On our way to the Cluny Museum we discovered something nice. Paris has had, for some years, lovely neighborhood maps posted near street corners to aid both tourist and resident in finding a street, a square, a museum or hospital. Now some of these large street maps have a little coin-operated machine attached to their frames; we inserted 70 cents and out came a nicely folded copy of the big map to carry around with us. There's one map for each Hotel de Cluny courtyard Arondissement, nice and big and well illustrated. It's interesting that London is doing the same thing about this time, with copies of walking maps of different areas of the city. Europeans do a much better job than Americans of helping the pedestrian visitor find his or her way around their cities.
The Cluny Museum's share of the French national museum treasures includes everything from Roman times up to the sixteenth century, except for those special pieces that are on display in the Louvre. Mediaeval Art and artifacts are on display at the Cluny Museum, which makes quite a jim-dandy show.
You have to take a broad definition of mediaeval -- anything starting with Roman times up to sixteenth century. The big features of the Cluny are tapestries, religious art, old sculpture, pottery, armor, and the Roman baths which underlay the old Abbey of Cluny, where the museum is located. We could feel the temperament of the curator, who had carefully arranged the displays to educate and stimulate the visitor's imagination. This is the home of the Unicorn Tapestries, the set of five tapestries of a lady with a lion and unicorn are the museum's showpieces. Done for a wealthy Italian merchant, they illustrate the senses of sight, smell, taste, and touch, and, at last, the lady's disdain for these sensual pleasures in favor of spiritual ones. They are Mediaeval helmet exquisitely woven of silk and linen, with the colors still quite bright, subtly combined to give an impression of depth and texture.
We found many pieces that intrigued us, including a set of tombstones of Grand Masters of the Knights Hospitalers collected from Rhodes. In several large paintings, mediaeval artists depicted children not as children, but as tiny adults; this gave us food for thought -- how were children treated at that time? While some of the mediaeval painting was flat and lacked perspective, we saw one sculpture of Adam in a fig leaf made around 1200 that showed beautiful, classical appreciation of the human form; we marvelled that this piece could have been made at the same time as some of the paintings.
There was lots of evidence of archaeological scholarship, too, including the discovery and documentation of beautiful stonework with nautical themes from the old Roman baths, featuring hot, cold and tepid pools. Just walking through the Roman rooms, with the abbey above our heads, was an exciting example of the continuity of history through the many centuries of Paris' existence.
The setting of the museum in the old abbey, or what is left of it, is beautiful. About the only disappointment was the very ordinary and uninteresting garden. Cluny chapel ceiling
We walked from the museum to the Tuileries, passing through the crowds at the Louvre and snapping photos. We were looking for the statue entitled Hommage a Capitaine Dreyfus, not knowing that it had been moved from the Tuileries to the Place Pierre Lafue in 1994, and subsequently desecrated on several occasions by anti-Semites. We decided to find Place Pierre Lafue the following day.
A highlight of our earlier visit to the museum of Jewish History had been the exhibit of work by Louis Mitelberg, or Tim, as we have mentioned. Towards the end of his career, he turned from creating editorial cartoons to sculpture; his three-dimensional work contains the same biting detail. Admiring the photographs of two of his statues, we decided to search for the originals, starting with his Homage to Captain Dreyfus.
Towards the end of the nineteenth century, a French Army Officer, Captain Dreyfus, a Jew, was accused and convicted of treason, all the while vehemently protesting his innocence. He was publicly humiliated, his sword snapped in two on the parade ground, his insignia of rank stripped away.
But the trial had been hasty, and anti-semitic persons had played a key role. Dreyfus' friends kept up their lobbying until a new trial was granted, he was found innocent, later returned to the army, promoted and decorated. At the time, the government felt it had overcome anti-semitic Roman bathtub prejudice by this reversal. The army felt the civilians had meddled in its internal affairs.
In commemoration of the centenary of the Dreyfus affair, Tim envisioned a large statue of Dreyfus, standing tall and proud at attention, his broken sword before his face in a salute.
Finished in 1984, the statue was displayed in the Tuileries Gardens, but there were protests -- the statue was too political. In other words, anti-semitic feeling in Paris was not dead, a hundred years later. A compromise was reached, the statue of Dreyfus was moved to a quiet square in the south of the city, the Place Pierre Lafue, and the Mayor of Paris at the time, Jacques Chirac, came to re-dedicate the statue.
But within a few years the bronze statue was defaced, the word TRAITEUR written on the base, the metal painted yellow. This should not be surprising, because the modern statue opens the Dreyfus matter again. Some still believe Dreyfus was guilty all along, and some believe politicians should not interfere in military affairs. Of course the French have a historic record of anti-semitism, since they did relatively little to prevent the deportation of French jews during the holocaust.
In any event, we took the Metro to photograph Tim's statue, Hommage a Capitaine Dreyfus, and then went to Pere Lachaise Cemetery to see a number of monuments erected in memory of the French people deported and killed in the WW II camps. Captain Dreyfus, by Tim
Pere Lachaise is the largest cemetery in the city of Paris, located on a small hill in the east part of town and filled with large and elaborate tombs and monuments to the dead. It's still an active cemetery, but it seemed to us that only those with a good deal of money could afford to be buried there. In any event, a popular pastime is visits to famous people's graves. In fact, a guided tour is available. As is our habit, we took a self-guided tour, with Tim's memorial to concentration camp victims as our goal.
In addition to Tim's moving statue , we saw monuments erected to the memory of those lost in many individual camps.
We also saw the tombs of soldiers, statesmen, poets, musicians; including Frederic Chopin, Oscar Wilde, Edith Piaf, and Miguel Asturias. One section of the cemetery was set aside for monuments to departed leaders of the French Communist Party. We got our day's exercise hiking from one end of the cemetery to the other and back again.
We had our last nice, expensive French lunch and girded our loins for a return to English food for a week. (After that, of course, it's American food -- but that's the devil we know!)