Friday, April 25, 2014

Belltower: Best museums of Paris, Rome and Naples

From page A4 | November 05, 2012 | 2 Comments

Two years ago the Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco, specifically the de Young, had blockbuster shows of Impressionist art and Post-Impressionism from the Musée d’Orsay in Paris. The shows were scooped up by San Francisco when the Orsay was being redesigned and rebuilt.

We have never been to the Musée d’Orsay, so this past June we added it to our list of things to do in Paris. I was not impressed with the redesign, even though I hadn’t seen the original design. The rooms with the Impressionist and Post Impressionist paintings were dark for the most part and the passage from one gallery room to another was rather small. In other words, anyone with those talking phone guides stuck on their ears would just stand in the narrow passageway listening to their guides, completely oblivious to the people behind them wanting to get through the passageway to see what’s on display in the room. Sheesh, just buy the book at the gift shop.

Another design flaw, as far as I was concerned was using the central atrium area for sculpture on a small series of steps. The sculpture was not memorable and the space would have been put to better use by adding an escalator. Instead there was one elevator in the rear and a bunch of stairs that people trudged up and down to see the different levels.

Speaking of stairs, once a person takes the escalator to one portion of the Louvre there remain about five miles of walking and stairs to get to the various parts of that section. This was my third time for the Louvre. Each time I wind up in a different section. And we had already walked a couple of miles just to get to the Louvre. Be there when it first opens, because the line to the ticket window gets long fast and the atrium gets impacted in a couple of hours.

By accident we took a train from the airport and then transferred to Gare St. Lazare, which turned out to be two blocks from our hotel. That was the same Gare St. Lazare that Claude Monet painted and we featured on the cover of our Weekend page. After that I soon got the subway system wired, something I had avoided and feared in the past. It got even easier after my wife got a map with larger type. We  took the subway to all kinds of locations and museums. We even took the subway to Versailles.

The absolute best museum in Paris is the Musée Marmottan Monet. I could not find it on any of the maps I had, so we took a cab to and from it.  Originally a house and art collection of Paul Marmottan, it was bequeathed to the Academie des Beaux-Arts in 1932. The collection grew in 1957 with the gift of another inheritance of a collection of Manet, Monet, Pissarro, Sisley and Renoir paintings. Then in 1962 Claude Monet’s second son, Michel, died and left his inheritance to the museum, making it  the world’s biggest collection of paintings by Monet.

The museum includes a well done annex to the house that displays the Monets on two levels, including a bigger collection of lily pond paintings than the Musée l’Orangerie in the Tuilieries.

It was a fantastic experience.

The same Gare St. Lazare is where we caught the train to Giverny to see Monet’s Garden, also a bequest of Michel Monet, but actually revived and run by Americans. The last time we saw it in a light drizzle and that gave all the colors a flat but intense saturation. This time it was sunny and getting there early was key. Unlike 12 years ago when we visited, it has become very popular and is crowded by 11 a.m.

In Rome the Vatican is the Italian equivalent to the Louvre, but competing against the Vatican is the Villa Borghese, built by the nephew of Pope Paul V, Cardinal Scipione. It has fabulous painted ceilings, sculpture by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, paintings by Caravaggio, Raphael, Titian, Rubens and Dosso Dossi, to name a few. The first time we visited we came in through the front door. Now entrance is downstairs through the rear and one needs a reservation time.

But the most intriguing museum in Rome is the Palazzo Doria Pamphilij. It includes a Hall of Mirrors to rival that of Versailles. It also has paintings by Annabale Caracci, Jan Breugal the Elder (lots of Bruegals), Claude Lorrain (lots of Lorrains) , Franceso Albani, Dosso Dossi, Rembrandt, Giovanni Bellini and two Titians.

The palazzo, built in the 17th century, is privately owned, though operated by state museum authorities, who kept a sharp eye on me and my camera. It is owned by the descendents of a Genoese admiral, Andrea Doria, who worked for the French and sailed against pirates at the age of 84. One of the descendents became a pope. The Italian ocean liner, the Andrea Doria, was named after the admiral. The Andrea Doria was famous for sinking in 1956 after being struck broadside by the MS Stockholm. Because it immediately listed to one side half the lifeboats were inaccessible. Nevertheless ,1,660 passengers and crew were evacuated and only 66 died as a result of the collision, which is the worst naval disaster in U.S. waters.

We traveled south of Rome to visit the ruins of Pompei. The next day we went to the Archeological Museum in Naples. Afer entering the museum we realized we could have skipped the ruins and gone straight to the museum. All the good stuff had been removed from Pompei, including frescoes and mosaics, and was on display at the museum. It is a world-class collection of astounding ancient artwork and huge statues. This is one Italian museum, besides the Vatican, where you can photograph freely (without flash, except on the statuary). And being in Naples it is not on the tourist pilgrimage route and so is not crowded. Naples is a raucous city of hustlers. It was my least favorite port stop when I was in the Navy. As the Taxi driver in Rome said, “Bad people in Naples.” The museum’s entry fee seemed reasonable and there was no charge to check one’s bags. And when exiting, there is a taxi stand right across the street. No waiting. Making a quick entrance and exit from Naples is important.

Michael Raffety is editor of the Mountain Democrat. His column appears biweekly.

Michael Raffety


Discussion | 2 comments

  • billzzNovember 05, 2012 - 10:25 pm

    Michael Raffety writes so descriptively that I wish I was there again. The Louvre was crowded, and we never made it all the way, having only a day. The Musée d’Orsay is a converted rail station, and the story is that they wanted to have a place for the French Impressionist painters, but they were not to be in the Louvre, because it was not "real fine art." I guess Monet showed them. He's pretty popular. As much as anyone in the Louvre. And Michael's description of the almost haphazard arrangements is true. I ascribe it to French nonchalance (or some other French word which I also do not know.) It's just French. What can I tell you? They serve the salad last. And the Musée Marmottan Monet is the best? Sacre Bleu! (and other French curses and cheese) We missed it. Hmm. But this is an excuse for another visit. And certainly the Vatican Museum is well worth the time. We were married in Basel, and spent our honeymoon in Rome. The first thing we did was visit the Vatican Museum. When we returned to Germany our friends asked, "You did what? How about 'La Dolce Vita?'" We were Roman party poopers. Oh, well. Anyway, this is a wonderful article which brings back fond memories, and is even better for providing us all with new memories. Incidentally the old Italian saying is "See Naples and die." Great incentive.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • James E.November 05, 2012 - 10:40 pm

    I loved Europe. Stayed at the King George V in Paris, and in Basel a hotel that is 900 years old (the Three Kings?). In Rome I was surprised to find I didn't enjoy the spaghetti (not enamored of the sauce). I found Berlin to be very cold and "German." The south of France was wonderful, although I had to avert my eyes from the nude beaches. In England, I rented a small cottage east of Norfolk -- Hickling Green, a little crossroad village with a pub and a 900 year old church. Totally peaceful. Cairo is another story -- absolute culture shock. Memories.

    Reply | Report abusive comment


Heard over the back fence: Advice offered writers

By Bob Billingsley | From Page: B1

Big marijuana find in EDH

By Cole Mayer | From Page: A1, 1 Comment | Gallery

Jury: Sanford guilty of murder

By Cole Mayer | From Page: A1, 2 Comments | Gallery

Initiative seeks roundabout vote

By Wendy Schultz | From Page: A1, 2 Comments

Sheriff cracking down on Tahoe pot grows

By Tahoe Tribune | From Page: A3

Burn permits required May 1

By Cal Fire | From Page: A7

County backs task force to reduce human trafficking

By Chris Daley | From Page: A13

5 years prison for child porn

By News Release | From Page: A14

A victim tells her story

By Chris Daley | From Page: A14



Income inequality

By Mountain Democrat | From Page: A4, 2 Comments

Billingsley’s Bullets: Marriage makes me laugh

By Bob Billingsley | From Page: A4



What happened to ‘fair and balanced?’

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A5, 14 Comments

Red tape

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A5

Is Ukraine in Asia, Europe or Latin America?

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A5, 20 Comments

Vote for Parlin

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A5, 1 Comment

County and ‘Miwoks’ getting together

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A5, 1 Comment

Ray Nutting’s donation for DA

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A5, 7 Comments



Brown leads Golden Sierra

By Rebecca Reddish | From Page: A9

Cougars 1, Grizzlies 1

By Jerry Heinzer | From Page: A9

Cougars capitalize against Union Mine

By Jerry Heinzer | From Page: A9 | Gallery

Troy unpends Davis

By Brandon Anicich | From Page: A9 | Gallery

El Dorado wins tri-meet

By Mike Bush | From Page: A9 | Gallery

D’backs drop the ‘Hammer’

By Mike Bush | From Page: A9

El Dorado spikers blank D’backs

By Mike Bush | From Page: A10

Roundup: April 23, 2014

By Democrat Staff | From Page: A10

On tap

By Democrat Staff | From Page: A10



Amazing production brings the curtain down for Pete Miller

By Pat Lakey | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Things to do: April 25, 2014

By Democrat Calendar | From Page: B2

Cool Beerwerks is very cool

By Krysten Kellum | From Page: B2 | Gallery

Placerville celebrates Earth Day

By News Release | From Page: B3

Handcar Derby to get pumping

By Folsom Handcar Derby | From Page: B3

IT presents a Reader’s Theater of ‘Our Town’

By Imagination Theater | From Page: B4 | Gallery

Enjoy spring with Steiner Road wineries

By Steiner Road Wineries | From Page: B4

Art and brew are a perfect pair

By News Release | From Page: B5

Spring cleaning is good

Press Release | From Page: B5, 1 Comment

Pinewood Derby rolls at Kniesel’s

Press Release | From Page: B6

The Sacramento Music Festival celebrates world-class music

By Sacramento Music Festival | From Page: B12

Oak Ridge Boys come to TJ’s Corral

By Carson Valley Inn | From Page: B13

Folsom hosts Spring Antique Fair

By Folsom Historic District Association | From Page: B13

Viviana Guzman performs at Petroglyphe Gallery

By Petroglyphe Gallery | From Page: B13

Pioneer Jews of the Gold rush

By Folsom History | From Page: B14, 1 Comment

Time to join the El Dorado Community Concert Association

By El Dorado Community Concert Association | From Page: B14





Frances Estelle Gilluly Fraulob

By Contributor | From Page: A2

Dorothy L. Irvin

By Contributor | From Page: A2

Jeanine Rae Henderson-Hodges

By Contributor | From Page: A2

Thomas David Ewing

By Contributor | From Page: A2

John Lawrence Olson

By Contributor | From Page: A2

Jack O’Camb

By Contributor | From Page: A2

Wesley M. Nyquist

By Contributor | From Page: A2


Real Estate

Spring statistics suggest slower sales

By Ken Calhoon | From Page: HS4

Time to spring outdoors and fix them up

By Marni Jameson | From Page: HS7

Nation’s existing home sales remain soft

Press Release | From Page: HS20



Working It Out

By Contributor | From Page: A11


By Contributor | From Page: A11

TV Listings

By Contributor | From Page: A11

Speed Bump

By Contributor | From Page: A11


By Contributor | From Page: A11


By Contributor | From Page: A11


By Contributor | From Page: A11

Horoscope, Friday, April 25, 2014

By Contributor | From Page: A12

New York Times Crossword

By Contributor | From Page: A12

Horoscope, Sunday, April 27, 2014

By Contributor | From Page: A12

Horoscope, Saturday, April 26, 2104

By Contributor | From Page: A12


Home Source

Spring statistics suggest slower sales

By Ken Calhoon | From Page: HS4

Time to spring outdoors and fix them up

By Marni Jameson | From Page: HS7

Nation’s existing home sales remain soft

Press Release | From Page: HS20