Thursday, May 1, 2014

Classical beauty, Roman patina


How I do love having a museum to myself. So when Remi asked me if I could be his assistant for a technically challenging photo shoot at the Musée départemental Arles Antique on Tuesday, I immediately said yes. It wasn't the first time. I had already spent seven hours there - at night! - while Remi was shooting his story on the Roman Boat for National Geographic Magazine. But this was even more to my liking as he would be focusing on one of my favorites of the art world...Roman mosaics. 

I remember having been fascinated by the wonderful collection at the Brooklyn Museum as a young woman. How could these ancient tiles still hold such color and wonder? How could each tiny piece be put together to make such a magnificent whole? I went back to visit them again and again. They were a direct key to a distant and unknowable past.

Arles is nothing but layers of history. Scratch below the surface and who knows what you might find? Such was the case when the foundations of an entire Roman villa where uncovered across the Rhone River in the Trinquetaille neighborhood. The extensive and largely intact mosaic flooring is the basis for the MDAA's extraordinary collection, one of the finest in France. The museum is also home to a laboratory of experts in mosaic renovation that was formed in a partnership with the Louvre.

But their offices were quiet and only the occasional 'beep' of a roaming security guards walkie-talkie echoed in the background, one met in response by the 'pop' of Remi's flashes lighting up these slivers of time. Such true patina, well-worn and deserved, what fine classical beauty.












Medusa, not a Classical Beauty

The day flew by quickly and was a success. We packed up Remi's extensive studio equipment and then I ducked under the barriers one last time, basking in the opportunity to be so close to something so far away...

There is incredible patina in the museum's ancient stones as well but that is a story for another time.


An important note: As with several other of my blogging friends, I am having trouble with my email subscriptions. Feedburner, the service that I have been using since the beginning, began swallowing up addresses while I was out of town. I do realize that this is something of a "what is the sound of one hand clapping?" type of situation but if you have not been receiving email notifications for Lost in Arles, I apologize. Hopefully, I will have moved to a new service by the beginning of next week. In the meantime, thank you in advance for your patience if there are a few glitches on the way...


Happy May Day! 


36 comments:

  1. Happy May Day to you, too, my friend. Thank you for taking us along on this truly unique adventure. It does take one's breath away to be so near something so old and beautiful. I have to ask, even though I know the answer: were you allowed to touch? If so, what was that like?

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    1. Gosh, no one would have seen if I HAD touched it...but of course I didn't. Respect! :)

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  2. Good to hear that Remi's work still includes MDAA- Projects. Thank you for those gorgeaous close-ups. As normal visitors we are never in the position to see those mosaics so close.

    It was when looking at those mosaics in February that I realized, we had of course a similar Museum at home in Cologne, which is also an ancient Roman City at a great stream.

    And I realized something else in the MDAA:

    Reading the explanations on the museumpanels for the towing practise of the ancient large boats on the Rhone, I first could not believe that horses or even humans were able to tow such a wheight up the stream. I thought I had not interpreted "remorquer" corretly.

    Back home my father told me that in Cologne they also used horses or cattle to tow the boats upstream. And in fact this is how the name of our left side of the Rhine was formed: They used blenders for the animals so they could not see the water. The horses had to look to the right and were "blind" to the left.

    Ever since the left side of town beyond the Rhine is called: "Blind Side" and not "Left Side". I have always wondered about the origin of that name!

    Happy May Day!
    Est-ce tu a reçu des muguets? (;

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    1. Silke! I have been awful about my tardy responses lately for which I apologize - most certainly as this comment was so amazing that I got up and went to tell Remi who was cooking (lotte avec du vin blanc et bacon) in the kitchen at the time - but then I forgot to come back! My goodness.

      But I love what things remain...in our language and our lifestyles...often without our even knowing why. I must look up "your" museum too. :)

      PS. Remi has already asked me if I want to assist on the next series of mosaic photos and I said yes. Will take a real camera next time.

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  3. "It's May, it's May, the lusty month of May..." sorry I can't send you the clip from Camelot or a sprig of Lily of the Valley. Happy May Day. And thanks for this great up close tour.

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    1. Joan? Are you ready for a shocker? I have never seen Camelot! :o I need to take care of that and quickly too...

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  4. It must have been magnificent to have such an opportunity. I'm also a lover of mosaics. The ancient craftsmanship was truly amazing.

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    1. Isn't it? Why don't we use them anymore??

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  5. Oooooo - I loves me some mosaics!! I love the abstract ones the best, but they are all magnificent! What a treat to be in there all alone, to really soak it up and get an up close view! Love the colors and my sister's words/photographs!! Thank you!

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    1. Thank YOU Sister for keeping me going with your encouragement. I love youuu...

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  6. Merci pour la visite de ce musée
    Les mosaïques sont somptueuses

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    1. Ça ma donne une grande plaisir que vous avez fait le "hop" d'instagram jusqu'ici!

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  7. What a treat!
    Thank you! Again.

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  8. Happy Nay Day, Heather, a bit late. Lovely Roman mosaics...how exciting!

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    1. I actually rather liked the idea of Nay Day. I think it would do us all good - rather emowering, non? :)

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  9. Fascinating collection and what a great assignment! Thank you for sharing these mosaics, also enjoyed the photo of the stone piece.

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    1. Oh good, as I will be going back I might try to do a follow up series on stone if I can (since I am there to be helping Remi and not my blog!)...

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  10. It's amazing to think of those beautiful mosaics lasting 2000 or more years. What a great opportunity for you and Remi.

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    1. It makes me wonder what will be left after our time here...*cough cough*

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  11. So amazing - so much history and stories these tiles could tell - whose hands touched these - who were they and what were their thoughts as they laid these pieces!! Goose bumps run up and down my spine - enjoy - so green with envy - I know we could pack and move - but thanks for the journey in the stories you post - wow!!

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    1. Such a fantastic idea Wyn. I love imaging things like that...the mosaics were most likely part of a wealthy merchants villa - perhaps there could be a very "Downtown Abbey" going on...but Roman!

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  12. What an incredible collection here. Truly spectacular and beautiful. And I wanted to thank you so much for the incredibly kind comment you left on my blog today :)

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    1. You are so very welcome, Keith. I was so moved and have thought about you and Beate a few times since then. I am wishing you all happiness (and continued courage for your move) in the months ahead...

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  13. Play time is the best time..I would have been just as excited Heather. To have all that just for you..it would have been difficult to stop. Great photos! xx

    PS..My feedburner is acting up too. If you find a way of getting around it, could you let me know. Thx! :)

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    1. Jeanne, I am trying to move my email services over to Mail Chimp...but...I can't quite figure it out!!! :o

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  14. What a pleasure and privilege to see these beautiful mosaics. Thank you Heather.

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    1. I have the mosaics, you bring the flowers, both are extremely beautiful...

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  15. I love that museum! One of my favorites out of a long list of wonderful ones. Bises, G

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    1. I am so very glad that you got to see it, G - it truly is an exceptional collection.

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  16. I'll be excited to participate in working with these archeological museum pieces. They look so well preserved.

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    1. That is because they were deeply buried for a long, long time!! And well restored to boot.

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  17. Heather, I've been reading about the information that hums at the finer frequencies and looking at your images makes me think about how you are naturally tuned in to that level of existence.

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  18. So cool, it is always such a neat experience to be able to go into places like that when they are closed. The quiet, the aloneness, it somehow feels magical. Love seeing all the photos!

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