offending women and meddling authoritarian figures

Two startling events occurred within the same week in France, and they both involved meddling authoritarian figures who tried and failed, thank goodness, to monitor, humiliate and discipline two women for two entirely different (and ludicrous) reasons.

Two days ago, a French woman named Jeanne was barred from entering the famous Musée d’Orsay art museum. Why? Too much cleavage. That’s right. A portion of her boobs was showing. This in a world-class museum that hangs famous paintings of naked women and men on its walls (Degas, Renoir, Manet.) I was not aware that in France women’s bodies were regulated and condemned in this way. Where are we? In Saudi Arabia? This is a slippery slope that needs to be stopped in its tracks. Next thing you know, Jeanne will be needing a male guardian to accompany her while she wears an abaya (I’m exaggerating to make a point.)

When will authority figures leave women (and their bodies) alone?

To be fair, it was not the fault of the Musée d’Orsay, but rather one individual, a ticket agent, who happened to be a woman. Two other agents intervened, one of them a security guard, who defended their colleague. A security guard? Was this a terrorist situation? Were Jeanne’s breasts a potential security threat? The absurdity! The situation got out of hand, Jeanne stood her ground, and a compromise was made: if she put on her jacket to cover her offending bosoms, then she’d be let in. Needless to say, the incident went viral, the Musée d’Orsay became a laughingstock, and someone from the Communications Department pinned the following tweet on their official Twitter Page –

Nous avons pris connaissance d’un incident survenu avec une visiteuse lors de son accès au musée d’Orsay. Nous le regrettons profondément et présentons toutes nos excuses à la personne concernée que nous contactons.

We learned of an incident that occurred with a visitor when she entered the Musée d’Orsay. We deeply regret this and offer our apologies to the person concerned that we contact.

A museum official then telephoned Jeanne to give what she called “a very sincere apology.” Jeanne said she was satisfied with the phone call, but the museum’s brief tweet failed to recognise the “sexist and discriminatory” nature of what happened.

As for me, I’m thinking: (a) how did the museum official get Jeanne’s phone number? (b) for someone who works in the Communications Department of a world-class museum, he or she can’t write very well; (c) as a goodwill gesture for the trouble caused, Jeanne should have been offered a free pass; and (d) I hope those agents are not only reprimanded but reminded that we do not live under a repressive authoritarian regime but in France whose national motto is Liberté, égalité, fraternité!

Here’s Jeanne and her offending breasts, hours before heading off to the Musée d’Orsay. Love the restaurant!

A second incident occurred involving a different woman (an author in Lille) and yet another meddling authoritarian figure. I’ll write about that in my next post.

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two new art exhibitions in Paris – Florentine portraits from the Court of the Medici and Prostitution in 19th century Paris

Art Exhibition at the Musée Jacquemart-André on the boulevard Haussmann, Paris

 11 Sept. 2015 to 25 Jan. 2016

Judith and her Maidservant, 1613–14, Oil on canvas, Palazzo Pitti, Florence

Judith and her Maidservant, 1613–14, Oil on canvas, Palazzo Pitti, Florence

This exhibition is huge.  It’s imperative that you buy your tickets in advance.  You should also anticipate long lines and crowds.  If you’re wondering whose head is in the basket pictured above, it’s Holofernes, an Assyrian general who was about to destroy Judith’s home of Bethulia, a fictitious Israelite town.

The small and intimate Jacquemart-André museum is located in central Paris on the leafy Haussmann Boulevard in the 8th arrondissement.  There’s a gorgeous restaurant and tea salon on the premises.  But it might be packed, so be forewarned.

The route through the exhibition will be split into five sections built around a thematic history of portraiture in Florence in the golden age of the Medici (1512-1599).

This exhibition has benefited from an extraordinary partnership with the Museums of Florence. Other renowned international museum institutions and exceptional collections such as the Royal Collection (London), the Louvre (Paris) and even the Städel Museum (Frankfurt) are also supporting this event with remarkable loans.

Great painters such as Rosso Fiorentino, Andrea del Sarto, Alessandro Allori, Francesco Salviati, Pontormo and Bronzino will be the emblematic figures of this history of the portrait through some forty paintings.

Here below is a dazzling portrait painted by one of my favourite Florentine artists, Alessandro Allori (1535– 1607).  The subject is Maria de Medici, sixth daughter of Francesco I de Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany and Archduchess Joanna of Austria. 

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Alessandro Allori

Born in Florence at the Palazzo Pitti on April 26, 1575, Maria  was one of seven children.  Her youth unfolded between the Pitti Palace, the Boboli Gardens, the villa at Pratolino and other Medici residences.  Music and painting lessons, devotional practices and sumptuous dresses were her interests.  In October 1600 at the age of 25, she married Henry IV of France. Her eldest son, the future King Louis XIII, was born at Fontainebleau the following year.  Maria was crowned Queen of France in 1610, a day before her husband was assassinated by a fanatical Catholic named François Ravaillac.  She later travelled to Cologne and died there at the age of 62.  She’s buried in the Basilica of St Denis in the north of Paris.

This exhibition will offer a panorama of Florentine portraiture in the 16th century with all its main themes and stylistic transformations. Through the eyes of the painters experimenting with new ways of representing their contemporaries, it will allow visitors to appreciate the style developments of the Cinquecento, an especially eventful century in cultural and religious terms.

florentine two

Enjoy your visit.  Tip – on Monday nights, the museum is open until 8:30 pm….that’s when I’ll be going (less people).  Weekends will be packed solid.

I’ve just learned of another exhibition opening this week across town at the Musée d’Orsay – “Splendours and ­Miseries”, the ­first major exhibition looking at the artistic ­representation of prostitution in 19th-century Paris.

This astonishing photograph of a courtesan was taken sometime between 1861 and 1866.

musee dorsay pic

http://musee-jacquemart-andre.com/en/home

http://www.musee-orsay.fr/en/home.html