2013: Tribute to some incredible Art Museums

Whenever a year approaches its end, I look back at what that year added to me in terms of aesthetic exposure, and I check that year’s balance in terms of artistic masterpieces experienced for the first time.

In that sense, 2013 has been a year of one aesthetic orgasm after another: Following literally years of planning and yearning, I finally visited the Louvre, Musée d’Orsay, Musée de l’Organgerie, Centre Pompidou, Musée Rodin, the Uffizi Gallery, Galleria dell’Accademia, the Bargello, the Palatine Gallery, Siena’s Civic Museum, Joan Miró Foundation, the MNAC…to the end of the long list! I’m not mentioning the cathedrals, churches, palaces and other attractions here, only the museums.

It would be meaningless to compare or even try to remember everything, but here are some of the things that I don’t think I would ever forget. These are the ‘unforgettables’ of 2013:
– Cour Khorsabad (The Louvre)
– Winged Victory & Venus of Milo (The Louvre)
– The New Department of Islamic Art (The Louvre)
– The Renaissance Masters Collection (The Louvre)
– Jacque-Louis David’s Collection (The Louvre)
– Impressionism Collection (Orsay)
– Monet’s huge water-lilies (l’Orangerie)
– The Gates of Hell (Musée Rodin)
– The Maestà of Duccio, Cimabue & Giotto (Uffizi)
– Botticelli’s Room (Uffizi)
– Michelangelo’s David (Academia)
– Donatello’s David (Bargello)
– The Catalan Romanesque Collection (MNAC)
– Works by Ramon Casas & Fortuny (MNAC)

I am attaching photos that I took for all these museums, an artistic ‘farewell’ 2013.

Published: Old Treasures of the Middle & Near East at the Louvre

While thousands of visitors rush up and down the crowded corridors and halls of the Louvre every day in search for the Mona Lisa & Co., the Louvre’s ancient masterpieces make for a delightful visit to those with any interest at all in the Middle and Near East.
In my latest article published by Ahram in Egypt, I shed light on four masterpieces, namely the Zodiac of Dendera (Egypt, Ptolemaic), the Law Code of Hammurabi (Iraq, Babylonian), Frieze of the Archers (Iran, Achaeminid) and the Lamassu from Khorsabad (Iraq, Neo-Assyrian).

The link to the full article is:
http://english.ahram.org.eg/News/67159.aspx

Detail of the Law Code of Hammurabi

Frieze of Archers

Lamassu from the Palace of Sargon II

The Griffin Frieze

The Zodiac of Dendera

The Paris Experience: From Notre Dame to the Louvre

Gallery

This gallery contains 119 photos.

I. Paris: The Ne Plus Ultra of Elegance No matter how charming you think Paris is, it still manages to exceed your expectations. In a city where art is at home, where culture found some of its most prominent pamphleteers … Continue reading

Published: The Louvre, a passion for Egypt

From Ancient Egyptian and Hellenistic art, all the way to Coptic and Islamic art, the quality and scope of the Egyptian collections at the Louvre are everything you would expect from a legendary museum in a country that paved the way for the Egyptomania that swept across Europe following Napoleon’s Egyptian Campaign in 1798 and the publishing of the Description de l’Egypte a few years later.

Here is my full article about the Egyptian collection(s) at the Louvre:
http://english.ahram.org.eg/News/58593.aspx

Three Masterpieces of Islamic Art at the Louvre

“Our task is to reveal the radiant face of this civilization and its undisputable contribution the world.” – Henri Loyrette, President / Director of the Musée du Louvre

On 22 September 2012, visitors to the Louvre could enjoy –for the first time- the collection of the new Department of Islamic Art exhibited at the Cour Visconti under an undulating glass and metal roof that resembled a flying carpet, work of architects Rudy Ricciotti and Mario Bellini. The structure has been hailed as the greatest milestone for the Louvre ever since the Grand Louvre project.

Apart from the structure, one only needs to mention that the collection covers thirteen centuries of Islamic art and comes from three different continents for the reader to realize the breadth of its spectrum. Nevertheless, it is not only the breadth, but also the aesthetic value of the objects that makes this collection unique. Take for example, the Pyxis of al-Mughira (c. 968), a jewel Islamic art in al-Andalus. The Pyxis is an extraordinary example of the ivory carving and engraving tradition in the late Umayyad Caliphate period. Only the Pyxis of Zamora in Madrid is comparable in aesthetic quality.

From al-Andalus (in present-day Spain and Portugal) where the Pyxis was produced, one can travel to the other extreme of the medieval Islamic World, where another masterpiece is on show at the Museum, namely the Candlestick with Ducks from Khurasan, made of engraved copper inlaid with silver. The twelfth/thirteenth century object is a perfect example on the exceptional craftsmanship of coppersmiths at that part of the world, but that is not all: the objects to enjoy include metalwork, glasswork, ceramics, tiles, manuscripts, carpets, textiles, to the end of the list. A list that is, probably, too extensive for some tastes.

From Syria (or Egypt) comes the Basin of Saint Louis (known as the Baptistère du Saint-Louis, c. 1330), a masterpiece of Mamluk metalwork crafted by Muhammad Ibn al-Zain. The hammered brass inlaid with silver and gold is of exceptional quality, the decoration is exquisite, and the iconography is interesting as it shows Mamluk princes holding the ‘instruments’ of their offices.

Sophie Makariou, the Department’s Director, holds that “the civilization behind Granada’s Alhambra, Taj Mahal, Cairo’s great monuments, the mosques of Istanbul, or Isfahan’s Shah Mosque is a great universal civilization.” This fact, in itself, poses numerous challenges, one of them having to do with interpreting the collection and presenting it to the audience. Still, the viaion cannot be clearer, and Makariou puts it clearly:
“The Louvre is restoring this department to its rightful place in the historical chorus of civilizations.”