I have never mentioned, and not too many people know, that a portion of the Smaller Royal Stables belongs to the Museum of Louvre. Tonight I would like to force these monumental doors and walk in, right under the relief showing Alexander the Great taming his restive Bucephalus.
The first thing we see inside is a gypsum-made horse: these are all copies of course. By the way, some of the quadrupeds belong to Apollo. His giant effigy in the dark recess points the way. Let us turn on lights to see again the images we know by heart: There is Victory of Samothrace, here is Venus de Milo.
What does it do to a masterpiece to be placed on a palate? Obviously a copy, especially the gypsum one, demystifies a work of art. It performs almost as a translation: if we don’t like what we face, we can always sigh about the original; otherwise, it allows for a detached, scholarly and not enthusiastic approach to an artifact; that is you begin to analyse, i.e. examine its structural features.
What else does it do? Once you’ve mastered all the tools of an art historian, you begin to play God: not that you judge the work of art, this would happen if you were to become an art critic; whereas your job happens to be pure identification and classification; nevertheless, just like any triage, the unemotional view is inevitably nihilistic. It does not have to be as negative as Alexander Dumas’ opinion about our Venus, “The head is tiny, the forehead narrow, the neck is thick…, the right cheek is bigger than the left one….” We are talking about the cultural heritage of European civilization, our common values!
Alright, I admit that as far as the Victory, her wings could be a little bigger….