Our third day in Paris was one of those days that we usually say we will never do, completely full from start to finish. The first stop was The Louvre and as one would expect, it was packed. We decided on a whirlwind tour where we agreed to hit the big three.
The Winged Victory of Samothrace:
The product of an unknown sculptor, presumably of Rhodian origin, the Victory is believed to date to between 220 and 190 BC. When first discovered on the island of Samothrace (in Greek, Σαμοθρακη — Samothraki) and published in 1863 it was suggested that the Victory was erected by the Macedonian general Demetrius I Poliorcetes after his naval victory at Cyprus between 295 and 289 BC. The Samothrace Archaeological Museum continues to follow these originally established provenance and dates. Ceramic evidence discovered in recent excavations has revealed that the pedestal was set up about 200 BC, though some scholars still date it as early as 250 BC or as late as 180. Certainly, the parallels with figures and drapery from the Pergamon Altar (dated about 170 BC) seem strong.
In April 1863, the Victory was discovered by the French consul and amateur archaeologist Charles Champoiseau, who sent it to Paris in the same year. The statue has been reassembled in stages since its discovery. The prow was reconstructed from marble debris at the site by Champoiseau in 1879 and assembled in situ before being shipped to Paris. Since 1884 it has dominated the Daru staircase. displayed in the Louvre, while a plaster replica stands in the museum at the original location of the Sanctuary of the Great Gods on Samothrace. The discovery in 1948 of the hand raised in salute, which matched a fragment in Vienna, established the modern reconstruction — without trumpet — of the hand raised in epiphanic greeting.
Venus de Milo. A fascinating history:
The Venus de Milo was discovered by a peasant named Yorgos Kentrotas in 1820, inside a buried niche within the ancient city ruins of Milos, on the Aegean island of Milos, (also Melos or Milo). The statue was found in two main pieces (the upper torso and the lower draped legs) along with several herms (pillars topped with heads), fragments of the upper left arm and left hand holding an apple, and an inscribed plinth. Olivier Voutier, a French naval officer, was exploring the island. With the help of the young farmer, Voutier began to dig around what were clearly ancient ruins. Within a few hours Voutier had uncovered a piece of art that would become renowned throughout the world. About ten days later, another French naval officer, Jules Dumont d’Urville, recognized its significance and arranged for a purchase by the French ambassador to Turkey, Charles-François de Riffardeau, marquis, later duc de Rivière.
Twelve days out of Touloun the ship was anchored off the island of Melos. Ashore, d’Urville and [fellow officer] Matterer met a Greek peasant, who a few days earlier while ploughing had uncovered blocks of marble and a statue in two pieces, which he offered cheaply to the two young men. It was of a naked woman with an apple in her raised left hand, the right hand holding a draped sash falling from hips to feet, both hands damaged and separated from the body. Even with a broken nose, the face was beautiful. D’Urville the classicist recognized the Venus of the Judgement of Paris. It was, of course, the Venus de Milo. He was eager to acquire it, but his practical captain, apparently uninterested in antiquities, said there was nowhere to store it on the ship, so the transaction lapsed. The tenacious d’Urville on arrival at Constantinople showed the sketches he had made to the French ambassador, the Marquis de Riviére, who sent his secretary in a French Navy vessel to buy it for France. Before he could take delivery, French sailors had to fight Greek brigands for possession. In the mêlée the statue was roughly dragged across rocks to the ship, breaking off both arms, and the sailors refused to go back to search for them.
News of the discovery took longer than normal to get to the French ambassador. The peasant grew tired of waiting for payment and was pressured into selling to a local priest, who planned to present the statue as a gift to a translator working for the Sultan in Constantinople (present day Istanbul, Turkey).
The French ambassador’s representative arrived just as the statue was being loaded aboard a ship bound for Constantinople and persuaded the island’s chief citizens to annul the sale and honor the first offer.
Upon learning of the reversal of the sale, the translator had the chiefs whipped and fined but was eventually reprimanded by the Sultan after the French ambassador complained to him about the mistreatment of the island citizenry. The citizens were reimbursed and ceded all future claims to the statue in gratitude.
And last but not least, the Mona Lisa: which was protected by glass as it has been vandalized twice (acid thrown on it once, a rock another time).
We did not have a lot of time (and it was just too busy), and we passed by a thousand great pieces (which means we definitely need to go back). One noteworthy part for me was when we passed the Greek and Egyptian displays (having been there, we skipped past). It left me reflecting upon the comments of our guides in those countries and how their history no longer belonged to them. Each went on to explain how large parts of their history is in the museums of the world (Britain and England in particular). Consider the following ….
From the Parthenon in Athens, hundreds of statues were taken (the second picture being where this would reside had it been left behind):
A sphinx …. (well over 6 feet high):
Of course. You need to look up. This is just the roof …
How it looks before they go on display:
And that was just the morning.