Egypt Saved by Joseph
Diana led Oliver around the imposing circular walls of the medieval Louvre, still preserved here in the basement level of the museum, and up a set of stairs in to the ground floor of the museum. Glancing out through the old glass panes, Oliver saw the distorted image of a group of tourists wandering through the enclosed space of the central courtyard. They continued up the worn marble stairs for two flights until Diana stopped their ascent at the first floor and gestured for Oliver to take in the collection of Greek bronzes marching into the distance of the hall before them.
“It’s through here. You know, most people come to the Louvre and head straight for the Mona Lisa, maybe run past the Greek and Egyptian collections, then just head out to visit the Eiffel Tower. They don’t take the time to really explore this place and appreciate its beauty.”
Oliver nodded in agreement, then shrugged and replied, “True, but you’ve got to admit that this place is huge. It probably intimidates your average tourist.”
“Oh, I get that, believe me. When I arrived I spent almost three weeks of evenings and most of my weekends exploring. Even after a year and a half I haven’t done everything justice. Eventually I had to just surrender myself to the enormity of this place and say, ‘Diana, you’re in Paris. Get out and see the rest of the city now and then.’”
She gestured up at the ceiling of the round room in which they stood. “Part of the what makes this place so overwhelming,” Diana continued, “is that the Louvre itself is a work of art. Look here.”
Overhead, the naked form of a muscular Icarus plunged to his death amidst a cloud of singed feathers. Daedalus reached towards him piteously, helpless to save his prideful son from plummeting into the sea. The painting was as richly detailed and vibrantly colored as any that Oliver had ever seen, but it was not a framed canvas hanging on the wall. This work of art appeared to be painted directly onto the ceiling of the room in which they stood.
“That’s The Fall of Icarus, painted in 1819 by Merry-Joseph Blondel,” Diana explained. “A lovely bit of Greco-Roman mythology, as imagined by a Frenchman more than two thousand years after the story was told.”
“I know the myth,” Oliver acknowledged.
“My point isn’t to refresh your understanding of childhood stories, but to point out the beauty this building. Many museums hold classic art. Some museums, the Pyramids of Giza or the childhood homes of Civil War generals come to mind, are actually the object on display themselves, even if they aren’t all they pretty to look at. But this building melds the two so completely that the structure itself is a work of art.”
Oliver placed a hand on Diana’s shoulder and nodded, understanding her passion.
“But this isn’t what I need to show you.”
Diana grabbed Oliver’s hand again and pulled him out of the round room and through a several long galleries filled with Egyptian artifacts. They stopped in a room lined with ornately carved and painted wooden sarcophagi and Diana gestured for Oliver to look up at the ceiling.