This was a two-museum day. Time here is short (I leave Wednesday for my conference in Belgium) so one must make haste, slowly, to get a little kultchah.
After lunch I found myself heading to the Cluny museum, which was just minutes away and where I'd been thinking of going since yesterday. Or longer. I don't think I had been during any of my adult visits. It's Paris's medieval museum and also is adjacent to the ruins of the Roman baths --you visit the one on the same ticket as the other-- and since I now teach history of Christianity with a serious segment on 12th century Europe, this was a must.
The most amusing part of a visit full of items related to religious devotion plus a few devoted to war was a set of tiny pendants or pins --jewelry of some kind-- which alas I cannot describe because it would draw all manner of undesirables to the blog, but let me say that our medieval forebears may have fasted during Lent and sculpted the Last Judgment on the portals of their cathedrals and feared for the lives of their immortal souls, but they were a randy bunch, and you have no idea of some of the explicit depictions they made. They didn't teach us about that in school.
Yes, I also saw amazing tapestries and statues and tiles and fabric from medieval Spain that showed a lot of Moorish influence and ivory and and stained glass and wood and metal portable altars and reredoses (reredoi? reredoodles?), oh my.
The museum happens to be located in a not too shabby 15th century building which was the Cluniac monks' little Parisian pied-à-terre.
It was after that bit of overstimulation that I headed for the quiet of the Ile Saint-Louis and the Berthillon sorbets. (See below.)
After which it was time for a little something more modern, which I would have saved for tomorrow except that most museums in Paris are closed on Tuesdays. Off I went, still on foot --it was a long walking day-- to the Pompidou Center, a.k.a. Beaubourg (see discussion on nomenclature below), which has an exhibit on the sculptor Alberto Giacometti.
Beaubourg is a monstrosity. I mean, it really does look like a heating plant. But it's a fabulous museum, even if the signage inside is lousy and I got lost twice on the way to the exhibit. And what no one had told me and I had never read anywhere is that the view from the 6th floor (where the exhibit was), at least from the balcony and walkways, is one of the most spectacular in all of Paris on a clear night. And this was a clear night. (The museum has evening hours.) You can see every major building illuminated, clear across the night sky, including both the ugly ones (or the ones Parisians think are mostly ugly tourist traps, like the Sacré-Coeur and the Eiffel Tower) and the beautiful old ones like the Invalides (where Napoleon's tomb is) and the nearby Tour Saint-Jacques and Notre-Dame and the ugliest building in the city, the Tour Montparnasse, which was an accident of urban planning and sticks out like a square sore thumb on the urban landscape. Directly across from Beaubourg are traditional old --or restored-- five- or six-story buildings with the mansard windows so characteristic of the city. Some architect knew what s/he was doing with that sixth-floor glass-enclosed walkway.
It's still ugly from outside, though. But it works.
As for Giacometti, I have always liked him, and I continue to be amazed at how much emotion and detail his thin, compressed sculptures convey. I also love his face. There was a whole room in the exhibit devoted to photographs of him. All the major photographers of the 20th century seem to have taken portraits of him: Man Ray, Brassaï, Gordon Parks, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Inge Morath. He had a beautiful, mobile, sculptured face.
He also made sketches and a tiny bust of Simone de Beauvoir. Who knew? Sketches of Sartre also, but no bust, at least none in the exhibit.
I like his cat: