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12 May 2010


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Its always the same isn't it?
When I first went into the Louvre..and tried to view the Mona Lisa it was impossible..for all the cameras and heads..We gave a quick look, a quick snap..and enjoyed the rest of the treasures..all to ourselves it seemed.
Thanks again Corey for sharing your world with us.
Still waiting for my chat de Paris postcard ;]

Whoah, Coey. What a powerful essay you have made here. Both, with your heart that would notice such a thing as the cultural rushing for something in the midst of all divinity already present with them, and with your blooming photo journalistic expression.

"...hold time in stillness as something divine in itself."

You are a true work of art.

I have now been to the Louvre....well as good as....almost. Again, thank you

For your next stop in Paris
There is a site where you and Yann can even rent a "tandem"!

I can do this with you too- according to the theme of the ride!!

I 'll smile.

I 'll wait.

I 'll be there.

My daughter and I were on a trip to Paris one Christmas and decided to visit the Louvre and the Mona Lisa again. Even though we had heard that nowdays it is almost impossible to get close to the painting because of the crowds. After not too long a wait in the line up we proceeded to the Mona Lisa to be stopped dead in our tracks, not a single person viewing her!!!! We could not believe our luck and took it all in for what seemed liked ages, then went happily on our way. On our way back we passed the Mona Lise again, oh boy the crowds, it was, as in your pictures above. By some strange luck of fate we had arrived at the rite time the first time.

PS I love your take on pictures of the Monal Lisa, seen through other peoples eyes/lens

When we visited, the line was not too deep, and we managed to get close for our brief look. At that time, cell phones and digital cameras were not so available, so people were getting close, viewing, and then turning away for the next person to access the spot. In the relatively short time we waited for our turn, what struck me most was that nearly half the people, as they turned from the painting, had tears in their eyes.

Haha... that was the same thing we thought while at the Louvre, that the crowd taking pictures tells more about what Mona Lisa means as a popstar than the artwork itself. It's kind of sad, but also very meaningful of how people value a museum visit (and the Louvre is definitely not your average museum).
We also went to Versailles, and there was a photo exhibition with historical pictures of the palace. One, by Cartier-Bresson, documented a visit of the Queen of England not by focusing on the Queen, but instead on the crowd staring at her in awe. At least they were looking at her, not at their cameras... oh, well.

Everyone I know, when they see the Mona Lisa for the first time, say "it's so small!" I think it has such a huge reputation that it's expected to be a huge painting.

Humans are amazing. Why do we do things like these? I guess we want others to know we've seen a masterpiece and we need proof of it. Self-agrandizing (sp).

I just saw the Shroud of Turin. After waiting 2 1/2 hours in line we had one minute (literally - it is timed) to stand in front of the shroud and admire it. A woman in my group spent the minute taking photos instead of looking at the shroud. WHY???

Thankfully, I've forced myself to stop taking photos and start looking at these things. The photos are now in my brain. The album contains a postcard.


You really have me thinking. Thanks.

Isn't this absurd? I thought the same when I visited. It is actually very difficult to get a good look at Mona Lisa, what with all the cameras everywhere. I guess it just shows that wherever people are we are drawn to things we know. We all want our very own crooked snapshot of the most widely reproduced painting of all time!

I couldn't agree with you more. On my only visit to Paris two years ago, I decided to skip the Louvre. We only had 3 short days and I didn't want to spend it inside looking at the art I had studied in college. I wanted to "feel" Paris. We were passing by near the end of our last day so we decided to go in for a look around at the building. I skirted up to see a Durer and my husband suggested, since we were right there, we should go see the lady. I could not believe the people. Like you, I spent more time marveling at them then looking at the painting. You are right, NONE of them were looking around at the beauty surrounding them. I thought it was ridiculous. I didn't know about the McDonalds, that makes me very sad.

What a provocative post and insight into human behavior. I have not been to the Louvre, but, when that day comes, I know I will want to see Mona, stare into her face, her eyes, and ask her what she is thinking. Now, I don't know. Another face in the crowd? A pop star?

A few years ago I took a friend to see the Winslow Homer exhibit at the Art Institute of Chicago. My friend is a watercolorist. She was fascinated, so fascinated with the brush strokes and techniques that I thought we were going to be expelled. She was right up to the pictures, bifocals off, inching closer and closer . . . maybe I shouldn't take her to the Louvre.

Like you, Corey, I love taking pictures of people taking pictures :-)))))

Of course, I'll photograph just about anything -- just ask my husband, who was mortified when I returned from my first trip to the Azores with 1500 pictures I'd snapped in barely 3 weeks (and that was back when I was still shooting film!).

I'm not quite sure why one would take a photo of items like the Mona Lisa, of which one can presumably purchase (or download online) better images than any amateur could possibly take, given the crowds. Other than, I suppose, to prove that one was there...

P.S. Re McDonald's in the Louvre, it's one time Marie Antoinette would've been entirely justified had she really said, "Qu'ils mangent de la brioche" (Let them eat cake, as we incorrectly translate it in English).

I guess I was fortunate....We visited the Louvre and, of course the Mona Lisa eleven years ago. On that particular day, in October, there were no crowds. Mona and I shared a moment. It was one of many beautiful experiences we had during our romantic week in Paris.

Corey, It is just like you said in an eariler post. You see the thread count. You can never go wrong with that one. My friends wonder how I spot things they never notice. There is thread count in everything. Isn't it beautiful?

The Mona Lisa managed to find my eyes and smile....even in the crowded room, during the Lourve's free day,

Oh Oh, did you stop at Angelina's on Rue De Rivoli for a pot of hot chocolate afterward? Sooo good. So dense, it was like drinking liquid chocolate. And a nice brioche to go with it? It was only 2.15 euros for both when I was last there...

When I was at the Louvre in 1989, the crowds were so thick around the Mona Lisa that I was disheartened and decided to concentrate on other beauties. It's so funny to see all the pictures of people taking snapshots of her. Although I don't remember McDonalds being there then.

Each of us has different taste in art. I have been guilty of treating some of Picasso's works in the same manner as the crowd who got their quick shot of Mona Lisa and then went on their way.

It is Monet who thrums the strings of my own heart. I remember when I first saw an original of one of his water lily works; tears streamed down my cheeks. There was so much more in that moment than just seeing the painting--years of anticipation that had built up without knowing that I would ever see his work before my very eyes, wondering if I'd be disappointed. We were fortunate that the crowds were sparse that day and I was allowed to dwell in the moment as long as I needed/wanted. A kinship formed between Claude and me that day (of which he is unaware). Meanwhile, my husband is two rooms down wondering what's taking me so long ;)

I have had the good fortune to go to Europe twice - during the first trip of 18 days I took exactly 28 photos and on the second trip of three weeks, we lost our camera at the two week point after having taken only 8 photos. I saw amazing things with my own eyes and the images are clear memories in my mind's eye. While I love to look at pictures, I am too busy gawking at the world to take many...

The first time I visited the Mona Lisa I was amazed at all the people taking pictures of her. I had never seen anything like that in a museum. It rather upset me. The last time I visited the Louvre I decided to skip Mona. She does however pull you into her gaze.

intuitive, profound, smart insight . . .you have been blessed with the ability to really see.

Oh, Corey, so many images and memories are rushing to mind with this post. One: I think Leonardo, must have, at one point been quietly, lonesomely, painting this beautiful still moment and now she has paparazzi. Two: Just think of the mean days and high times "she" has seen in all her years as a revered piece of art....oh, the stories she could tell. Three: I have been blessed to visit with her many times and yet this last time (June '08) the crowds surged about her and on the wall directly opposite her was a floor to ceiling nearly 20 ft wide painting of the Jesus and the wedding feast at Cana and nary a camera click towards it. Then Four: Joshua Bell playing so passionately and beautifully. I probably would have walked on but, I do remember this summer, when we were in Dublin (1st time) in a main shopping area, a musician played oh, so beautifully that I stopped our family to listen. I wrapped up that moment in my heart and it is now a part of that travel experience...the music made me stop.

Love all those views over people's shoulders and through their cameras. The sleeves and hands are worth a second look in themselves.

Star, you took me back to teenage years when I saw my first Monet. Having been carefully taught by my oils teacher to always completely cover the canvas with paint, I was startled and delighted to see that Monet actually left some canvas bare. Took my breath away to see the originals of works I'd only seen in photos.

And Penny, I got so close, staring at each delicate brushstroke, to a magnificently huge painting in an art museum in D.C. that the guard (a) told me to back up and (b) followed me around from room to room the rest of my visit there!

Thanks for the images, Corey, and the memories and comments, everyone.

Wouldnt it be nice to meet her one on one. No crowd.

I like the fact that she gets all that attention without any adornment too, Jx

Only an artist sees the way you see. One of your best posts ever.

They jostle to the front, glance, take a shot, and leave???? Whoa. Not me. No way. I would stare and stare and then stare some more and DARE anyone to jostle me out of the way. Some things only happen ONCE in your life. This would be a once in a lifetime for me. I would not squander it.

I had that exact same experience. All pushy, shovey people not looking at Mona at all, just framing her in their camera lenses. I hated being in that crowd, as much as I loved looking at the lady with the mysterious smile.

It was hot and stuffy the first time I went to the Louvre to see her. Once I got to the front of the line, I didn't budge from my place for several minutes. There were several people josting me and pushing me to move. I didn't take a picture, and I didn't move. I stood my ground and just looked at her.

I really understand this post Corey...i was in Amsterdam a few weeks ago and visited the Van Gogh museum...i honestly felt the odd one out...no one looks anymore...feels the history...the pain and the beauty...they look for a few seconds...then look around for the next one they recognise...i walk around in utter disbelief.... beauty is hard to find at times....why waste it when there is a whole building full of it....His work was even more beautiful than i ever knew.

Thank you for your post x

What a thrill it must be to stand in front of that beautiful painting! But what a shame to have to be pushed and jostled just to have a chance to do so. Wouldn't it be wonderful to be alone in the room with Mona Lisa and gaze upon her mysterious beauty? And to think there's a McDonald's nearby...oh dear me couldn't they have something with a bit of class?!! Leonardo's spirit (and Mona Lisa's too) must be horrified.

I have the obligatory photo of my husband with the Mona Lisa in the background and the back of fifty other people's heads between him and her.

What a great series of photos - but sad - she is besieged by paparazzi and who is actually looking at her, the real her.

Marie-Antoinette never lived in the Louvre: King Louis XVI and his family lived in Versailles and then, for a short time in the Tuileries Palais.
As a French, I needed to rectify the mistake.

through a lense, bypassing the heart altogether. brilliant post, Corey.

Marie-Antoinette never lived in the Louvre...Louis XVI and his family lived in Versailles and in the Tuileries Palais, for a short time, before the Revolution.
Just being French, sorry

Hi Corey,

love and appreciate your postcards for those of us yet to experience Paris - but especially your thought-provoking insights of todays post. A reflection of how so many of us ' do ' life ??

btw isnt the WashingtonPost clip amazing?? I have seen it before and am still amazed that of all those hundreds of people passing by, only a handful stopped to listen. Would i be any different - thats the challenge!!

Corey, Thanks for a reminder not to just check off all the things on our list, but to enjoy them as we go. I had a similar thought on my blog today about my children's fleeting childhood.

Wonderful post.

fabulous post. thank you so much for this perspective.

Like catching a firefly in a jar....a little something is lost...but they are happy, techno-saturated tourists. A quiet night sitting on the back step might surely terrify them.

oh, and beautifully done, Corey!!!!!

In winter of 1972 I was 14, and spent some time with Mona. Only a few people came by, and if I rember correctly she was tucked in a corner. It was very intimate, and powerful, my favorite viewing was of the winged victory, both inspiring on a gut level. I really don't do well in crowds, I just want to get away so , I am really appreciating what an opportunity I had then, and wish the same for others.

When I went to see the Mona Lisa she was in a small room and we had the room to ourselves. We spent time just taking her all in. We were so lucky. xxx

Oh - I'm so glad you did this post! After I commented the other day, I wished I had asked for a postcard from the Louvre with a glimpse of the Mona Lisa instead - but didn't want to be greedy, by going back and asking again for something else. Thank you for taking us there! How I wish I could see this in person...

This is a wonderful post, Corey!

It's amazing to see all of those people wasting what will most likely be their only opportunity to ever see the Mona Lisa.

You've said it very well indeed, a photo will never capture the beauty of seeing a painting in person.

I saw the Mona Lisa for the first time with my DH in 1979. I was lucky enough to go back in 2004 with my mother, DD and sister in law. Both times there were no crowds and I feel extremely fortunate to have seen such a work of art up close. Not only are the paintings overwhelming, but look at the floors and the ceilings....amazing!!!

I would love to see a Paris Postcard of the ceiling in Galleries Lafayette, please.

Your post today reminds me of an Englishman who related me his visit to the Louvre:
"I walked into the museum, bought my ticket, dashed to "Mona Lisa", took a picture and walked out. I had my train to catch, you see..."
Do I see? No, I don't, sorry!

I went to the Louvre museum twice in the last 4 months. One time it was as you are describing ... MAD! I myself did not stop by HER. This allowed me to discover Veronese's "Wedding at Cana" (same room), a majestic masterpiece!
But the other time the room was not as packed(I mean the middle of the room, where SHE is!). And I could look at her, eyes to eyes... (and I could SEE!)

Hey corey, thanks for the delicious dessert! To which I long for a large piece of Tarter Tatin. I have not made it myself yet, but I should have done. It would have shortened my wait:)

It looks like these people have come more for the fame that is associated with the painting than the real art. And it's sad! They take a picture just to show it to their friends and say, Look what I've seen. And with Mc Donalds outside describes well the time we live in. I still think it's interesting to see and experience the hole scene from this site. I wonder what they would have thought if you had made them aware of it ?

I hope you will have another exciting day !


I have seen it...Yvonne

Your prose.....is Poetry.


Count me lucky...when I visited the Louvre in 2005 there was only 2 or 3 people standing in front of Mona - they left and I had her entirely on my own. I stood by the roped stantion for the longest...in a trance..just gazing into her eyes, looking at the brush strokes...what a marvel. I'll remember my experience forever. Also, at the time one couldn't take pictures of her...so she lives in my mind.

Thank you! Your post is the perfect start to what promises to be along and busy day for me. Because of your reminder I will try to listen and focus on the details rather than my hectic schedule.

Absolutely Brilliant...that is exactly how I remember seeing the Mona Lisa with people and cameras.. not to mention the hum you could hear as you came around the corner! and all the people in front of the roped off area in front of the Mona Lisa!!

This post was amazing! You have transformed my future visit to Paris!

Corey, I love your take on this. You have captured the essence of the experience, I'm sure. I would be pretty sad not to get close enough to sit and reflect for a moment. That is what I do at the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, MA-stand back or sit and soak it in. The crowds and their cameras-it is sad in a way!

What a clever post!

i think this is one of the reason i did not go to the Louve but the de'Orsay instead. someday when i know i can push thru the crowd i will go. i like to think i stop and notice the beauty in the simple things in life. yet i know i have a tendency to rush thru my day. time to take the time to look, listen and wonder. thank you

La Jaconde may be smiling because there is no Burger King under the roof and how her admirers try to capture her image as a kind of trophy. Kudos for such a wonderful story which earned the compliments from your brother.

I am crossing my fingers, as I type...there is a chance we might get to France for a couple of years! Belfort to be exact, but France....that's my dream!!! We've corresponded before about little things and big things, and you are my "friend"...or so I tell people..."my friend" in France, Corey...but I digress...when I was in Paris in 2005 the best part was the Louvre, The Mona Lisa..and the beer avec citron. I make it to this day here in South Carolina and people are always thrilled to partake in my Parisian specialty that I only unveil in the summer. My friends in the states call it my "summer beer" and it was at the Louvre that we first tasted this bit of heaven. Please cross your fingers that my dream of living in France comes true! I have always felt that we were going to meet, and I think I was right!!

so many layers of voyeurism here by adding the blog readers as well, very intriguing.

great post! catch her if you can ... ;)

Holy cow. That crowd is insane!!! I can't stop laughing at the crazy scene!!!

Corey - I have so missed coming to read your posts, as you are full of inspiration in the way you share life, stories, perspective. That is truly a gift! As so many people have said, you need to write a book -- the gift you have with words is truly amazing. Thank you for sharing your gift!

You know, I saw Monna Lisa at least three times and every time the painting disappointed me.....I'd rather look at the Delacroix painting standing on her left (at least it WAS, if they didn't change her place).....

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