The Death of Baudelaire

Edouard Manet, The Funeral, ca. 1867,  Metropolitan Museum of Art

Edouard Manet, The Funeral, ca. 1867,  Metropolitan Museum of Art

In early September 1867, Manet attended the funeral of Charles Baudelaire, writer and critic. Another attendee of the funeral remarked that many of Baudelaire’s circle were away from Paris on summer vacation, so that

“there were [only] about a hundred people in the church and fewer at the cemetery. The heat prevented many from following to the end. A clap of thunder, which burst as we entered the cemetery, all but drove away the rest.”

This unfinished canvas, found in Manet’s studio after his own death, is thought to depict Baudelaire’s funeral procession. Baudelaire had been a friend of Manet since shortly after the publication of the first edition of Les Fleurs du Mal in 1857. In sickening health, Baudelaire published a revised edition with more poems in 1861, and went to Brussels to give a series of lectures. There he had a severe stroke that would foretell his imminent demise, roughly two (miserable) years later on August 31, 1867 in the arms of his mother.

Felix Nadar, Charles Baudelaire in an Armchair, 1855, Musee d'Orsay
Felix Nadar, Charles Baudelaire in an Armchair, 1855, Musee d’Orsay

* The two had been joined in a prior death that inspired an artistic work: the suicide of Manet’s model found in the artist’s studio was the basis for Baudelaire’s poem “La Corde” (The Rope), which appeared in Petits poèmes en prose.

Biggest Art Theft Ever??

Workers at the Museum of Modern Art of the City of Paris noticed a broken window before noticing the 5 missing masterpiece in what was probably a commissioned art heist this morning. Picasso’s ‘Dove with Green Peas’ (1912), Matisse’s ‘Pastoral’ (1906), George Braque’s ‘Landscape with Olive Tree’ (1906), Amedeo Modogliani’s ‘Woman with a Fan’ (1919) and Fernand Leger’s ‘Still Life with a Chandelier’ (1922) were taken. Read more about it here.

I love a good art theft–I just finished a novel about an art theif after all–and what a loot! If it weren’t for the fact that now I’ll never be able to view the works myself, I would be impressed. Currently I’m just jealous.

The Louvre Gets Wild

As the raindrops hit the grey pavement of the city, let’s imagine ourselves in another, greyer city across the pond, one the has its fair share of black umbrellas out every spring: Paris. Say after a croissant and a cafe au lait you stare out the window and dread the thought of joining the dreary sea of umbrellas. Suddenly you shout “Eureka!”, startling the waitress.

You will go to the Louvre. What better museum to get lost in than the Louvre, with its enormous collection and long galleries? Imagine your surprise when you find that the staid old home of the Mona Lisa is having a face lift.

It recently celebrated the 20th anniversary of it’s first facelift, the infamous glass pyramid designed by I.M. Pei. For the pyramid’s 20th birthday, the Louvre has created muse trek, a way of exploring the Louvre’s collection and creating your own guide to the works displayed. Muse treks are available as an interactive guide on the web and on your own iPhone or iPod Touch at the museum. The treks people create give a uniquely personal view of connections between the artworks. (Unfortunately, many works from the museum’s collection are not available…)

Interactive use of technoology is a good step forward into the 21st C. for the Louvre, but it gets wilder yet. The Louvre has commissioned Cy Twombly (who I promise I will quit writing about some day) to paint a ceiling for the Salle de Bronzes. As Grant Rosenberg points out in his article in The American Scholar, “for the first time since Georges Braque in 1953, a living artist’s work will adorn a ceiling of the iconic museum.” This is a huge project for the octogenarian Twombly, literally: the ceiling is 33 meters long!

Ooh la la!