Today Paris is wistfully mild, perhaps missing the sharp cold of the traditional Christmas week. Rushing crowds flow in and out of stores loaded with bags of presents awaiting the surprise of the recipients. Recession? The locals seem to have decided to forget about it and an uneasy mixture of good seasonal feelings and an urge to give and receive gifts is in everyone’s heart.
Without feeling nauseated but determined to turn my back on it, I head to the Louvre. “In the Kingdom of Alexander the Great-Ancient Macedonia” is the title of a dazzling exhibition retracing the artistic manifestations of the old kingdom of Macedonia from XV B.C. to Roman times. It is rather startling to learn that most of these magnificent objects have only been excavated less than a hundred years ago and more recently around 1978 thanks to the indefatigable efforts of the Greek archeologist Manolis Andronikos. The most outstanding objects come from the funerary conglomerates unearthed at Vergina, the site of the ancient Aigai, capital of the first kingdom of Macedonia. The juxtaposition of history and artifacts in a dramatic display provides much enlightment about a period of the Hellenic cultures little known. The nobility and beauty of the pieces is indescribable. I was in awe of an extraordinary golden crown of oak leaves. The fine work is timelessly executed and its preservation perfect. Jewellery, pottery, funerary sculpture and mosaics speak to our sense of beauty and somehow elevate it with their silent magnetism. From the large statues of the Roman period to the intimate pottery of the early Bronze times, the exhibition confronts you to pieces not only of immense archeological value but specially to an emotional experience of beauty that reaches back from long past centuries. What a joyful experience! What a sense of empowerment the exhibition gives us! I stepped out in the windswept Place du Carrousel with a fortified soul.