When I think of the opera, I think of big Viking women singing like there’s no tomorrow. And maybe a chorus made up of peasants, singing about their happy little lives—just before they storm the castle. Basically, something dramatic is always going down. So why shouldn't the décor at the Opera Garnier be just as dramatic?
We start with this happy looking fella, who I noticed staring down at me from the ceiling of the outdoor balcony overlooking Place de l'Opera. Is he crying because spears are sticking out of his head? Or is he just sad that no one notices him as they stand at the railing and watch all the brightly colored buses zoom by? As drama masks go, this face, much like the face of a two-year-old who has been told no when he tries to stick his finger in the light socket, is pretty standard. If I had spent more time searching I’m sure I would have found his counterpart—a happy face.
I’m pretty proud of this find. It wasn't easy to see, being in a fairly darkened anteroom off the main staircase. I've increased the light to it so you can see the wild bats and owls painted above the lights. This is great detail. Very imaginative.
This little dragon was slinking his way around the base of the main staircase. He wasn’t easy to spot, since his color blended in with the stairs, and he was really, really still. Why would a dragon be sneaking around the hems of all those overdressed opera socialites?
Every Opera needs a ghost. And this one looks deliciously spooky. Even better, she has a companion ghost. What was so great about them was the fact that they were lit from below, surrounded mostly by the dark.
On the front corner of the Opera, you can see this fun-loving group. The only thing better than an angel that destroys its foe? One who takes the time to step on him after she’s done so. Whoever this guy is, she is really infuriated with him. I get the idea she’s about to use that stick to bash in his head. She does not like the guy. It’s a safe bet.
A bonus picture for today. From the Musee D’Orsay, we see this depiction of hell in William Bouguereau's Dante and Virgil. This demon is pleased to see Redhead tearing into his wrestling partner—with both his teeth and with his hand. I was impressed that my fourteen-year-old son knew right away who these guys were. Anybody else know? I’ll give you a hint—just off to the side we can see Dante and Virgil observing the scene.
Bouguereau painted this terrible scene in an effort to win the Prix de Rome from the Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture, which he had failed to win the previous two years. It was said Jacques-Louis David nearly attempted suicide after failing to win in three attempts. Bouguereau's Dante and Virgil won him the prize. (A feat even Degas and Manet never accomplished.) You can see the full painting here, a site with the complete list of his paintings. Despite this intense, violent scene, 29 years later, Bouguereau would give the world his most famous and more beautiful work: The Birth of Venus, which won the Grand Prix de Rome at the 1879 Paris Salon. Botticelli's The Birth of Venus is by far the more famous, but I always liked Bouguereau's more.
Amazingly, Bouguereau went from being one of the most popular artists of his time to near eradication from the world of art after Degas and many others singled him out and derided his work. His staunch opposition to the Impressionists seems have been a major factor in this. At one point, his name was not even listed in encyclopedias. Oppose newly popular artists at your own risk!