Friday, August 30, 2013

Musee Carnavalet Deux; The Pantheon

The most extravagant idea that can arise in a politician's head is to believe that it is enough for a people to invade a foreign country to make it adopt their laws and their constitution. No one loves armed missionaries . . . The Declaration of the Rights of Man . . . is not a lightning bolt which strikes every throne at the same time . . . I am far from claiming that our Revolution will not eventually influence the fate of the world . . . But I say that it will not be today.
-Robespierre

I headed over to the Marais yesterday (Saint Paul).  I stopped first in the Haute Marais to have some falafel from L’as du Falafel- the famous falafel shop in the Jewish Quarter.  Toujours imitè, jamais ègalè (Always imitated, never equaled).  The queue might burnish such claims.  I waited a bit to get a fully packed falafel that was absolutely delicious.  Piled to the brim with fresh salads and sauces, it was quite good.  The falafel had a nice crunch on the outside, but was surprisingly smooth on the inside- a little different texture than usual falafel, but tasty.

I returned to the Musee Carnavelet, a museum on the history of Paris that I had visited earlier in the summer.  When I visited prior, the wing that held the history of the French Revolution on through the 19th century was closed for renovation.  It had now re-opened and I stopped in to check it out.

It was like a completely different museum.  This time, the wing I had visited was closed.  But what was now open was what I had been looking for when I came to Paris.  I meandered through the exhibition on the French Revolution, with painting and portraits of the ancien regime and their culinary plates, on through the assembly of the Estates-General.  There was an interesting portion of the storming of the Bastille in paintings and artifacts, as well as models of the famous fort. 

And on through the Revolution.  Like Moses’ stone tablets, there hung giant cloth banners of the Declarations of the Rights of Man and the RevolutionaryConstitution.  There were all sorts of pins from the revolutionaries.  And a portrait of the good Dr. Guillotine, whose contraption would cost many a head.

There was a fascinating section on Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette in their Temple prison, including the imprisoned regent’s chess pieces from his cell.  There were also painting of the royals imprisoned, including a somber-looking Marie Antoinette in her cell.  And the requisite paintings of the monarchs’ executions.

There were also paintings and artifacts of Robespierre and Danton (and their beheadings too).  And of course, the martyred Marat by the black widow Charlotte Corday

The exhibition continued on to a young Corsican general who quickly became a consul…

The exhibition continued below with a gilded display of the Second Empire under Napoleon III.  There was an immaculate gilded crib from the Princess Eugenie, and a giant portrait of Napoleon III with Baron Haussmann.  But things fall apart, and we marched on to the Paris Commune in its bricks and blood.  Dark paintings of the army’s reconquest of Paris barricades.

On through the Third Republic and its Romantic and Impressionist imagery, and the famous expositions that changed the face of Paris.  And lest we forget the Dreyfus Affair that ripped France apart.  I wandered through rooms of impressionist paintings of Parisian life, and through art nouveau-inspired rooms.  I even found a room exhibiting the quill of one musketeer Alexandre Dumas.  There were also the effects of Emile Zola, including his cane, pocket watch and quill case.

The museum’s other wing was so utterly different; it was literally a different museum.  And a welcome find, because I had been having trouble finding this history that I was looking for.



The following day, I was over near the Pantheon to meet my friend Irit for lunch.  She is Israeli, and was heading the next day to Israel.  Needless to say, she was a little worried about the ongoing situation with Syria.  She told me of the chaos in Israel as people were trying to get gas masks, which hadn't been broken out since the first Gulf War.  Israelis were waiting in lines for hours to get gas masks, and Israelis don't wait in lines well so it was not pretty.  She spoke of the nervousness of going to her parents' home in Haifa, which was in rocket distance in the last war with Lebanon in 2006, and the fear of not having gas masks for her kids.  Lest we forget that there is a real human side to this business.  All I could do was sigh and give her a hug, for whatever that is worth.

After lunch, I went to the Panthéon, of giant murals like the crowing of Charlemagne and home to France's greats (Aux grands hommes, la patrie reconnaissante, "To its great men, a grateful fatherland").  I wandered down to the crypt, past the urn holding the heart of Leon Gambetta.

I found the tombs of Voltaire and Rousseau, across from each other, and paid my respects to these fathers of Enlightenment.
I found the tombs of Zola, Hugo and Dumas, as well as the Curies (Marie being the only woman in the Pantheon).  There were also tombs of the famous leader of the French Resistance Jean Moulin, and Félix Éboué- the leader of French Resistance in Africa.  Another luminary I found was Jean Monnet, who was a founder of the European Community and key driver to a united Europe.

All and all, a good way to wind down my Paris sabbatical.

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