« Je donne mon avis non comme bon mais comme mien. » — Michel de Montaigne

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14 octobre 2017

“What a blind person needs is not a teacher but another self.” (Helen Keller)

Classé dans : Arts et beaux-arts, Peinture, dessin, Sculpture — Miklos @ 11:41

B*** in front of the Mona Lisa, with my extended arm behind her.B*** in front of the Mona Lisa. Musée du Louvre. (source)

I was recently solicited by a great guy, H***, in order to meet and guide a friend of his, B***, an impressively courageous 24 year-old blind woman, into the Orsay and Louvre museums. This turned out not only to be a privilege, but a transformative experience (for me). B***, who lives in Western Asia, had graduated last June in psychology. To quote her profile: “I’m a young trainer in youth field. I’ve been doing projects, activities, seminars etc. in NGOs working with disadvantaged groups especially people with disabilities, children and women. I’m involving events and activities for doing disability activism. I’m also writing in an online journal. I love writing, it opens my mind and makes me feel more confident by making decesions and acting.” And does she act! She came to Paris for a two-day stay, after having visited Malta and Rome. Alone. It was her wish to see the paintings in Orsay and the Louvre.

We started with the Orsay museum. It turned out that Orsay has no aids whatsoever for blind people – like a “tactile” room (as the Louvre does, see below) or descriptive audio guides. Frustration (mine) can lead to unconventional ideas: I suggested we go to the museum store, where I knew there were replicas of statues, and ask if she could touch them. The sales­woman readily agreed, and this allowed B*** to explore some of the sculptures of this museum with my explanations about the artists.

But what about the paintings? This turned out to be quite a different challenge. The use of such qualifiers as “big”, “small”, “great”, “amazing”, “striking” that we may use while standing in front of a work of art and sharing our feelings with a fellow visitor would provide no useful information to B***. I felt it was necessary to concentrate on being descriptive and factual: size of the painting, overall layout and shapes, colors, tonality and shades (B*** had at a time perceived colors), texture (of the skin, of the hair, of the clothing, of the buildings and the vegetation)1. Think about how to describe “objectively” the faces of the women in Renoir’s Bal du moulin de la Galette, for instance, the soft skin, the dark eyes and eyebrows, the red lips and the so characteristic smile, the rosy cheeks, the shape of the faces, the way they hold their head… What about the differences between the settings of the couple of paintings of the famous Étretat cliff – angle, colors, weather and overall atmosphere? This was a first for me. I hadn’t consciously thought of works that way before, but felt I had to try my best to project what I saw rather than what I felt into her mind.

The following day we went to the Louvre. We first visited its touch gallery, which currently “features 18 casts that show the diversity of the museum’s sculpture collection, from ancient to modern times” illustrating the both clothed and unclothed body through time. Watching B***’s hands explore with such a light touch the scultpures was fascinating. But at times, especially with drapes folding in complex ways around (parts of) the some of the bodies, she got lost, so I took the liberty to lead her hand as gently as I could and explain what she was touching locally by describing the overall shape. Next to each work, there is a Braille notice identifying the work… but unfortunately only in French. At the entrance of that room, there is a bilingual panel (in normal alphabet), explaining the genres that were displayed in the room. The Braille translation below again was only in French, so I provided an oral translation of the text.

We then went to the Mona Lisa room with Saul who had joined us meanwhile (and who took the above photo). As we unfortunately couldn’t come to the museum at opening time, it was already full with dense hordes of visitors. We managed to find a small space at the far left of the barrier keeping them away from the painting, and I started describing the work to her. Just a couple of minutes later, a guard came and asked us to follow him: he brought us to another barrier much closer to the painting – maybe less that 1 m away – where I had never seen anyone standing. This allowed me to notice much subtler differences in colors and shades (e.g., in the clothing) that I had from the public standpoint, which I then attempted conveying to B***, together with the larger features of the painting – the overall shape (foreground, landscape background), her posture (body, arms, hands), detailed shape (face, cheeks, chin, eyelids…), colors, tonality and shades. As we weren’t allowed to stay very long there (we were in between the general public and the painting), my explanations had perforce to be cut short after a few minutes: for example, it would have been informative to explain why Renaissance Italian paintings had such half or quartier openings into the background (as can be seen in other paintings in that room).

After that painting, there was the challenge to describe Veronese’s immense (6.66 m x 9.90 m) Wedding Feast at Cana, which stands opposite that of Mona Lisa (so she wouldn’t be bored only watching the back of tourists taking selfies without even looking at her): the palace structure and its levels, the people – their social classes and functions, their clothing, their attitudes and expressions… -, the animals (including the dog’s head in the upper left corner), and so many other aspects.

We ended up by visiting part of the Ancient Egypt section – that of the 4,400 year-old Seated Scribe with its poised position and calmly powerful expression, or – to me some of the most touching works I have seen – those of couples seated side by side, with a very formal and stiff attitude in the front, and a tender one in the back, where either or both have an arm discreetly holding their spouse around the back or on the shoulder. The one pictured below has the additional characteristic of being ever so slightly bent, which is hardly noticeable from the front: they must be an older, loving couple.

Transformative indeed.

A married couple and their child, seen from behind, with the wife's hand on her husband's shoulder. 4th dynasty, 2620-2500 B.C. Musée du Louvre.A married couple and their child. 4th dynasty, 2620-2500 B.C. Musée du Louvre. (front view)


1. Come to think of it, it reminds me of the way I introduced over 45 years ago another handicaped (in this case: paralyzed) person – my friend Guy – to classical music, by having him listen to Bach’s Cantata BWV 106 (Gottes Zeit). Before every movement, I would draw his attention to melodic lines (by singing them the best I could), harmony and polyphony, textures of instruments, voices of soloists and choir. I had never done it before (nor after, as it turns out), and even 40 years later he would tell me how it transformed his life. Not to speak of mine.

16 juillet 2017

« Elle (la sagesse) sait mêler les jeux et les ris avec les occupations graves et sérieuses. »—Fénelon, Télémaque, livre VIII.

Classé dans : Langue, Littérature — Miklos @ 9:38


«Il y a des seigneurs et des magistrats à qui vous ne pouvez parler sans avoir essuyé les caprices du portier, d’un premier laquais qui est à l’entrée de l’appartement, et d’un valet-de-chambre qui est de garde à la porte du cabinet. Tous ces petits messieurs vous repoussent avec une fierté insolente ; sourds à vos compliments, ils ne prêtent l’oreille qu’au son des espèces.

Le comédie Mézetin, voulant présenter un ouvrage de sa composition au duc de ***, fut d’abord rebuté par le portier. « Monsieur, lui dit-il fort honnêtement, je dois être récompensé d’un ouvrage que je dédie à monsieur votre maître : laissez-moi entrer ; je vous promets, foi d’homme d’honneur, le tiers de ce qu’il me donnera. » Le portier, humanisé, lui dit : « Passez, monsieur : je vous crois homme de parole. » À l’entrée de l’appartement, il eut un nouvel assaut avec le laquais ; mais il le gagna par la même voie, en lui promettant un autre tiers de la récompense. Parvenu à la porte du cabinet, il est aux prises avec le valet-de-chambre, et ce n’est que par la promesse du dernier tiers qu’il parvient à l’attendrir.

Le voilà enfin dans ce cabinet si difficile à atteindre ; il fait son compliment et son présent au duc, qui lui dit : « Mézetin, je ressens vivement l’hommage que vous me faites : j’estime infiniment l’ouvrage et l’auteur. Je veux que vous me demandiez vous-même la récompense que vous souhaitez : je vous déclare que je ne la limite point.—Hé bien, monseigneur, répondit l’auteur, je vous demande cent cinquante coups de bâton.—Quel est donc le but de cette plaisanterie ? » reprit le duc. Mézetin lui raconta à quel prix il avait attendri son portier, son laquais, son valet-de-chambre. « Vous voyez bien, poursuivit-il, monseigneur, que, n’ayant aucune part à la récompense, je n’aurai que le plaisir de voir châtier ceux qui m’ont contraint de me relâcher de ma prétention. » Le duc, ayant ri de tout son cœur, fit la mercuriale à ses gens,» et donna un présent à la femme de ce comédien, afin qu’il en pût profiter sans violer sa parole.

A. Roy, Le Narrateur français ; or, a selection of anecdotes, repartees, & characters, in the French tongue, printed with two new orthoepic signs, in order to facilitate the attainment of a correct and elegant pronunciation ; To which are annexed, Premiminary Grammar Principles, an Interpretative Index, and a Free Translation of the first Anecdotes,—by which means, the Text can be critically understood without any other assistance: The whole being executed on an Original Plan, and adapted to the use of Adults. London, 1827.

9 juillet 2017


Classé dans : Arts et beaux-arts, Peinture, dessin, Photographie — Miklos @ 21:06

Antinoüs Mondragone. Vers 130 après J.-C. Cliquer pour agrandir.

Achille chez le roi Lycomède. Vers 240 après J.-C. Cliquer pour agrandir.

Achille chez le roi Lycomède. Cliquer pour agrandir.

Giovanni Bellini : La Vierge et l’Enfant entre saint Pierre et saint Sébastien. Vers 1487.
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Domenico Ghirlandaio : Portrait d’un vieillard et d’un jeune garçon. Vers 1490.
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Carlo Braccesco : L’Annonciation. Vers 1490-1500. Cliquer pour agrandir.

Orazio Samacchini (1532-1577) : Mercure ordonne à Énée d’abandonner Didon.
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Tiziano Vecellio, dit Titien : Les Pèlerins d’Emmaüs. Vers 1530. Cliquer pour agrandir.

Véronèse : Les Noces de Cana. 1562-1563. Cliquer pour agrandir.

Louis David : Les Sabines. 1799. Cliquer pour agrandir.

►►► Autres photos ici.◄◄◄

28 mai 2017

Culture et communication à la Mairie de Paris

Classé dans : Actualité, Arts et beaux-arts, Langue, Progrès, Sciences, techniques — Miklos @ 17:41

Madame Hidalgo
Maire de Paris
Mairie de Paris
Paris, le 27 mai 2017.

Madame la Maire,

En passant en fin de matinée le vendredi 26 mai devant la mairie du premier arrondissement, j’ai contemplé l’accrochage de Miroslav Sekulic-Struja sur ses grilles. La pancarte qui parle de l’œuvre et de l’artiste y parle d’un ouvrage, « Renée Magritte Vu par... » (pancarte que j’ai prise en photo). Or comme vous devez le savoir, il s’agit de René Magritte.

Cliquer pour agrandir.

J’ai voulu le signaler aussitôt. Le gardien à l’entrée de la mairie m’a dit qu’il n’y avait personne pour ce faire…

J’ai alors voulu le signaler sur le site de la dite mairie : à la fin de la saisie, le site me répond invariablement que « Les caractères : <, >, #, « , & sont interdits dans les champs de saisie !  » Or mon message ne comportait aucun de ces caractères (j’avais même supprimé les guillemets partout).

En désespoir de cause, je me suis rendu sur le site de la Mairie de Paris, pour vous déposer le message ci-dessus dans le formulaire de contact qui s’y trouve. Et voilà que je reçois cet « accusé de réception » n° Ref417095 par courriel :

Cliquer pour agrandir.

et pourtant c’était ce que je venais de faire !

Je trouve cette conjonction de problèmes – culturel et commu­ni­ca­tionnels – bien désolante. À toutes fins utiles, je précise qu’étant infor­ma­ticien je sais en général me servir des outils de commu­ni­cation disponibles sur l’internet (quand ils fonctionnent correctement).

Veuillez accepter, Madame la Maire, l’expression de mes salutations distinguées.

23 avril 2017


Classé dans : Actualité, Littérature, Politique, Société — Miklos @ 13:43

Some of the words ending in ism. Click to enlarge.

Two poems by Karl Jay Shapiro (1913-2000), quite relevant this very day of national elections in France and during the whole campaign that preceded it.


The liberal is your true undying friend
But disagree with him and that’s the end.

The radical, however, claims no friend
Except his catechism, which can bend.

In the revolution there are always cracks:
The Communists killed Trotsky with an ax.

The guns of the Idealists are red-hot:
Whoso commits nonviolence is shot.

Sestina: Of the Militant Vocabulary

The first word you must know is relevant,
The qualifier of experience.
Relevant experience of the revolution,
For instance, trains you to confront the pigs,
The first defense line of the power structure,
Which guards insidiously the Establishment.

What we are after is the Establishment,
Which acts as if we are not relevant
And forces us to wreck the power structure.
This confrontation is an experience
Not only for the people but for the pigs
Whom we’ll win over in the revolution.

When we make love we make the revolution,
As war is made by the Establishment,
For in our confrontation with the pigs
We prove to them that they’re irrelevant
And immaterial to the experience,
Which in itself can wreck the power structure.

The military-industrial power structure,
A major target of the revolution,
Must also be a sexual experience.
To expose the symbols of the Establishment
Expose yourself—it’s highly relevant
And absolutely petrifies the pigs.

In our utopia there will be no pigs
And no remains of any power structure
Except what we decide is relevant;
And what is relevant but revolution?
We spell the death of the Establishment,
Which will probably welcome the experience.

Meanwhile, experience the experience;
Demand, demand, and overwhelm the pigs
Till we in fact are the Establishment
And constitute a groovy power structure.
Remember the slogan of the revolution:
Now is forever; Now is relevant.

While pigs perpetuate the power structure,
Baby, be relevant to the revolution
Till we experience the Establishment.

The Blog of Miklos • Le blog de Miklos