The Louvre’s “Artwork of the Day”
I didn’t get my idea about looking at one Louvre painting each day from anyone else, except, perhaps, from the person who coined the phrase “an apple a day keeps the doctor away,” but I certainly can’t claim to be its inventor either. After starting the blog, I did something I should have done before: I looked for other blogs devoted to the Louvre. A Google search revealed that the phrase “a painting a day” is used by a number of bloggers who post one classic painting a day, along with a commentary, with some of them devoted, as mine is, to the Louvre collection. The same search produced links to webpages created by artists who have begun a project of creating a “painting a day” and posting the works online.
I hope to say more about other Louvre blogs in the future. Lately, though, quite by chance, I discovered that the Louvre itself provides a daily feature that presents in rotation single works with commentaries from its many curatorial departments, including my particular interest, paintings. The feature is called “Artwork of the Day”, and there is a link to it on the home page of the Louvre official website (http://www.louvre.fr/en). As I say, it was a chance discovery, but it would have been a much earlier one in my project if I had only searched the home page carefully during my first visits to the Louvre website. The link to “Artwork of the Day” doesn’t appear in the default view of the home page that opens on my laptop screen. When I open the website, what I see, and what I first investigated, were the very top elements of the home page—the list of word links to key areas of coverage and a slideshow of special features, including “A Closer Look” that I wrote about in blog post 7 when describing the troubles I had locating information about Titian’s Madonna of the Rabbit. “Artwork of the Day” appears in the next row of elements on the home page; I just had to scroll down a little on the default view. It is the leftmost element in that row, and the day’s image is presented there over the heading “Artwork of the Day.”
The commentaries that accompany each “Artwork of the Day” are much more extensive than those that appear in The Louvre: All the Paintings, but they are available for only 215 paintings, whereas the Louvre book gives a commentary for more than 400 works. In the cases where the same work gets a commentary in both places, it is not the same text, so it is well worth checking whether a work of particular interest has one of the “Artwork of the Day” commentaries. Checking can be done at least three different ways. The first way is to click on the current “Artwork of the Day”. The page that opens contains the day’s image and commentary, but there is also a tab over the image with the words “All works”. That tab opens the webpage of the Curatorial Department from which the day’s image comes; that page contains a search box. The second way is to directly open the webpage that is home to all eight Curatorial Departments, which also has a search box. This webpage can be opened from the Louvre home page through the heading, “Collections & Louvre Palace,” which is also the way to reach the main Louvre website search, a feature I have often mentioned when reporting valuable information—and sometimes frustrating problems—I have had when working with the website.
The third way to reach the commentaries is through the main website search itself. Results for a search are arranged in the following order: first, links to artworks for which there is a commentary, that is, the pool of works written about in the “Artwork of the Day” feature; and, second, a list of relevant works contained in the Atlas Database. (A search done on the French language version of the website gives a third type of result: a list of items from the Prints and Drawings Department.) Since only 215 paintings are included in the “Artwork of the Day” feature, it is not surprising that I have rarely found a commentary available on one of the 461 paintings I’ve looked at so far, especially because the paintings I’m most interested in learning more about are by lesser known artists. The material I’ve included in blog posts has usually come from the Atlas Database, not from the “Artwork of the Day” commentaries. I’ll be checking more carefully in future to see whether a commentary on a painting is available on the Louvre website, but a quick check of some recent artists with one painting confirmed that none of them had a commentary, whereas a check of five artists with multiple works (Francesco Albani, Titian, Domenichino, Guido Reni and Leonardo da Vinci) showed that works by all of these artists except Albani did have commentaries; multiple works by Titian and by da Vinci have commentaries.
The commentary on Guido Reni’s Deianeira and the Centaur Nessus (ca. 1617 and referred to as Nessus Abducting Deianeira in the Atlas Database and the Louvre book) includes, as does the Atlas Database, a brief history of the painting from its commissioning by Ferdinando Gonzaga, duke of Mantua, to its acquisition by Louis XIV in 1662, but it includes a great deal more: the story of the Centaur Nessus’s attempt to carry off Hercules’s wife Deianeira as told in Ovid’s Metamorphoses; the development of Reni’s style, which the commentary traces from Renaissance classicism to Baroque and, finally, to what the commentary calls “a synthesis between classicism and the hues of the Baroque”; and a mention of the location, the Villa Favorita near Mantau, for which the painting, along with three others on events from the life of Hercules, was created. I have included a reproduction of Reni’s painting in this post, and here is a link to the commentary: http://www.louvre.fr/en/oeuvre-notices/deianeira-and-centaur-nessus.