National Geographic : 1971 Jun
centuries; the magnitude of its sculpture collection has only recently been demonstrated. In 1970 the art world was stunned when the new sculpture galleries were opened. Great masterpieces in marble, bronze, and wood lined 23 split-level galleries stretching along the Seine. Many had been hidden away in the reserves, or storage depots, and some had not been exhibited within memory. The art world had forgotten that the Louvre had the best. Great works of genius from the 11th to the early 20th century stood in beautifully lighted exhibition areas specially designed for each piece. MONUMENTAL SCULPTURE seems the most indestructible form of art, and yet when danger threatens, it cannot be spirited away. I saw some grim examples of the ills to which sculpture is heir. A long row of headless saints from the tympanum of a Romanesque church bears testimony to the blind rage of revolutionary mobs of the 1790's. The crumbling surface of Carpeaux's great stone composition, "The Dance," finished in 1869 and rescued from the facade of the Paris Opera in 1964, reveals how rapidly ice, wind, and pollution-laden air can corrode. One of the two great bronze lionesses by the sculptor Auguste Cain, crouching outside the Jaujard entrance to the Louvre, is mute witness to a hairbreadth escape when the juggernaut of World War II rolled through the grounds. A high-velocity bullet drilled the noble beast. I sighted through the neat round hole and saw rows of tulips. "Over there," the guardian explained, pointing to the flowers of the Jardin des Tuileries, "was a blockhouse and a parking area for tanks. Hitler had ordered the burning of Paris, including all its principal buildings.... Those times were not gay," he added, patting the punctured lioness with affection. "We were lucky not to have more damage." Leaving the lionesses, I followed the Parisian custom of seeking a secluded spot for a midday alfresco meal, where I might munch reflectively on freshly baked bread and pungent Camembert cheese. The place I liked best was a park bench under the spreading chestnut trees beside the Seine. This waterfront has long been known as the cheapest hotel in Paris. Groups of students, hobos, and waifs camp, talk, sing, and sleep under the archways. I noticed a bearded hippie in a faded U. S. Army jacket thumbing through a tattered guidebook to the Louvre. "Which section do you like best?" I asked him. "The Impressionists," he answered promptly. "They didn't have any money either; all they do is show us how beautiful the world about us really is. They don't try to give us lectures about history and such-they're groovy." The Impressionists and their contemporaries, not all of whom were quite destitute, now have a building to them selves, standing apart in the Tuileries-the Jeu de Paume, where courtiers of the 18th century had played a kind of tennis. History must smile looking down on the long queues of visitors waiting to pay their three francs to see the Impressionists. Two generations ago the Louvre's acquisi tion committee had refused to accept gifts of works by these 814 Grime, time's dirty legacy, disappears from the facade of the Pavilion Sully under the gentle brush strokes of a rain coat-clad workman. Before the scouring began in 1962, cleaners tested steam, abrasives, chemicals, and pres surized water. Nothing worked as well as brushing a section after water had flowed over it for 24 hours. The Pavilion de l'Horloge in the Cour Carree (right) illustrates an early stage of the transformation.