Three Weeks in Europe: It’s All About the Louvre

Painter at the Louvre
This was my third visit to the Louvre. I remember the first time I got busted by a security guard for snapping a photo of The Mona Lisa. That was years ago, and on this most recent visit, Ms. Mona had relocated to her own space in the Salle des Etats. The lines to see her were horrendous, and I’m not a big fan of standing on line.

What I was anxious to see were the copy artists at work. Several days before, I had met one of them, who is from Seattle, Washington. Jane Hyde is one of 160 copyists authorized by the Louvre to “copy” paintings. You’ll see these artists scattered around the Louvre: young and old, male and female, all with their easels parked in front of a particular painting. Feel free to go up and chat with them, but ask first, of course.

On this particular April morning, Jane is busy copying Jean-Simeon Chardin’s Le Buffet. Chardin was an artist in Paris from 1699-1779, and this is Louvre painting #8936. Jane started it on March 30, 2006 and has three months to complete it. “You’re not here to draw, but to paint,” she explained.

There are throngs of people at the Louvre these days, many here to see the settings of Dan Brown’s bestseller The Da Vinci Code. Last year, 7.5 million people made the pilgrimage to this behemoth palace of fine art. Sandy and I walked around and ended up in one of the museum’s cafes, dining on packaged cheese and bottled water (and getting kicked out of the “kids” section).

I was surprised that in addition to the usual museum shops, there are now chain stores at the Louvre, including Esprit and a Virgin Megastore. Plus Sephora. No surprise there, as the beauty-retail chain was founded in France in 1969, and has 15 retail shops in Paris alone.

So here I am, shopping at Sephora instead of gazing at the 300,000 artworks in the Louvre. I even purchased a fragrance, Giorgio Armani’s Code Pour Femme. I have no idea if it was coined Code due to the blockbuster book and movie. What lured me in was its description as a “fresh, sexy, feminine blend of zesty blood orange, ginger, and pear sorbet softened with hints of sambac jasmine, orange blossom, and lavender honey, warmed with precious woods and vanilla.”

How much more Parisian can you get?

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