Rodin and Mapplethorpe: Sculpture, Photography, and Obsession

8 days ago

The curators of the Rodin Museum have put sculpture and photography side by side in an exhibition which ends September 21st. When I first read about it, I thought the two artists and the two media were so disparate that the exhibit might not be coherent. I have seen Mapplethorpe’s work, notably in the exhibit that was banned in Cleveland (or was it Cincinnati?). And I have been to the Rodin Museum in Paris and seen Rodin’s works elsewhere.

And here’s the thing: This juxtaposition makes a lot of sense. Both media are essentially black and white or bronze and white or grayscale. No color to distract, no flashing lights, no sound. Just the thing in itself. Both artists were obsessed with nudes, with bodies at rest or in motion. Mapplethorpe had a sculptural eye, evidenced by an amazing self-portrait of his arm – all muscle and tendon and contrast. The picture looks 3-d. Some of Rodin’s sculptures show the image resolving from the matrix, as photographs used to do back in the days of developing tanks. You could see the image slowly appear, rising from the white paper.

Mapplethorpe, notoriously, preferred the male body; Rodin prefered the female. Both are good at either.

Mapplethorpe also captured the most wondrously pure images of flowers, which I expect will be strewn amongst the scandalous nudes (men in backless chaps and so on).

Some of the poses used by Rodin and Mapplethorpe are almost identical. Perhaps some artists solve the same challenges in the same way? The curators have juxtaposed them, using themes such as Damnation. One is invited to agree or disagree.

A word of warning: Based on the Mapplethorpes I have seen, this exhibit will not be suitable for children. Parents might want to preview the work before taking adolescents. People uncomfortable with very candid images of men with some very interesting accessories should avoid this exhibit.

If you go, plan on having a lot to talk about at the cafe in the museum gardens.

Musee Rodin
79 rue de Varenne, Paris 7th
Metro: Invalides
Closed Mondays
Open Tues- Sun 10 am – 5:45 pm
Late Wednesdays until 8:45

+33 1 44 18 61 10



Chauvet Cave: Now UNESCO's Oldest World Heritage Site

60 days ago

Horses - © Jean Clottes - Le Centre National de Préhistoire

The committee meeting at UNESCO’s 38th session has added the Prehistoric Painted Cave of Pont-d’Arc, known as Grotte Chauvet, in the Ardèche region of Southern France, on the World Heritage List of cultural properties. The cave is thought to date back 36,000 years.

The cave sits on some pretty interesting property, as you can see on the map below. The gorges of the river Ardèche start here, and the stretch between Vallon Pont-d’Arc and the point where the Ardèche river joins the Rhone is popular with canoe and kayak enthusiasts.

You can’t visit the original cave these days. But just wait until next spring. It turns out that now that money is flowing, they’ll create a replica cave like they did at Lascaux. Despite the fact that Lascaux is much more widely known, Chauvet at 8000 square meters is quite a bit bigger than Lascaux at 1500 square meters. The Lascaux facsimile cave is a mere 500 meters square, which Chauvet’s will be around 3000. The Cavern of Pont-d’Arc replica is expected to be open in spring of 2015, so plan your vacation now.

The closest town is Vallon-Pont-d’Arc, France, which becomes a madhouse with adventure tourists during the summer season. You might wish to come in the spring when the water is still high but with fewer folks on the river. There is lots of camping around the real and the fake cave site. You can also search for the best hotel prices in Vallon-Pont-d’Arc, France

Map of Grotte Chauvet and Area

Wandering Man


Maxim's de Paris: When it's time to experience Paris, then and now

139 days ago

The legendary Maxim’s combines opulence, living history, and timeless fun. Opened in 1893, in the midst of the Belle Époque, Maxim’s became and remains the last word for elegance, where kings and dukes, duchesses and courtesans, danced, gossiped, smoked, and feasted (at least, the men did). King Edward VII (England), he of the Edwardian era, rotund figure, and many mistresses, dined here, at the Red Table, still reserved for him. The Duke and Duchess of Windsor were habitués. Noted fashion designer Pierre Cardin purchased the entire building in the 1960’s, renovated Chez Maxim’s, and housed his amazing art nouveau collection over three floors upstairs.

Maxim’s is open Monday through Saturday. Be warned: it is expensive! Pierre Cardin has taken Maxim’s into the 21st Century, while revitalizing and continuing its unique Belle Époque character. The cabaret is the traditional heart of Maxim’s, featuring fine dining and dancing to piano jazz. The dress code is quite formal. The cuisine is Belle Époque French: refined, esoteric, and rich, e.g., crepe veuve joyeuse (Merry Widow) . . . hmmmm. . . Maxim’s International Club is for art lovers, offering passionate discussions and exhibits with dinner under the Tiffany ceiling. Parties at the Bar Imperial are much more informal, pitched to the young, chic, movers and shakers of toute Paris. It features modern artists, musicians, video and light displays. The monthly invitation-only “supernatural” evenings start at midnight. Apparently, there is even karaoke! (Other than cabaret, activities not personally verified.)

According to the website, but not independently verified, Maxim’s has 3 boats moored at the foot of the Eiffel Tower, available for special events, product launches, gala dinners, receptions, and the like. They even have their own free parking. The Bateau Ivre cruises the Seine, seating 100 for lunch or dinner or hosting 120 for cocktail receptions. For an even-more-luxurious experience, try Le Maxim’s sur Seine, described as a “floating palace”, with two decks. The upper deck can seat 100 or host 200 for cocktails. The summer terrace can serve 40. The lower deck is a lounge for 220 seated guests or 350 for cocktail receptions. Both decks have dance floors.

And now, the ageless Pierre Cardin has added something new: a high fashion homage to the prestige and luxury of Maxim’s and of toute Paris: Maxim’s La Nuit. Maxim’s La Nuit offers high fashion collections for men and women. The first collection debuted November 2013. New collections were shown in January and February 2014. Check it out at:

Guided tours to the Art Nouveau Museum are available from Wednesday-Sunday, in the afternoons. Large groups can combine the tour with lunch or dinner. Tours are available in English and French. I took this tour and loved it. I was almost too sick to walk, the day was gray and cold, and it was still one of the highlights of my trip. Pictures and more will follow.

A 360 degree on-line tour, pictures, and reservation form, are available at:


On Sunday afternoons, starting January 16th, drop by the Theatre Maxim’s for a performance of “Moi, Colette”, written by Pierre-Andre Helene, directed by Theodora Mytakis, and headlining Veronique Fourcaud. Paris tends to close down on Sundays, which are still reserved for family and friends, so something to do in the late afternoons is a welcome change from museum-going.

Information and reservations at:

Maxim’s is located at 3 rue Royale in the 8th arrondissement, quite close to the rue de Rivoli, in the Champs Elyséés district.
Telephone: +33 (0) 1 42 65 30 47
Métro: Concorde

GPS: 48.867142/12.3223540000000185

So, for fun, food, and culture in the heart of Paris, check out at Maxim’s de Paris:



Happy Poisson d'Avril!

142 days ago

I hope everyone enjoyed April Fish day today, the French version of April Fool’s Day. Did anyone get tagged with a red fish? Did anyone get a chance to window shop the designer chocolatiers? Were the windows full of chocolate fish and strange chocolate seafood creations? Of course they were. One can count on the French to apply wit to craft, which is one of the many, many reasons why I love France.

Bienvenue Printemps! Welcome Spring!



The Louvre: Taking it Lightly

142 days ago

Some people have little weekend homes, the farmhouse in Normandy, the hunting lodge in Picardy, cottages in the woods, and the like. Louis XIV had Marly. When Versailles got to be just too much, he would retreat to his little country home in Marly, starting in 1684. The central chateau was for himself and his family only. It was flanked by two wings of six pavilions each. Eleven housed favored courtiers and one was dedicated to bathrooms. The wings were connected to the chateau by lush, fragrant arbors and separated by cascades and water works. Marly was small compared to Versailles, but the scale is hard for the ordinary person to grasp. Etiquette was more relaxed and it was possible to have the king’s attention. When he announced a potential visit, courtiers would surround him and whisper “Marly, Sire?” in the hopes of receiving the royal nod. The picture below is a painting of the chateau, courtesy of the public commons of Wikipedia.

Marly as it once was

The chateau did not survive, but even the remains are lovely.

Marly as it is now

I bring up Marly to make my point about taking pot-luck at the Louvre. We had finished “doing” the exhibits we wanted to see, notably Egypt, and were standing in the Carrousel wondering what to do next. As every guidebook agrees, the Louvre is huge and overwhelming and so full of options as to be paralyzing. We broke the stasis by randomly choosing an aisle and diving in. We found ourselves in a huge, gorgeous sculpture garden, radiant with natural light. It turned out to house some of the few remaining sculptures from Marly. We would never have known to look for them, but here they were.

Urn from Gardens, with 6’ human to show scale

great machine, marly

As you can tell, these statues are huge! Yet, they take up only a tiny piece of the Louvre.

Marly was also famous for the “great machine at Marly” which was the huge waterworks that fed the fountains, cascades, and pools at Versailles. The great machine is gone, too. Little remains of Marly but a few vistas and views, again courtesy of the public commons of Wikipedia.

The great machine at Marly is featured in Plague of Lies, a mystery by Judith Rock that features former soldier, now Jesuit, Charles du Luc. The mysteries are always intriguing and honest. She somehow immerses the reader in the life of the period so naturally that it seems like you’re right there, in Paris and Versailles, perhaps taking chocolate in Paris with La Reynie, Chief of the Paris Police. La Reynie was the man stuck with telling Louis XIV that Mme. De Montespan, then his main mistress and mother of his children, was strongly implicated in the Affair of the Poisons. Better him than me.

Our random dive into the Louvre was richly rewarded, easy, and fun. If you don’t have much time, see what’s on your highlight list, take a breather, and dive in.



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