On a short layover in Paris, short being more than 5 days, layover being Christmas and Paris being home - I ditched the family's yearly nap after some long winter lunch and I went to the Louvre.
The Louvre museum is the grandest and largest cultural space in the world. In the womb of Paris, near the river Seine, it is nestled in the past castle of the french royalty. Every aisle, every floor, including underground levels are crammed in artistic records of mostly every civilization through time and crafts. From Mesopotamia, cradle of humanity to - the collections go on and on.
Previously called Loewe, the location was a watchtower for the Francs invaders to look over the Celts who had installed themselves on the two islands of the city. The Parisii lived and thrived in BC until the Romans arrived.
The foundation of my identity were keen to review different lineages. Roots of a city under the foundation of the castle. Roots of a people, fighting and ready to fight. With an array of Gods and Goddesses from the Celtic descent. Not far from the Greek ones.
The Louvre museum is my annual rendez-vous with my dreams and aspirations. It is an extreme luxury to be able to make this event happen so often. Coming and going in the nest of my explorations as a younger girl. In the alleys in which I catch divine manifestation, in which inspiration flirts with my blood and make us go boiling.
Time is short and contained, a day is worth a lot in the Louvre.
I have to fill my cerebral storage with beauty, and my heart with love. All faces, sculpted out of white marbles shining under the crisp European winter light or oil paint reliefs reflecting museum light were a collection lf friends I have more or less forgotten. Surging into my memory, afternoons drawing Egyptian mummies and wandering in the dungeon alleys of the foundation of the castle. Afternoons being under the drastic rhythm of the adult guardian who had taken me there.
Now I could pick and choose, stay an hour gazing at the same portrait or skipping all together the roman statuettes anthology.
This is how I met someone I don’t remember the name of, or I never knew.
Having fun in the emerald painted rooms of Egyptian and roman statuettes, the ones I had skipped so many times over, I heard a museum guard shout out quite loudly. Typical french old man, banging on about whatever, but he was talking to a poor tourist, dumbfounded by the tone of the man. As she quickly exited the place under his directives to a specific piece of art, I got curious and addressed the man. “What is your favorite piece in here?”. I don’t know my motive there, but every time I’m back in a country I speak the language of, I grow unbearably needy. I want to make a connection with multiple strangers over my day. Those short moments of surprise and possibility are always a treasure, and they make for a good story.
This man totally lost his features control, and this time, he was the one dumbfounded. I was familiar, but respectful. This is unlikely in France. We don’t strive to connect with the stranger, with the unknown. Human nature, see.
And so, he replied curtly “but the Venus of Milo, of course”. There. I got a good fish on my rod.
After a short breath, he went on and on, more familiar than I had allowed myself to be, he rose his voice and went on about his extreme admiration for the lady. The statue being an antiquity celibrity, a marble rendering of the goddess Venus, of extreme beauty and famous for not having any arms, lost somewhere between the centuries and milleniums separating from her birth to her station now, in the heart of the Louvre.
He didn’t talk about the statue as if it was a statue, no, she was beyond her marble framing.
The man described her in the light of the morning, in the different seasons, in the apparat she captured as the red marble walls around her gave her tone of flushing.
Quickly the words he used wore allures of romantic love. He was taken with her.
The heart beating under his chest had been a witness to her beauty for over 15 years.
“I was assigned to her room, you know. Fifteen years of gazing at her..” but the nostalgia made his eyes look to the floor. He was repentant, and prone to a deep injustice. I listen and even though thousands of mismatched words want to form a question under my tongue, I can’t. Suddenly the empathy I feel for this old man is too much for me to act as my own. I become an extension of his sadness and lost love.
Her representation wasn’t of a young girl. She was bony, she was full, she was voluptuous. All the strength a woman could be. She had surprised me, as well. A matron, a mother, a crone. In her, I could see she had been born of the leg of Zeus, father of the Gods.
A protector of love, the divine made flesh, as her skin is veined with strength and looks at times ethereally human.
I love her, as well. It’s quite impossible to not be. Circling the 360° of her reality, she is a symphony of flesh.
Missing limbs that would create harmony, she is above and beyond.
“What happened is that pickpockets came and did a number under her eyes. They were stealing, stealing from tourists and I got mad.”
This routine happening didn’t quite do with the old man who I can hear already shouted and lost himself in the crowd, defending the gazers, attacking the thieves. Since then, he said, he was moved to another room, where he’d be less sentimental. The emerald rooms of the Roman clay statuettes. The downfall of the Roman empire, the less-than art. Here, the different pots and human representations are funny. They dance as their contours are rough and their silhouettes resembles one another without gender or age distinction. Between his room of one woman, and those of thousands, he was in company of the Gods, now the people. And that didn’t do.
As I left his new compartments, I imagine the life of the man. Such a routine,
Rising up every day to go to the Louvre, he’d don his daily suit and comfortable loafers for the museum. Ceremoniously, he’d cross the city, or its suburbs via the metro and catch the first light of the day. There, he wouldn’t be mistaken on the century, frothing shoulders with the common people - of his country.
On a normal day, he stood up without sitting down, for hours on end. For 15 years, separating the body from his mind’s activity. Busy building dreams and shafts of impressions, he’d rely on the light to cast colours in his heart.
As he woke every morning, he’d wake her up and bid her to sleep every night.
To be the guard, the protector of the woman of everyone’s dream.
Anyone reaching out to cross the line would be admonished for their actions. In this room, his authority reigned. Raising his voice, the small man experiments with power from significant looks to carefully chosen words in all the languages. His watch never missed a gesture, never allowed a soliloquy.
The rules were strict. No touching. And as people moved to and fro around his Venus, they could only touch with their eyes, like him. Recording here and there pieces of memories with manipulated flash photography.
Where the woman stood, many reactions were created as her visitors toured. Our man would gauge them and review with care her influence. Adoration, surprise or ignorance. A variety of human emotions for a goddess.
He kept his watch.
Both the master of her, and his subdued servant.
15 years with a silent humanoid. 15 years with empty pupils. 15 years with a 2 meter high goddess. 15 years in unrequited love with an “object”.
From her greek island of Melos, the woman had travelled time and space. As her unearthing and discovery was helped by the Frenchs, she was gifted to Louis the XVIII two centuries ago. The now 2150-something years old Antiquity was standing under the air conditioning of a french castle. Loved by many, adored by one, celebrated by the arts for her perfect imperfection.
The lady without limbs was a fame. She stood higher than us, and gazed into the long hallway.
But now, her guard had changed.
A little feeling tells me they meet still. As he clocks out of work, he meander her apartments, a few words of silence at her, and as he turns for the door, her unapparent arms reach out mid-air for an embrace he will never receive.