Today, I made the trek to Porte de Clingancourt for Les Puces, the flea market. The last few times I was there I had a favorite area, a narrow strip along a road with many vendors under a row of trees. Some vendors gathered for their weekly card game under an awning. I enjoyed looking through the bins of junk looking for treasures. One man always responded to my questions of “how much” (in French) with “un Euro.” Can’t beat that price!
This time, there was a mass of construction that obliterated my landmarks. Traffic was thick everywhere. Dozens of young men along the street walked around hawking watches and purses. The walkway was full of vendors selling tennis shoes and jeans. I did find a wonderful section that I had missed before that was like a rabbit warren. Narrow paths lead among a jumble of very small shops. Some of the vendors looked very elderly indeed. They had been selling antiques, methinks, for a long time and were not planning to retire. Many of the shops sold exquisite antique French furniture. Many other shops sold a hodge-podge of things such as Native American headdresses, old harps with broken strings, antique guns and swords, Baccarat glassware, paintings, lithographs,sets of china, tiny marbles, a horse-drawn cart without the horse, sculptures, old post cards, Persian rugs, juke boxes, marionettes and silver. My favorite was a long, white evening gown with a black/white photo of David Bowie on the chest. Out of my price range. I enjoyed photographing the scene. Only one young man rushed out of his shop to prevent me from snapping a picture of his collection of compasses. All in all though a lot of fun. I caught the metro back to my apartment, caught my breath, and went out to rue Cler to the bakery (brioche), the flower shop (tulips), the Charcuterie (roast chicken) and the fromagerie (Brie) gathering things for dinner. The day was clear and sunny. Parisians filled the cafes and the metro. Lots of children with their proud parents were enjoying the day together.
Yesterday, I also visited the Rodin Museum and Gardens. They just finished a major renovation of Hotel Biron where Rodin lived and worked. Rilke was also there for a time. This time I rented the audio guide which was well worth six Euros. Rodin was a contemporary of Impressionists such as Monet, Van Gogh and Renoir. As a collector of art, Rodin sometimes traded his bronzes for paintings by his friends, so some of these works also hang in this museum.
The exhibition traces the life and development of Rodin over his amazing life. He worked and reworked some themes over time such as the story of Paulo and Francesca from Dante. The Gates of Hell (based on Dante’s stories) is a gigantic bronze “gate”in the garden. In the museum are works that explore the same stories. For example, Paulo and Francesca became a large super-romantic sculpture known as The Kiss. Well, the story in Dante is that Francesca fell in love with her husband’s brother, Paulo. When they kissed for the first time, her husband saw it and stabbed them both to death. There’s also the man who ate his children. Hell, indeed.
Many of Rodin’s works are breathtakingly beautiful. Rodin thought that beauty derived from character. Ugliness was anything false or artificial. “According to the artist, everything in nature is beautiful.” True beauty also lies in ugliness. One example of this is a bronze called “She who was the helmet makers once beautiful wife.” This is based on a poem by Francoise Villon (1460) about a woman who mourns her lost beauty. Rodin made a nude sculpture of a very aged woman who he considered beautiful.
One feature of this museum is a series of short films. In one film, Rodin in old-age is enthusiastically chipping away at a sculpture with hammer and chisel with flecks of stone landing on his bushy beard. He’s talking to someone off-camera and laughing. How wonderful to be able to see this man not as a long-dead icon but as a man enjoying his art and being the center of attention. I loved seeing his art, but it was the film clip that brought it all alive to me.
Yippee skippee, tomorrow Deanna arrives, and we’ll go to the Bois de Boulonge to see the Louis Vuitton building. C’est la vie.