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Botticelli at the Palais du Luxembourg

Sandro Botticelli, Portrait of a Young WomanI like the combination of government building and art: it says something about how a society values art. I teach every year on the history paintings commissioned for the U.S. Capitol Rotunda, but the legislative branch of the Federal government should definitely look into hosting a major art exhibit in the Capitol: what have they done for art lately? In Paris, the French Senate shares its building harmoniously with the Musée du Luxembourg, and a significant part of its Web site is devoted to notices on art exhibits.

Starting with a short piece on the France 2 evening news, I have been absorbing the media blitz on the new exhibit at the Luxembourg, Botticelli, de Laurent le Magnifique à  Savonarole, open from today until February 22, 2004. Newspaper coverage includes Le Nouvel Observateur (Le Luxembourg accueille l'œuvre de Botticelli, October 1, with an accompanying photo gallery), Le Monde (Exposition: l'obsession de tout peindre de Botticelli, by Philippe Dagen, October 1), and Le Parisien (Beau oui, comme Botticelli, by Sylvie Metzelard, October 1). All this for a fairly modest show of about 25 paintings and drawings, which does not include some of the most famous paintings (those that never travel, like La Primavera and The Birth of Venus). The young woman's portrait shown at left, from the 1480s, is one of them. (Has anyone ever traced the fate of the profile portrait after the Renaissance? One of my favorite cinematic images is a profile portrait, the huge photograph of Irène Jacob, shown below, central to the conclusion of Krzysztof Kieslowski's Trois Couleurs: Rouge, from 1994. By this point, some readers may be hoping I never post another thing about Wagner ever again, but some other examples of profile portraits are found in the previous posts related to Wagner.)
Irène Jacob in Rouge
Apparently, I am not the only one to find the golden, graceful, neoplatonic vision of Botticelli intensely pleasureful, even more than the work of his contemporary Leonardo, which sometimes seems a little too analytical, or scientific, to me. I like the fantasy in Botticelli. The interesting point that the France 2 piece made was a comparison of the 21st-century image of woman and how we are fed most of our images now by advertisers. What will remain of our age that will be worth looking at in 500 years?

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