Let's face it, the Louvre is overrated. Oh sure, it's the largest museum in the world, but all that means is that there are a lot of paintings in it that you'll never see. After an hour of contemplating of "important works of art" by a bunch of geezers you've never heard of and whose favorite color was brown, you'll do what everyone else does and make a bee-line to the most famous things in the museum: the Winged Victory and the Mona Lisa. And I ask you, "Why bother?"
The Winged Victory is a statue that's missing its arms and head. That's like a version of Hamlet that's missing Acts Two and Five. (Actually, that may not be such a bad idea now that I think about it...) Just how are we supposed judge how impressive Winged Victory really is? What if the statue is actually immortalizing a famous Hellenic cross-dresser and in its original form had disturbingly large hands, an Adams apple the size of a golf ball, and a five o'clock shadow that you could use to scrape barnacles off a ship? Everyone tells me how beautiful the statue is, but I'll just withhold my opinion until the missing pieces are found, okay? If it turns out that Venus is really "Vinnie", I won't be the one that's backpedalling at a 1000 miles per hour.
And as long we're being honest here, I have to admit that I've never seen what the big hoopla was over the Mona Lisa either. I mean, it's okay and all that, but it's not like anyone has a copy of it hanging in their living room, so just how good could it be? I guess some people are enthralled with Mona's "mysterious" smile, but for all we know Leonardo captured the precise moment when he told her the "Do you have Prince Albert in a can?" joke. And for that it's behind bullet-proof glass?
At least the Mona Lisa doesn't have any angels in it. New-age Californian housewives can't hold a candle to the guy who acquires paintings for the Louvre in terms of fascination with angels. The angel-to-painting ratio in the Louvre must be better than five to one. I imagine that selling paintings to the Louvre probably goes something like this:
Art Dealer: "I have acquired a rare 15th century masterpiece by the famous Italian painter, Michelangelo "The Squid" De Capricorni. I will sell it to you for a gazillion dollars."
Louvre Art Guy: "How many angels does it have?"
Art Dealer: "Forty-seven."
Louvre Art Guy: "Hot diggity! What color is it?"
Art Dealer: "Brown, and I'll throw in the frame free of charge."
Louvre Art Guy: "Sold!"
* * *
If you have to go to a museum in Paris, go to the Museum D'Orsay. Like the Louvre, the Museum D'Orsay has far too many paintings to take in at once -- your brain will glaze over before you're done with the first floor -- but it houses the works of the Impressionists so at least the paintings are pretty. The building itself is just fun to wander around in, too. D'Orsay is a renovated train station that's complete with the obligatory "big clock". However, I feel that I must warn you not to get your hopes up -- I've been to all five levels of the museum and there's no sign of the most important work of art known to mankind: "Dogs Playing Poker" by C. M. Coolidge.
Of course, true art aficionados know that there are actually several paintings in the "Dogs Playing Poker" series, perhaps the most famous of them being, "A Friend in Need". That's the painting where a bulldog is slipping another dog an Ace under the table with his toes. But whether you favor "A Friend in Need" or "A Bold Bluff" (where a cigar-smoking St. Bernard is attempting to win a huge pot with only a pair of dueces -- a bold move indeed!), the point is that, sadly, none of Mr. Coolidge's works are on display at the Museum D'Orsay. (Although I'm willing to bet that the curator has a couple of nicely framed prints in his office.)
My advice to you is to skip the museums altogether and get a bite to eat instead. With the money you saved on admission and impulse purchases in the gift shop, you can buy a 100% cotton tapestry of "A Friend in Need" -- complete with metal rod! -- at this artistically relevant site. Now that's something you'd be proud to hang in the living room.
Dan writes a weekly humor column called Tomfoolery & Codswallop. You can visit Dan's website where he welcomes your comments and suggestions for future columns.
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