This post about the royal palace of Fontainebleau and that extended wing of the Louvre called the Musee des Arts Decoratifs has, I would think, an unexpected title. It expresses a strategy that I use when I am out and about: the larger the place, the more one should concentrate on the small stuff. I am looking for the real spirit of the place, the times and the people, and it can often be found in those small things.
We have been visiting the past and especially the seventeenth century. We drove out to Fontainebleau on the weekend, another field trip to the past, and a stellar opportunity to bone up on the history of French monarchy. Napoleon (there’s a joke here – Bone up, “Boney”, but I can’t think what it is) who had his pick of the French royal abodes, spent a lot of time there and called it, “The true home of kings.” Indeed French royals lived there continuously from the 12th c. to the end of the 19th.
Here, at Fontainebleau, is Napoleon’s throne room. Grand, no? Does it speak to you of the time, the man? In a way. But what about this?
In terms of materials, this hat and coat may be amongst the least precious objects at Fontainebleau. But they summon the man with a wrenching immediacy. As does his campaign bed. He spent far too much time on it.
Grand spaces abound at Fontainebleau.
Francois I (same period as England’s Henry VIII) built this massive ballroom. For some reason, he believed that he had to reinforce the grand gesture with a series of small ones.
Royal initials are everywhere, inside and out. Kingly graffiti. Massive egos? I think so.
Everywhere at Fontainebleau, small things draw the eye.
Beautifully patinated balusters.
Everything not carved is painted. Doesn’t she look like the Mona Lisa?
A small fresco, so very lovely, so easy to overlook in the context of the space it is in, below, the Chapel of the Trinity, Fontainebleau.
Outside, is a massive park with statuary.
But the moss and lichen-covered railings speak of time’s passage even more eloquently.
On to more time travel and a first visit – to the Musee des Arts Decoratifs – housed in a wing of the Louvre. At first, it didn’t seem that different from the Louvre proper. Lots of Fine Art is there.
For example, this Gauguin, presented absolutely without fuss. “Wow'” I thought. “That painter is a lot like Gauguin. Oh. That painter IS Gauguin.”
Fabulous sculpture, isn’t it. Takes the gallic shrug to a new level.
Let’s look again for the small stuff.
Marquetry. Painting with wood. What mastery.
My favourite gallery: 17th century chairs. Each a perfect, small sculpture.
When Alan saw me kneeling on the floor to photograph this one, he said, “You really ARE a girl, aren’t you?” He noticed.
We often hear that the devil is in the details. But I would side with the great Vladimir Nabokov who wrote, “there is no delight without the detail” (thanks Tom).