Newnham to the Louvre
Yesterday I went (with husband and third year Newnham Classicists) for a day at the Louvre -- early Cambridge start, museum, lunch (above, my calvados), more museum, and back in time to tumble into bed.
It was the first time I had seen the Louvre's "re-hang" of the classical sculpture. It is visually very attractive -- I particularly liked the two Roman versions of the Capitoline Aphrodite lined up next to each other, as twins -- but the labels are out of the ark.
Every marvellous bit of Roman post modernism is labelled as if it was some Greek "original", and only in small letters confessed to be "Roman" in date and patronage and dissemination. There's Praxiteles' lovely little Sauroctonos, but it's only by very close reading of the text that you find out that this particular statue is not by Praxilteles at all...but was done 500 years or so later by a clever Roman imitator.
An extraordinary denial of Rome.. in a Museum that is really all about Rome.
That said, the students (and me and the husband) got a huge lot out of autopsy, as always. We all agreed that you couldnt understand size unless you actually saw the piece: the Venus de Milo was bigger than everyone expected, the sleeping hermaphrodite smaller. And there were other surprises. I had forgotten (if I ever knew) that there were some herms (on the right) found in 1820 along side the Venus de Milo (does anyone understand the context?).. now nicely displayed next to her. And we had a great time looking at a proto Corinthian pot showing the murder of Ismene by Tydeus (what myth is that? and dont just direct me to the fragement of Mimnernus please, it doesnt really help).
Anyway, this was the annual pre-Tripos Newnham jaunt. Cambridge to the Louvre and back in a day, lunch included. It is hugely fun, and about the best kind of revision you can ever do, getting up close to some half familiar works of classical art.
I said to the husband, as we left, that in my dreams I would start off the Classics course at Newnham with a load of trips like this... sod the syllabus, why not spend the first term going round museums etc and THINKING about things. But he rightly said that the reason that the third years -- Amy, Avril, Emma, Hadden, Helena -- could engage with the stuff was that they already knew loads. You couldnt usefully throw first years in at the deep end.
Which I guess is true, But it is all the same a great experience all round. And if ever I cease to be engaged by clever young women who have loads of questions and observations in a new museum, it will be time for me to change my job. Yes it is a privileged experience for us all, but that is what I think (in all kinds of different ways) Oxbridge offers, to very bright kids from whatever background.
And no -- the tax payer doesnt pay a penny. This annual jaunt is largely funded by the money given to Newnham Classics by the parents of a student -- Jane Forshaw -- who tragically died falling down stairs in college years and years ago (plus a tiny top up from yours truly, for self and husband and a few extras). We toast Jane and her Mum and Dad (thanks again Forshaws) as we enjoy the intellectual break.
It's this kind of thing that keeps the whole business worthwhile for me, the best combination of pleasure, learning, and (yes, despite the pics) hardwork.