Sunday, February 8, 2009

Before the Deluge - The Statue and the Painting

The curators in the Louvre had already activated mock evacuations of their treasures in 1938, just in case their enemies on the eastern borders decided upon a mischievous incursion.
And so, upon the threat of invasion into France in 1940, during the so-called "Phony War", the plans for removing as much of the priceless works of art went into action.
Notable was the action taken by the curators and staff as regards two of the most priceless possessions in the Louvre; namely, the Mona Lisa and Winged Victory.
The most difficult procedure for removal was, of course, the eight foot Winged Victory masterpiece, which was in an extreme form of fragility, as it is, in reality, a highly damaged statue, consisting of about two hundred fragments, having been found in the latter third of the nineteenth century in utter disarray on an Aegean island, almost two thousand years after it was created.
Imagine, if you can, the statue being tenderly transferred onto a device especially constructed for the purpose of transporting it down the grand staircase of the Louvre, by inches, until it left for the safety, fortunately, of Southern France.
As for the Mona Lisa, a special vehicle with a sealed atmosphere (I believe a converted ambulance) arrived for transport of the most acclaimed painting in the Louvre, also, for the safety of Southern France, and beyond the visual capabilities of the Nazi hordes, about to make France a part of the Third Reich.
It perhaps should be noted that the curator who accompanied the Mona Lisa in that ambulance fainted en route to the area of safety, due to the particular ratio of temperature/ humidity created in order to protect the painting from damage that the elements could have caused.
The world is thankful for these actions.

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