Werner Ulrich's Home Page:  Picture of the Month

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October 2005

   Picture of the month











Paris for beginners (Part 2 of 2)  I said in Part 1 that I wanted to offer a few footnotes on Paris for beginners. The term "footnotes" was meant to convey a certain modesty of my undertaking, but it occurred to me that you may take it literally: my notes are footnotes because we mainly discovered Paris on foot. In fact, when I think of the city's many street cafés and parks, its surprisingly numerous bookshops and bakeries, and the plenty of other charming places it offers you for sitting down and just being (such as the chairs ready for anyone in the Jardin du Luxembourg), I suspect Paris is the world's most attractive metropolis for pedestrians. Paris est belle, especially on foot. Enjoy the second part of my footnotes – see you in Paris!


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Louvre - Probably the most famous museum of the world, I liked the Musée du Louvre both for its architecture and for its art exhibitions. The inner squares of the Louvre, particularly the large Cour Napoléon with the Glass Pyramid created by the Chinese-American architect Ieoh Ming Pei (inaugurated in 1989), are definitely worthwhile seeing, even if you do not plan to enter the museum. The PyramidBrilliant combination of Renaissance and modern architecture – a stroke of genius! After a day of extended walking in the city, how refreshing it is just to sit there quietly in face of the Pyramid, enjoying the relaxed ambience of the place in the evening sun!

The star of the Museum, of course, is the  blue01_next.gif Mona Lisa. Seeing her chop-chop does not take much more than, say, an hour, but better plan a full day to get a valid first impression of the Museum. Its permanent collections, divided into eight departments, comprise no less than 35,000 works of art displayed in some 60,000 square meters of exhibition space. Personally I regretted that the cut-off point for the permanent collections is 1848; more recent art is shown only in changing temporary exhibitions. .



La Joconde  Mona Lisa - It was kind of a battle to get half-way close to Leonardo da Vinci's famous painting, "La Jaconde" (la Giocanda), popularly known as the Mona Lisa (short form for "Madonna Lisa") and painted in the years 1503-06 or so. Probably the lady's true name was Lisa Gherardini, wife of Francesco del Giocondo, a Florentine silk merchant; but her identity is controversial. If the painting does indeed show La Gioconda, she would have been around 25 years of age when da Vinci painted her portrait.

The Museum apparently decided to let the crowds sort it out themselves who should have the right to get close to the painting and how long anyone should be allowed to occupy the precious space in front of it, according to the motto: survival of the fittest. Amazingly unorganized and chaotic – not exactly an opportunity for contemplating the beauty of the painting. On the positive side, the painting really is very special. It's worth battling for your right to see it! If you make it through the battle, you are rewarded not only by Lisa's enigmatic smile, but are even allowed to take photographs of her! What a pleasant difference to the majority of Museums where taking pictures is strictly forbidden. There are some plans to restrict photography in the Louvre, too, but I would suggest what should be restricted is not the right of taking pictures as such but only the use of flashlights.



Centre Pompidou - Inaugurated in 1977, this must be the most extrovert building of the world, although hardly the most beautiful one – some locals affectionately call it the "oil refinery." In any case, the idea of moving escalators, water pipes and air conditioning to the outside of the building, so as to save interior space for more productive use, is certainly original and makes for an interesting building, both inside and outside. In addition to a huge and popular public library that occupies three floors, as well as a bookshop, a movie theater and a panoramic terrace, the building hosts in floors 4 and 5 an excellent exhibition of contemporary art, the Musée National d'Art Moderne (MNAM), with some 45,000 works of artists such as Kandinsky, Matisse, Miró, Picasso, and many others. After the  blue01_next.gif Louvre, I needed that!

Encounter in the Centre Pompidou

Besides, the Pompidou Center offers an excellent view of the roofs of Paris, with the Eiffel tower and the  blue01_next.gif Montmartre in the background (see the picture under "Montmartre"). I also liked the ambiance of the square in front of the building, the Place Georges Pompidou, with its oversized ventilators and other installations belonging to the building, its street artists, and the neighboring Igor Stravinsky Square with the lively and original  blue01_next.gif Stravinsky fountain.



Stravinsky fountain by Niki de Saint-Phalle and Jean Tinguiely

Stravinski fountain - The first modern fountain of Paris. Situated on the Place Stravinsky in front of the  blue01_next.gif Centre Pompidou, this is a charming work of art created in 1982/83 by Niki de Saint-Phalle (1930-2002) and Jean Tinguely (1925-1991) in homage to Stravinsky's ballet "Le Sacre du Printemps." It features 16 mobile gargoyle figures in the unmistakable, nicely contrasting styles of the two artists.



Montmartre with Sacré Coeur as seen from the Centre Pompidou Montmartre -  It's a long and steep way up the stairs to the Montmartre neighborhood and to the Basilique du Sacré Coeur. Opinions differ about the artistic value of the Basilique, but its situation on top of the city and the near-by colorful Place du Tertre, where a few dozens would-be artists try to get the tourists to part with their money, are certainly worth discovering. The picture here was taken on a rainy day from the  blue01_next.gif Centre Pompidou.



Jardin du Luxembourg - In which other city can you go to a park and expect to find dozens (if not hundreds) of free chairs to sit down and relax, read a book, have a picnic, paint, or whatever? Here you can! After an extended walk through Saint-Germain-de-Prés and the Quartier Latin, my wife and I passed a leisurely hour sitting close to the water. "A day spent loitering here teaches you more about Paris and its inhabitants than many a scholarly tome," David Downie writes in Paris, Paris, Journey into the City of Light (Stuttgart, Germany: Transatlantic Press, 2005, Ch. 1).

The Luxembourg Gardens with the Panthéon in the background


Picnic - Heavily en vogue throughout the city, whether along the Seine River or in one of the many parks, street places, bridges.... blue01_next.gif Jardin du Luxembourg, blue01_next.gif Boulangéries.



Boulangéries - An indispensable element of the vie parisienne. They sell not only the mandatory croissants but also the equally unavoidable baguettes. There is no better way to illustrate the significance of getting your fresh baguette every morning and evening than by the beautiful photograph "Le petit Parisien," which Will Ronnis shot in 1952 and which is currently exposed as a poster close to the eastern entry of the Luxemburg Gardens. I love this picture. Its deeper mystery for me is that le petit Parisien strikingly resembles the little boy I was some 50+ years ago (roll your mouse over the picture to see that other little boy).

October 2005

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October, 2005



October 2005 - 'Le petit Parisien' (Will Ronnis, 1952) 




 «Le petit Parisien» (roll over)
Poster by Will Ronnis,1952, at the eastern entry of the Jardin du Luxembourg




"Cette ville est un autre monde.

Dedans, un monde florissant,
En peuples et en biens puissants

Que de toutes choses abonde."

(This city is another world / Therein a flowerful world / Of people very powerful / To whom all things abound)

Inscription in the Plan de Merian (1616),
a medieval map of Paris by Matheus Merian Basiliensis


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Last updated 6 Dec 2009 (layout) and 15 July 2007 (roll-over picture added; first published 2 Oct 2005)


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