Light Transfer: Paris

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Light Transfer: Paris

Post  Mammona on Sun Aug 23, 2015 8:38 pm

If you appreciate art and want the ultimate experience, then there are two places in the world where you can visit. One is Vatican City in Rome. The other is the Louvre in Paris. Both have the world’s greatest art collections. The Sistine chapel in the Vatican is amazing to behold. You can ignore the thousands of tourist cramped into the chapel. You can even get over the professional ‘shushers’. That’s right. Professional. The Vatican pays these people to go around ‘shushing’ other people!

But even that pales in comparison to the Louvre. The massive glass pyramid in the centre of Paris is home to the world’s most famous collection. Leonardo’s Mona Lisa is the tip of the iceberg. They have art and historical pieces dating back thousands of years. Over the past decade, they’ve even cleared away the foundations of the original castle the Louvre sits on. It’s amazing.

At least, that’s what my tour guide is saying. I’m part of a group of tourists who are being guided through the Louvre, stopping to look at all the pretty pictures and sculptures. To my right is a family of Americans, Texans by their drawling accents, the parents towing along two little children who seem more content to scream their heads off and fight with each other than look at the art. To my left is a lone Frenchman, a university student by the look of him. Judging by the huge camera hanging around his neck, and the way he almost bends double whenever he takes a photo, I’m gonna make a wild guess as say he’s an art major. Around me are more tourists, each taking in the sights around them.

My tour guide is a little old lady. One who looked like she’d be more at home in front of a fireplace wearing a cardigan, stroking one of her forty cats. However, her eyes shone with delight as she explained piece after piece, telling us when it was made, who made it and why it was significant.

The tour guide stopped in front of a bronze sculpture. I shuffled to a halt, staring at it. It was a large sculpture, almost as tall as me. It was a lion, and very realistic. That struck me as odd, as most the sculptures here were weird in some way. Artists tended to add a bit of surrealism into their work. Under one of the lion’s paws was a snake. The snake’s head was arched back towards the lion, its mouth open in obvious protest, bronze fangs bared.

“Here we have Barye’s ‘Lion and Serpent’,” The tour guide said in heavily accented English. “Sculpted in 1832 by Antoine-Louis Barye, this sculpture shows a lion attacking a serpent. What is interesting about this sculpture is the remarkable realism of the animals. Barye didn’t simply use animals as a side-part of his art, like so many other artists. The animals were the true subjects.” She smiled. “As it should be. Who wouldn’t want to be the subject of such a remarkable sculpture?”

Well, maybe the snake, I thought, looking at the angry serpent crushed by the lion’s paws. The guide prattled on, speaking of the significance of using the lion to represent the empire and politics and how the snake represented the evils of society. Most of the tourists hung on every word. The Texan parents could not, unfortunately, as their kids made a mad dash from freedom. The two heavyset Americans struggled after them, calling their names, along with all manner of threat.

The guide smiled good-naturedly as she gazed after the Texans. “I guess we could all use a break. Let’s meet back here in ten minutes.”

My tour group slowly dispersed, some heading for the restrooms, others looking at the other pieces of art that adorned the walls of the Louvre. I stayed at the sculpture. True, art wasn’t my thing, but I knew talent when I saw it, and this Barye guy definitely knew his stuff.

The click of a camera shutter sounded to my right. I glanced over at the art student, who was down on one knee, gazing up at the sculpture through the lens. I stifled a mile. “Better from down there, is it?” I asked, not able to help myself.

He glanced up at me, saw my smile, and returned one of his own. However, his vacant expression told me that he had absolutely no idea what I was talking about. Right, French, I thought. Rather than try and explain what I said with my basic and horrible attempt at French, I simply waved my hand in a ‘don’t worry about it’ gesture, and returned my gaze to the sculpture.

“Beautiful, isn’t it?” I spun around to see the little old tour guide staring up at me. Her smile was plastered across her face. Yeah, definitely a cat person, I thought, before forcing a smile and turning back to the sculpture. “Yeah. It is. I do have one question, though.”

The tour guide stopped, her interest perked. “It isn’t what we know that makes the Louvre so special. It’s what we see. What is your question?”

I turned to face her. “Why is the snake the one getting his butt kicked? Why not some other animal?”

The tour guide froze, her smile vanishing for a moment. I arched an eyebrow. Seemingly catching herself, her pleasant demeanour returned. “Uh, I think it may have something to do with the fact that the snake is seen in many western cultures as a bad omen.”

I threw my hands up. “Ah! Now I get it! The snake is evil!”

The tour guide’s eyes narrowed. There was a flash of something behind them. I leaned forward. What was that?

The old lady spoke, her tone a bit sharper than before. “I don’t know about evil, miss. In fact, in many cultures, snakes are revered as – “

“Yes, yes,” I interrupted, waving my hands about in an animated way. “But you can’t tell me that history doesn’t teach us that snakes are gross. Adam and Eve, Medusa, even this – “ I pointed at the sculpture. “ – shows that snakes are nothing more than evil, jealous, envious, belly-crawling lizards.”

The tour guide was getting angry. Way angrier than she should have. I smiled inwardly. It was working. She began to argue, but I pressed my point home. “As a matter of fact, if I were a snake, or if I were to be connected to snakes in any way, I don’t know if I’d be able to live with myself.”

“Silence, girl!”
The tour guide hissed. That’s right, hissed. “You know nothing!”

The old lady took a step towards me. Her eyes were yellow. They had no pupils, just a vertical slit. She bared her teeth, now fangs. In the harsh light of the Louvre, I saw scales upon her skin. She stepped towards me, swaying. Her yellow eyes burned with fury.

I smiled. “I know nothing? Remember what you said, snake. This is the Louvre. It’s not what you know, it’s what you see, and I’ve seen enough…”

With a flick of my wrist, the knife appeared in my hand. I raised the blade, pointing it at the serpent-woman.

I grinned. “Bring it on, snake.”
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Mammona
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