And I love the guys in the upper right hand corner at the back who look as though they are about to fly from the gallery. Everyone is looking in different directions, and not one person seems to be having a bad time. It really makes me start thinking what it would be like to have Jesus over for dinner - at least we could be guaranteed never to run out of fish, bread and wine - no wonder the French put the painting on center stage of their national museum! What could be more important than an abundance of poisson, pain et vin? And not to mention, if Jesus did turn up to secular functions such as weddings as he does in Veronese's daring imagination, no one would call the police to close down the party.