Sunday, February 18, 2007

Almost spring in Pere Lachaise

It's said that more than a million and a half people visit Pere Lachaise each year. If that's true they must have all been in the cemetery yesterday because it was packed with tourists of every shape, size, color, sexual orientation, religious affiliation, and nationality.

What a beautiful day it was in Paris, very much like spring with temps reaching the low 60s. The day began slightly cool but by midday had warmed up and when the sun came out it was actually quite warm, almost uncomfortably so in a lightweight jacket.

And so what better day to be out strolling in one of the world's most fantastic sculpture gardens.

One of my favorites (out of a couple a hundred I suppose) can be found in division 94, just a couple of meters from the final resting place of Gertrude Stein and Alice Toklas. You really can't miss General Andranik Ozanian, one of the heroes of Armenian liberation, rearing hup on hir horse ready to charge into battle. (He also has another statue in a square named after him in Meudon, a suburb southwest of Paris.) General Andranik fought against the Ottoman Turks in Armenia and Bulgaria and also attempted to prevent the Turks from invading eastern Aremnia in 1918-1919. As know of course he was not successful and in 1919 he disbanded his army and along with a band of loyal soldiers left Armenia to go into exile rather than live under Turkish rule. He eventually settled in Fresno, California where he died in 1927. His body was brought to Paris and interred in Pere Lachaise, but was returned to Armenia in 2000, so today the statue is simply a memorial to one of Armenia's freedom fighters. (photo above and below: General Andranik's statue in division 94.)

I'm nearly finished videotaping in Pere Lachaise and have now started to turn my attention more and more to taping the people who come here.

But of course I'm not the first to tape the spectators (as opposed to the spectacle). In fact, just last year a documentary was released in Europe and the US interviewing some of the people who come to visit Pere Lachaise. The film is called Forever, put together by Heddy Honigman, is in French and English, and was released by Cobos Films, a Dutch production company. It received very good reviews and sounds fascinating -- now it's just a matter of finding a copy.



Friday, February 16, 2007

It was a beautiful day the day after Valentine's Day (lots of days there, eh?) and what better thing to do than go out to Pere Lachaise and spend a little time strolling and videotaping and visiting Edith Piaf:

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Passy, Vaugirard and Grenelle complete

I've completed my return passes through these threee somewhat off-the-beaten path gardens of stone: Passy, Vaugirard and Grenelle cemeteries.

There is very little to recommend a stop at Grenelle in the 15th arrondissement, except for the Henri Schmid sculpture. This is, I think, one of the sweetest pieces of artwork to be found out-of-doors in Paris; it takes on even great power and poignancy in such a small cemetery. (174 rue St. Charles. Metro: Lourmel.)

Also off the beaten path is Vaugirard where you can find the very moving "Soldiers'" lot, a field of simple crosses against the backdrop of hi-rise apartment buildings. While most tourists go to Les Invalides to see Napoleon's tomb or those of the great and near-great martial heroes of France, it is at Vaugirard that you will find the burials of quite a few of the soldiers who died at Les Invalides hospital, many from wounds during the First World War. Also worth a stop is the compelling sculpture highlighting the grave of Antony Cottes, a remarkable bit of art which reminiscent of the Pieta, but with a martial twist. (320 rue Lecourbe. Metro: Lourmel or Convention.)

I also wanted to go back to Passy, to see the view of the Eiffel tower once more, to pay my respects to Pearl White again, and look for the now missing Cierplikowski sculpture, a piece of very dramatic art that was well-documented in past years but has apparently been removed, along with the grave as well. (2 rue Commandant-Schloessing. Metro: Trocadero.)

Good news in the continuing Pere Lachaise "missing bust" saga: both Valentin and Lucipia are in the hands of the conservation, apparently for safekeeping. Of course, I have no idea what "safekeeping" means, but presumably taken away from public display; for how long is anyone's guess.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

More missing busts?

Marie informed me last night that she thinks another four are missing:

BOUYER Louis-Charles (D35), bronze bust by A. Boucher
GRELOT Félix (D76), bronze bust
SAUTEREAU Jean (D68), bronze bust by Serres
WION-PIGALLE Emélie-Narcisse (D68), bronze bust by Anfrie

I can't confirm this, however, and in fact I have no photos of any of these, which leads me to believe they were taken sometime before the fall of 2006. (And Marie even said she thought Sautereau had been missing for some time.) But I'm not certain since I didn't even begin my second pass through Pere Lachaise until mid-October and it wasn't until later in the year that I started my videotaping.

But it was a fine day to be in the cemetery Saturday.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Lucipia missing in division 89

I just returned this afternoon from a gorgeous day in Pere Lachaise -- I have finished videotaping through division 92 thank you very much.

Anyway, bad news again: Louis Lucipia's bust is missing in division 89.



Theft confirmed in Pere Lachaise

Well it appears that Valentin's bust in division 2 of Pere-Lachaise was indeed stolen. Au revoir!

Rain today and predicted for tomorrow as well so it doesn't appear right now (6;44 a.m.) that I'll be going out to Pere-Lachaise for any videotaping. Of course this being Paris and since we are on the cusp of global warming (thanks Detroit!) you just never know what to expect from the weather an hour from now.


Friday, February 09, 2007

I've finished Montmartre

Well I finished my second pass through Montmartre cemetery yesterday.

My goal ever since we arrived in Paris last August was to make a thorough sweep through each of the cemeteries in Paris to photodocument their funerary sculpture, and then pass through a second time later in the year when the foliage all came off the trees.

And it was a gorgeous day for taking photos -- at least in Montmartre before the rain hit later in the afetrnoon -- so off I went.

And along the way I stumbled across the little gem (that's it up there). It's a simple, sweet stone marking the final resting place of one Louise Weber, known locally as "La Goulué", who was the creator of the French Can Can!

Now all I have remaining is to videotape the last seven divisions at Pere-Lachaise. I'm also hoping to tape Marie and Philippe talking about Paris cemeteries once or twice more before we leave the end of March. They are unbelievable repositories of information and the stories they can tell. . . .

Speaking of Marie she was out at Pere-Lachaise yesterday and discovered that the bust of Valentin in division 2 is missing. We have yet to ascertain whether it is theft or another one removed by the conservation for safekeeping.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Paris cemetery good news and bad

The good news first.

I'm informed that Brandin's bust in division 91 of Pere Lachaise has been removed by the conservation for safekeeping; unfortunately Lemaitre's bust in division 28 of Montmartre was solen sometime in late 2006.

It's still unclear to me why these thefts have happened. One theory is to melt down the bronze (the busts and medallions are all bronze apparently), and of course I suppose there might be a market for these things somewhere -- but where?

Questions I imagine the Paris police are asking right about now.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Thefts continue in Paris cemeteries

Well we’ve found more missing artwork in Paris cemeteries.

It appears that a large medallion on the Michenaud family headstone in division 89 of Pere Lachaise is gone – it was there last August at any rate. (see photo right.)

Also missing in division 91 in Pere Lachaise is the bust of a serene Louis-Philippe Brandin, and Lemaitre’s striking pose is gone from division 28 in Montmartre. (see photos below: Lemaitre top and Brandin below.)

You would think there’s a sign outside each of the cemeteries in Paris that says, “Hey c’mon in, spend the night and steal something on your way out,” like they have become a sort of “stop n shop” for funerary artwork.