Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Louvre's Cour Napoléon

As you walk through the Cour Napoléon (or central courtyard) at the Louvre, you soon appreciate that it is surprisingly large, for it covers 7 acres of land 'nestled' between the wings of the former palace.  The perfect proportions of the palace repeatedly trick the approaching eye into thinking "we are almost there".  One can only marvel that Louis XIV fervently wished to live elsewhere.  On this day's stroll, I particularly enjoyed the various grand carriage entrances.  Formerly formidably guarded by iron gates and soldiers, it was interesting to see at least one entrance being gated as evening began to fall on that overcast day.

First, a reminder of how large this former palace still is, as seen in the distance from the Arc de Triomphe, while looking down the famed Champs-Élysée.

As we look around while standing in the royal courtyard, now paved with roughly-cut stones, we see the careful use of geometric forms in this wing of the palace and the classical clarity of form, to which enthusiastic Baroque details have been added.

I will probably never come to peace with the 71-foot glass pyramid designed by I. M. Pei, the highly controversial Egyptian-like structure that has been plunked down in the very centre of the courtyard.  I cannot tell you how utterly this 20th-century monstrosity has ruined the very sense of space and balance in this grand courtyard, and how badly it clashes with the architectural spirit of the surrounding palace.  I try to avert my eyes from this glass intrusion whenever I visit the Louvre, and I will even walk additional minutes in order to enter the museum by other points of access.  But there it is, seen from the courtyard itself, from outside the palace and even from within.  Some photographers have learned to enjoy the pyramid's reflections, and perhaps I should try that approach (or sign up for therapy sessions).  I should add that I was fortunately able to spend many hours in the courtyard in the 1970's before construction on the pyramid commenced.

The next two photos show the type of delightful opportunity that only occasionally unfolds for a street photographer.  Here we see a Damsel-in-distress, for her shoes have proven to be more fashionable than usable, particularly on these uneven paving stones.

 Fortunately, this damsel has her own private Knight-in-shining-armor. 

As I leave the Louvre, in my imagination by either horse or carriage, I enter the exterior world of the right bank, the former centre for the city's commerce.