The Treasure Hunt


The Louvre is probably the most famous art museum in the world, containing the most famous painting in the world and some of the most famous sculptures as well. Jackie, Gail, and I knew that we could walk around there for hours, but we also knew that our boys (and most kids in general) would get pretty bored pretty quickly just looking at paintings and sculptures. So we had a clever plan to make it fun for them so we didn’t have to listen to “Can we leave yet?” all day — We turned it into a treasure hunt. (We can’t take credit for this plan, the former vice-principal at the boys’ school told us that this is what they did.)

Once we bought our tickets, our first stop was the gift shop, where we asked each of the boys to choose two of the many postcards representing works contained in the Louvre. They each chose a couple, Gail and I each chose one (though I’m wondering if we never actually bought mine, because I can’t find it), and we began our hunt. Of course, we walked slowly while searching so that we could look at the other works as well.

One of the first things we saw was Winged Victory, which is a 2200-year-old sculpture found in Greece. I’m not sure what it is about this piece, but I was really impressed with it, and Ryan really liked it as well. He couldn’t get over the fact that it was over two thousand years old.

We spent a long time in the Grande Galerie, which is a huge hallway containing zillions of Italian paintings. The Mona Lisa is in a room just off of this hallway, and it was the second piece we found on our hunt. Mona is smaller than one might think, and because it’s behind a big sheet of plexiglass, it’s hard to take a good picture of it. I must have taken ten pictures from various different angles to try and minimize the glare from the plexiglass. I even took one with the flash on (a no-no according to the sign, but lots of other people were doing it too), but it turned out worse than the other ones.

At the end of the Grande Galerie were a few rooms containing Spanish paintings, and this is where we found the first postcard, one of Ryan’s. All the rest of the paintings were by French artists, so we headed over to where the French paintings were. We wandered around there for a while and the only one we found was mine. We then found a section that contained more French paintings but was closed to the public that day. We were disappointed, since we figured that this room is probably where the rest of our postcards were, so we asked the security guard if they were indeed in the closed section. He looked at the pictures, and said no, these particular ones were in a gallery of larger paintings on a different floor. We made our way down there, and hit the jackpot. First off, we were amazed by the size of these pieces. There were paintings in there that must have been fifteen feet high and at least twice that wide. As we were admiring the biggest one, Nicky pointed out his picture of Napoleon, and then we noticed his other one just down from that one, then Gail’s Jeanne d’Arc in one corner, and finally Ryan’s tigers in another corner. Of the six postcards we chose at the gift shop, four of the corresponding paintings were in the same room. Considering how many paintings are in the Louvre, we were blown away by this. Of course, the vast majority of the works in the Louvre are not available on postcards in the gift shop, so it’s not like we picked six out of 35,000 and four of them were together.

One thing we found that was a little surprising was that the boys were not just looking for paintings that matched their postcards, they were actually looking at the paintings. There were a number of times that one or both of the boys would ask about who was in a painting, or why they painted whatever it was. There were a number of paintings of various people holding the head of John the Baptist. (Note that the link is to a painting that is supposed to be in the National Gallery in London, but I’m sure we saw it in the Louvre. Perhaps it was a copy.) I couldn’t explain the significance of that, but Ryan thought it was cool. There was one of David fighting Goliath where the artist had painted the same scene from two different angles, and both boys enjoyed walking in circles around the two paintings comparing one with the other. And Ryan mentioned the other day that there were a lot of paintings with naked people. He’s right.

We walked around the Louvre for at least three hours, and not once did either of the boys ask if we were done yet, or when we were leaving, or complain about being bored, or anything. Is this because of exceptional parenting — we’ve taught them not to whine when things aren’t going exactly how they want? Well, we are trying to teach them that, but it doesn’t always work. Is it because we’ve taught them to appreciate fine art and so they were simply fascinated the whole time? As I said, this was true to a larger extent than I expected, but for the most part, no. The simple truth is that we found a way to distract them for long enough that we got to see what we wanted. We’ve found that a good portion of parenting young children is the art of distraction.

BTW, some of our pictures are available at our family website.

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