Allons en France!! Vite, vite!!
Day 61: Scouting my route from Belgium, the Judith’s of France seem to reside all over the country. it is impossible to draw a linear or even circular route. So zig-zag it is (how French). Starting with a train from Dinant to Lille that takes about 2.5 hours – with a transfer in Brussels. Drop my bags and lunch at the Hôtel Hermitage Gantois because …
Palais des Beaux-Arts de Lille is waiting. With a Judith by Lambert Sustris. The museum itself is noteworthy: the largest French museum outside of Paris and one of the first museums built under the instructions of Napoleon I to receive works seized from churches and territories occupied by the armies of Revolutionary France. Among the many works of art, I will probably look for The Cows by Vincent van Gogh just because … well, they are cows.
Mon: 2pm to 6pm; Tues: closed; Wed-Sun: 10am to 6pm
Day 62: Looks like I will need a taxi to the next stop: Musée de Château de Flers. Where I am searching for Judith by Victor Schnetz. That should be fun in a 17th century flemish rural château that reminds me of Beauty and the Beast.
(Apr-Oct) Mon-Fri: 10am – 12pm and 2pm to 6pm; Sat-Sun: 2pm to 6pm
Day 63: As a day trip from Lille, there are direct trains that take 1 hour to Dunkerque (Dunkirk). In addition to seeing del Cairo‘s Judith in the Le Musée des Beaux-Arts, I will need to visit the Mémorial du Souvenir that tells the story of the evacuation of over 330,000 allied soldiers during Operation Dynamo before returning to Lille. Keeping in mind the loss of life and destruction of property (including art) in this part of France during World War II – what a price was paid.
Tues – closed; every other day: 10am – 12:15pm and 2pm – 6pm
Day 64: An hour from Lille is Amiens, the location of Hotel Restaurant Le Prier. This boutique hotel is the perfect spot to leave my bags in the shadow of the Cathédrale Notre-Dame d’Amiens (Cathedral of Our Lady of Amiens) – a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the tallest complete cathedral (42.30 m or 138.8 ft) and greatest interior volume (200,000 cu m or 260,000 cu yd) of any cathedral in France. Somewhere in all that space is the Chapel of Notre-Dame de Puy with a statue of Judith by Blasset. However, the work Blasset is best remembered for is the Weeping Angel – a sculpture of a cherub with a hand on an hour-glass and an elbow on a skull – symbolizing the brevity of life and eventuality of death – that became a popular postcard among soldiers on the Somme during WWI. Sure, fat little cherubs get all the glory.
Day 65: Due east for an hour by bus to St. Quentin (not to be confused with San Quentin of Johnny Cash fame). My goal: the Musée Antoine Lécuyer to catch Jacques François Fernand Lematte‘s vision of Judith. This museum also has a magnificent collection of portraits by the master of pastel, Maurice Quentin de la Tour. Should probably stop to walk the labyrinth of St.-Quentin as well.
Mon-Fri: 10am – 12pm / 2pm – 5pm; Sat: 10am – 12pm / 2pm to 6pm; Sun: 2pm to 6pm
About an hour by bus will also take me on to Soissons, to the Musée de Soissons that houses Judith’s by two artists: Unterperger and Stobel. The museum is partially housed in the medieval abbey of St-Léger that prospered in the 12th century. It is well known for its collection of artifacts, but I do hope they updated the bathrooms.
Mon-Fri: 9am to 12pm and 2pm to 5pm; Sat-Sun: 2pm to 6pm
Just one more hour by train brings me to the City of Lights, Paris. Specifically, Gare de Nord. And relatively speaking, Paris is easy to navigate. last stop for the day is Hotel Relais du Louvre on the right bank of the Seine near the Pont Neuf Metro station, reached by Line 7 (pink). And it is off to bed early for the full days to come.
Day 66: After breakfast, I can cross the bridge by foot to the Ile de la Cite and Sainte-Chapelle – magnificent Gothic reticule of St. Louis. With the story of Judith depicted in soaring stained glass and color and light. Then a walk – wherever I want to go.
Daily: (Mar-Oct) 9:30am – 6pm, (Nov-Feb) 9am to 5pm; (May-Sept) 9:30am – 9pm
Rather than walking an hour, I will most likely take the Metro (line 3) to Malesherbes and the Musée National Jean-Jacques Henner . What else would I be seeking in this museum but … paintings by Jean-Jacques Henner. Two, to be exact. And also to appreciate the 1878 mansion.
Tues: closed; Wed-Mon: 1am to 6pm; first Thurs of each month: 1am to 9pm
And what luck (or good planning)! When I return to my hotel, it is next door to the Church of Saint-Germain-l’Auxerrois which features 5th-century stained glass Judith by Manasseh.
Daily: 8am – 8pm
Day 67: the Louvre. Has to have its own day. Yes, I am here to see Judith as depicted by Massys and by Palma il Giovani. And I stopped being a snob, so I am looking for Judith‘s statue by Ladatte, and ceramics by Fontana and Reymond as well. And almost forgot Anne of Austria’s summer apartment fresco by Romanelli. but the splendor of art in this one place is overwhelming, so I think it best to succumb and just wander – and wonder how overwhelmingly beautiful Winged Victory was with her head and arms.
Tues – closed; Mon, Thurs, Sat-Sun: 9 am – 6 pm; Wed and Fri: 9 am – 9:45 pm
Day 68: The next trip leaves early from Gare St Lazare to make the 2 hour trip to Caen. From the Gare de Caen, I can take the tram to Saint-Pierre and look for the Hotel d’Escoville – with an elaborate inner courtyard that houses a statue of Judith by an unknown Renaissance artist. then I will look for the castle. Yes, Musée des Beaux-Arts de Caen is at the center of the Parc des Sculptures, housed in the castle built by William the Conqueror about 1060. There I can find Judith and Holofernes by Paolo Veronese, next to his The Temptation of St. Anthony. And when it is time to dream of White Knights, I can rest my head at the Hotel des Quatrans, just around the corner.
Tues: closed; every other day: 9:30 am – 6 pm.
Day 69: The next stop in the north of France is Brest, reached by connecting through Rennes for a total trip of 5.5 hours. Destination: Musée des Beaux-Arts de Brest – completely destroyed in 1941 during the Blitz and rebuilt in 1964. Among the amazing collection of Old Masters that was re-amassed is Judith and Holofernes by Guerrieri. I can plot the rest of my trek through France by crossing the street to a cozy bed in the Hôtel Café du Musée. I like short walks … and long naps.
Mon: closed; every other day: 10 am – 12 pm and 2 pm – 6 pm.
And then I turn south towards Nantes.