once upon a time a group of university students were let loose in the great Parisian art museum, the louvre; this was after already having spent months studying about art history and traveling throughout Europe to see masterpieces and various works of genius. so, you would think one would know how to conduct herself in a grand gallery such as the louvre.
there was so much to see that day; great works by Leonardo da Vinci – the Mona Lisa, Saint John the Baptist, Madonna on the rocks – and other famous works including the Venus de Milo, the winged victory, cupid and psyche, and Medusa’s raft. to see these works first hand was phenomenal and overwhelming at times. to think that one was standing before works of genius that have inspired others for hundreds of years; the hidden messages about God, humanity, their realation to one another and to society, and all the liberties that humans have fought for and spoken out about pierces the soul to react, provoking change within the viewer…i hope.
one masterpiece in particular that brought excitement to this appreciative student of art was the ‘ship of fools’ by Hieronymus Bosch; a painting which depicts the folly and foolishness of mankind, leaving no one with mercy – two main characters are a priest and a nun. his message, we assume, is to say that all of humanity in some way or another has spent time in the ship of fools. Bosch’s inspiration for this painting possibly comes from a German poem with the same name. i was most excited to view this painting for i am a fan of Bosch.
after searching around for fifteen minutes for this painting (the gallery map was wrong) i stumbled upon the painting along with my classmates and professor peter. this was when conduct was thrown out the window and the unthinkable occurred.
i was exhausted; i was excited; i forgot where i was; i was just as shocked as everyone else when it happened…
…as i was examining the painting up close and discussing some of the symbolism with peter, i neglected to notice that i was leaning against the very same wall that the painting hung on. as i motioned towards the painting to ask Pete about the roasted chicken hanging in the tree, bump went my hand and the painting began to swing; it was hung onto a board the suspended from the ceiling. oh thank goodness it did not fall. oh but what is that sound…is that an alarm…?
two guard-women entered the room, speaking in french, checking cupboards to identify where the alarm was originating. i backed away from the painting along with everyone else in the tiny room. suddenly the women returned, shouting in french to evacuate the room immediately for they are shutting down the entire section – someone has attempted to steal a painting.
what have i done, i thought to myself; i should know better for this is not how to conduct oneself in a world famous, world class art gallery. worried that Pete was upset with me, and that he now thought i was a fool who belonged on Bosch’s ship, i sheepishly apologized; he said not to worry – so what if i bumped and potentially damaged a $60 million dollar painting, at least i have a great story to tell.
and there you have one great story from an SSU student traveling the world who forgot where she was for a moment and the unthinkable occurred.