Monday, November 24, 2008

Mystery, Masks and Music at Musée d'Orsay

Today the letter M is going to work its 'magic' while we make our way through the Musée d'Orsay.  Several exhibits that are happening as we speak are worth a trip to my favorite museum in the city.  Mystery, Masks and Music.  Let's get moving!

Manet's Portrait of Irma Brunner

Mystery and Glitter is the first exhibit we're going to that takes a look into the world of Pastels.  These pigmented powders, shaped into sticks held together by chalky water and a binder go back as far as being mentioned by Leonardo da Vinci in 1495.  In the late 18th century, pastels became popular among portraitists who were able to manipulate this medium allowing them to produce incredible detail, texture and skin tone that mystified and delighted the aristocrats who were being 'pasteled'.   Degas and Manet took this art form to great heights: Degas through his revelation of dancers in unexpected lighting and perspective and Manet in his beautiful portraits.  These works will captivate you leaving you to wonder how one could work with a substance so powdery and create such amazing detail.  The lighting captured by Degas will have you believing the shadows in his works are coming from lighting the museum has created.   

Degas' Dancers

Masks, whether for protection, performance or ceremony, have played a role in revealing mans stories and history forever.  Think tribal masks from Africa or pre-Columbian masks used for Christian rituals. Or perhaps carnival masks in Venice or those worn to masked balls held throughout Paris.  When you think about it, all cultures can be traced to having used some form of masks.  Looked at from that point of view, they are objects which deal with identity--or the temporary loss of it either ritually or spiritually.  

The Musée d'Orsay has brought together a collection spanning the globe to illustrate just how universal this art form is.  Through photography, graphics, bronze castings and stone, the mask is exposed in forms grotesque, decorative and as portraiture.  Indeed, an interesting study on how history has provided man with ways to lose, or perhaps, find him/herself.
Last, but certainly not least, between now and June of 2009, the museum is hosting lunch time concerts, free to the public, that juxtapose one art form in the setting of another. Nineteen different concerts have been planned, bringing in both amateurs and professionals whose repertoires range from Romantic music to French Chansons.  If that isn't something you can make happen, perhaps you can get to the museum this Tuesday evening as the Grand Hall will be the setting for a performance by the Orchestre national de France.  I have not been, but can only imagine how incredible an experience that will be.  So hope you are in Paris right now to take advantage of that!

Additional information:  Musée d'Orsay 
                                            Metro:  Solférino, Assemblée Nationale
                                            Closed Mondays
                                            Pastels in the Musée and Masks, now thru Feb. 1, 2009

Photo credit:  Musée d'Orsay, natalamc@flickr


The Antiques Diva™ said...

Bonjour Kim - Congratulations! You just won a blog award on my site!!
The Antiques Diva

Kim said...

WOW!! What a wonderful honor as I check to read what is going on in your world all the time. Thank you so much and I will certainly respond in a way that reflects the wonderful job you just did passing the award along. Thank you so much--you made a rainy Monday a whole lot brighter!!

Phivos Nicolaides said...

Congratulations Kim. Our friend Diva is very special and large!

Kim said...

I must visit you and wish you congrats as well. It is because of you that we all know one another. Thank you Philip!!