13 degrees Celsius. Wet soggy towels seems to be hovering overhead, threatening to send showers down. But there’s no dampening my spirits when it comes to the Musée d’Orsay. It’s about the only place that excites me in the entire Paris. I don’t like Paris much.
It’s a fact that irks many Parisian and acquaintances with Parisian partners. Surely I am allowed my opinion; more so when I’ve ‘earned’ the right to, by way of being mugged in Pigalle.
Situated on the left bank of the Seine River, the Musée d’Orsay is housed in the old Gare d’Orsay, a Beaux-Arts railway station built between 1898 to 1900. This lends it an interesting architecture to boast about with it being a backdrop for Kafka’s ‘The Trial’ (der Process) after it ceased to cater for its intentional purpose with platforms that were too short to cater for better, newer and longer trains in 1939.
Aside from the fact that I am drawn to Kafka, the Musée d’Orsay steel-and-glass roof structure and the over photographed Musée d’Orsay clock by Victor Laloux is truly breathtaking … and well, it begs to be photographed! despite multiple signboards spotting a red line across a camera icon.
A half way house between modern art and the Renaissance era, the Musée d’Orsay has an impressive collection of impressionists and neo-impressionist works such as those by Monet, Degas, Gauguin, Manet, Van Gogh, Rodin, Cézanne, Renoir and the unforgettable Lady of Liberty and Francois Pompon‘s Ours Blanc.
With these many big names and varied subjects being drawn; i.e. not another biblical scene interpreted by another student or peer of the four mutant ninja turtles name-alike – Michelangelo, Leonardo, Raphael, Donatello – Botticelli, Caravaggio (whom I think is sexy in the dark ages cave man way), Veronese, Giotto … etc., you are bound to be entertained and enthralled depending on your preferences for subjects.
Coupled by the fact that with an average of 30+ pieces of collection by Renoir, Degas, Monet and Van Gogh each, you are guaranteed to recognize at least a dozen or more of them, with smug satisfaction of knowing that you are after all cultured and informed of the finer things in life!
This does not mean that I am in any way suggesting that the Musée d’Orsay is the best museum in France, or even Paris, and that you should give the Louvre a miss.
The Louvre is the world’s most popular and most visited museum in the world, receiving an average of 9 million visitors a year. Hosted in chateau, hence it’s name Palais du Louvre, which was initially built as a fortress by Phillip II, the Louvre has over 380,000 objects and 35,000 art works from pre-historic times to the 21st Century on display, with the Leonardo’s Mona Lisa being the main attraction – who claimed notoriety due to Dan Brown’s frictional novel the “Da Vinci Code“, followed by the popular Venus of Milo.
Spread over an area of 652,000 square feet, a visitor who covers all its eight curated departments would have walked a total of approximately 20 kilometres! Stretching the hypothesis further, if a person were to view every item on display for 3 minutes, it will take him/ her slightly over 7 years, 8-hours a day, every day. Factor in comfort breaks, and time to walk from on exhibit to the other … you get the drift and find yourself secretly thanking Jean-Luc Martinez and his team for storing the other remaining 410,000 art works in the cellar!
The Louvre is truly remarkably impressive.
Heck! If I’m told to describe it in one word, it would be “big”.
Two words? “overwhelmingly big”.
Hence, from a personal stand point, the Musée d’Orsay is my favorite; it’s small, the concentration of renowned works is very high, I get a rush sticking my nose 12″ away from Monet’s Rouen Cathedral (an act that would trigger shrills of alarm if it had been the Mona Lisa) and witness the painting dissolved into dried mashed potato paste look-alike, followed by close scrutiny of Degas’ controversial Little Dancer of Fourteen Years which is at least 150 times larger than what I had imagined it to be based on a bronze replica I grew up looking at in the 1990s sitting dustily in a corner of my home.
The expectation vs. reality however had a reverse effect on me with regards to the Mona Lisa, which I had expected to be at least 75% larger.
On retrospect, it probably is the size I had imagined it to be, but the appearance being seemingly smaller due to perspective; i.e. one has to view it at a vast distance with a red rope and a clear perspex glass in the way, followed by it being placed at the direct opposite end of the Louvre’s largest painting – The Wedding Feast of Cana – back in the day when I viewed both the paintings for the first time where a private room had not been allocated to the Mona Lisa yet.
Being a quality over quantity type of person, the Musée d’Orsay trumps over the Louvre for me. Frankly, it saves me the anguish of trying not to loathe the 103rd Roman pillar I walk pass in the Louvre without giving it so much of a quick glance from the corner of my eyes for fear of cultivating a migraine or squinted eyes!