Stone Hands in the Musée D’Orsay | Stone Hands

clasped-hands

I was visiting one of the truly great museums in the world, the Musée D’Orsay with a  fourteen year old who wasn’t all that interested in being there. It was the end of a very long morning that started with a lightening fast tour of the Louvre with thousands of other tourists and a visit to the Orangerie so this was our third museum. Travelling with a teen is like a high-wire balancing act… how far do you push it without going overboard. I decided that we both needed a break so off to a bench with his phone he went and off I went in the other direction with my camera.

I wandered by myself for about an hour and all I could seem to focus on were the stone hands. I’m not the first (nor will I be the last) to wonder how it is possible to create these soft, fluid, lifelike hands out of a block of stone. I find the faces of these magnificent works to be interesting but not as intriguing as the hands. It’s like the faces are composed and studied but the hands are an afterthought that just exist naturally without the intervention of the artist.

My teen and I regrouped with a fresh purpose and headed off to a lovely bistro lunch, the Rodin Museum and Les Invalides but these hands stayed with me. Hope you enjoy them.

The photo of the clasped hands pictured above is a detail of Joan of Arc by Henri Chapu.

stone hand with sphere

stone folded hands

Stone mother and child hands

stone open hand

Stone twined hands

“The best artist has that thought alone which is contained within the marble shell; the sculptor’s hand can only break the spell to free the figures slumbering in the stone.” Michelangelo

The works here are not by Michelangelo but are by Carpu, Barrias, Carpeaux and Hugues.

Gargoyles Up-Close and Personal | Gargoyles

Gargoyle

They were meant to be spiritual guardians barring any evil spirits from entering and doing harm. I find gargoyles and chimeras fascinating and beautiful and had to photograph them at Notre Dam in Paris.

The gargoyles pictured above and below are conduits for rainwater (see the open mouths?) an ancient form of eaves troughs or downspouts. They first appeared in France in the 12th century when the Catholic church was growing stronger and converting much of the population. Most of this population was illiterate so these fearsome images were a constant reminder the church was a place that drove away and protected against evil.

Notre Dam Gargoyle

These chimeras have no function but serve the same spiritual purpose of protection against harmful spirits. The only way to see them at Notre Dam is to climb many, many steps  (what’s the point of endless spinning classes if not to prepare you for this?) to the tiny two levels of look-offs.

Notre Dam Gargoyle

Gargoyle Notre Dam

Gargoyle back

My favourite is below, I love the strength of the back of the head and shoulders guarding the cathedral and looking out over Paris. It is fascinating how much detail went into these works given that they were only to be seen from far below, the artistry and craftsmanship of those anonymous cathedral builders is extraordinary.

Back of Gargoyle

Gargoyle close up