Never a dull day in Paris - an encounter with a policeman and a once-in-a-lifetime exhibition at the Louvre

Unfortunately, I don't have a photo of Jeff, the policeman, but he reminded us of the flying super saint in this painting by
Stefano di Giovanni di Consolo, also known as il Sassetta, in the Louvre.


Look again. Are you sure that you're not missing something? Did they take any money? Sometimes they open your wallet and zip it closed so that you don't notice that anything is wrong. What about your phone? Do you still have it? Your camera?

Chatting about the "Belles Heures of Jean de France, duc de Berry", an exhibition that we had just seen at the Louvre, Gwan and I were surprised when a man stopped us shortly after we had gotten off the bus this afternoon. Simultaneously flipping open his wallet to show us a police badge while demanding if we spoke French, he fired questions at us with a great deal of urgency. According to him, he was part of an undercover operation on the bus that had noticed two (insert racial profiling) men "all over you". As if on cue, his phone started to ring. He responded tersely, "No, they aren't missing anything, but they're still checking." After explaining that it was his partner asking if he could arrest the suspects, the police officer told me to make a note of his number and call immediately if we discovered that anything was missing.

Oddly enough, even though Gwan and I had spotted a group of suspicious looking girls get on the bus while we were on our way to the Louvre, we didn't pay any attention to the alleged suspects or undercover policemen on the nearly empty bus on the way home. Was the man who stopped us really a policeman? I'm not totally convinced, but I think that he was because he maintained a respectful distance while we searched our purses. He also had an old cell phone and I think that a pickpocket would have had the latest model, probably a new one stolen from an unsuspecting victim. Gwan's fairly sure that he was a policeman because he looked like a knight in shining armor.  Handsome French policeman or elaborate hoax? There's never a dull day in Paris.

These photos taken of a book about the exhibition don't compare with the richly colored originals.


Thanks to Gwan, I had the unique opportunity to see one of the most celebrated and lavishly illustrated manuscripts from the late Middle Ages, the Belles Heures of Jean de France, duc de Berry, currently on exhibition at the Louvre. Because the prayer book was recently unbound for photography and conservation, it's possible to see the illuminated pages as individual leaves. On June 25, the 47 illuminations will return to The Cloisters collection, the medieval branch of The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, for rebinding.

As I left the exhibition with a few unanswered questions, I was pleased to find this informative video on YouTube.

Note to Gwan: The curator in the Medieval Art Department of The Cloisters said that the young man in the above photo is sitting on his hands to resist the temptation of the devil disguised as a woman. Evidently if you use a magnifying glass, it's possible to see that the man has bitten off the tip of his tongue and is spitting it at the devil. Thanks for a fascinating afternoon!

Please click hear to read Gwan's post, "Snapshots from the Louvre".

Comments

  1. I am sure you would have noticed if two men had been "all over you" so I can't help thinking the saintly police-man was a con-man!
    Glad you enjoyed the exhibition with the 'very keen on the Middle Ages' companion... GM

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    1. Going to the exhibition with the "very keen on the Middle Ages'" Gwan was a delight, as was seeing the Italian paintings. Now I know the significance of her profile picture!

      We're also fairly sure that we would have noticed if two men had been all over us since we both had our purses on our laps with our arms crossed over them. Still, there was something convincing about the man who said that he was a policeman.

      I only hope that the experience didn't put Gwan off of Paris for good. My intent was to show her that Paris can be a pretty nice place to live.

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    2. Well mostly it seemed pretty nice. And certainly not dull!

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  2. No wonder he is sitting on his hands and biting his tongue, you can see her hand going up his robe! The poor man is sweating bullets! haha

    That story with the policeman does sound a bit strange...hmmm...what a city!

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    1. Amidst the more saintly illuminations, the one of the young man came as a bit of a surprise! Although I guess that it is "saintly" for a man to ignore a hussy's hand running up his leg!

      The story with the policeman continues to bother me. It's troubling not to know if it's a new scam or if he was telling the truth. His badge looked authentic but I guess that it wouldn't be difficult to duplicate a badge. I'm with you....what a city!

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    2. I didn't notice that. How risque!

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  3. Beat me to it! I'll have to think hard how to blog it! Thanks for that video, it was great, might steal it :) Didn't see the tongue at all.

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    1. I can't wait to read your account of "Gwan and Mary Kay's adventures in the big city." Get blogging! And feel free to use the video. I was really pleased to have found it because it covers many of the things that you and I discussed.

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  4. I saw this exhibit at the Louvre about a month ago! Just incredible to see every page unbound, usually you just get a glimpse of part of medieval manuscript. So random about that guy. I'm surprised you let him look in your bags, I would have run the other way haha!

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    1. I'm glad that you were able to see the unbound manuscript - it really is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

      The man didn't ask to look in our bags. After saying that he understood that we were suspicious, he stayed at a distance and asked us to search them. That's what was so baffling. There wasn't an occasion for him to take anything from us because of the distance between us. I guess that he could have lunged forward but it would have been difficult. I keep going over and over the incident in my head and am starting to come to the conclusion that it's one of those things to which I'll never know the answer. It was, however, a good reminder to be vigilant when I'm on the bus, metro, etc.

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  5. what a curious and odd combination of stories--but that's what makes life interesting.

    I have a very special reproduction of the Book of Hours but for the life of me cannot find it this morning. This is the second thing I've misplaced (lost?) lately, the first being a copy of Sendak's Pierre--nowhere to be found. What have I done with these? And my long loved brown leather belt with the western style buckle?

    Anyway, I'm glad you got to see this, how very special indeed.

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    1. Ah, just found it. A frog was propped up on it in my bookshelf, I'm sure protecting it. Now to look through the book again.

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    2. I told you that those Liberty frogs make me smile. Not only are they cute but they like to play pranks and hide your favorite books. After you ask them about your brown leather belt can you please ask them what they've done with Stephane's lobster shorts.

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    3. What? Not the lobster shorts! No! I suspect fowl play.

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    4. Nope, no foul play. Stephane still has his crab shorts (the ones in the photo) but we can't find his orange shorts with red lobsters. They've been missing ever since we moved to Paris. Perhaps one of the moving men took a liking to them. Either that or they decided that they weren't worth packing! ;)

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  6. That is a strange incident. Well, whether or not that cop was legit, it sounds like you were on your guard, so good for you.

    What an interesting exhibition. I remember seeing ads for the Art of Illumination a couple of years back, now I'm sorry I didn't go. In fact, I've never been to the Cloisters. I need to rectify that soon.

    Speaking of the Met, I put together a slideshow of my favorite works of art and it's featured on the Met's site this week. Check it out!

    http://www.metmuseum.org/mymet/whats-your-met/featured/archive

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    1. I LOVE your favorite works of art featured in, "My Met. My Backyard." Thanks for sharing the link, nycgirl!

      While all of them appealed to me, it seems serendipitous that I just took a photo at the Louvre of a fragment of a bust of Marcus Aurelius that closely resembles the "Face of Senwosret". Other favorites in your collection are the bronze statuette, the Oyster Dress and Bashi-Bazouk, which I would have sworn was a photograph.

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    2. Thanks! The Met and the Louvre both have an overwhelming amount of good stuff, don't they?

      I love how Gerome, the artist who painted "Bashi-Bozouk," captures light and texture. I feel like I could reach out and touch that silk tunic- not that the guards would allow that!

      Bit of trivia about that piece: it was part of an exhibition of French paintings held to raise funds for the Statue of Liberty's pedestal. So it played a small part in helping to bring over France's gift to the U.S. :)

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    3. That's incredible - I knew that there was a deeper reason why I was attracted to "Bashi-Bozouk". Didn't the pedestal cause quite a few problems between the French and Americans because the Americans were supposed to find funding for it but left it until the very last minute. It's a good thing that the French artists helped out!

      I've been trying to decide if I will join the "American Friends of the d'Orsay". Your comment leads me to believe that I should because one of their current projects is the restoration of the Statue of Liberty that was in the Luxembourg Gardens. More info here.

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    4. That's such a shame about the vandalism.

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  7. I'm sure I heard a story (maybe on another blog) aboutundercover policemen asking people for the time, then taking their phones off them when the person got it out to check, then telling them that that's how a lot of the thieves in the metro work. That struck me as bizarre too, so maybe the Paris police just work in strange ways!

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  8. What a great exhibit! I love your manuscript photos. We did an art lesson on those types of manuscripts in elementary school. I think it was the only time I really enjoyed drawing anything! As for the policeman, What a weird experience! Glad that you weren't pickpocketed!

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