Louvre Museum officials have revealed the details of the artworks damaged by the violent storms that shook Paris on July 8-9.
Two works by Nicolas Poussin were among those damaged on Sunday July 9, as the French capital saw two inches of rainfall in just an hour, with the tempest flooding several metro stations and infiltrating the Louvre.
In a press release published last Thursday, the French museum confirmed that water had invaded the mezzanine of the Denon wing, affecting the “Arts of Islam” and “From the Mediterranean Orient to Roman Times” rooms, both of which have been closed pending hygrometric stabilization.
Water also entered the first floor of the Sully wing, affecting the “Salle des Sept-Cheminées” and Henri IV staircase, and the second floor of the Cour Carrée, affecting some rooms housing French paintings. Non-display spaces, including locker rooms in the basement as well as the mezzanine café, were also affected by the violent storm.
Nicolas Poussin, Spring (1660-64). Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.
Nicolas Poussin, Fall (1660-64). Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.
Despite the immediate implementation of emergency measures by museum staff, water damage was observed on the varnish of two (Spring and Fall) of the “Four Seasons” paintings by Nicolas Poussin, and a large format work by Jean-François de Troy, The Triumph of Mordecai (1736). The Poussin works were immediately removed as a precaution and the Jean-Francois de Troy unhooked from the wall. Three paintings by Georges de Latour and Eustache Le Suer on the second floor of the Sully wing have also been evacuated as a preventative measure.
The museum opened as usual last Monday, save the annexed Islamic Art room and those adjacent to it. Work is underway to ensure the affected spaces reopen as soon as possible and restorers are evaluating the extent of the damage.
Speaking to artnet News this morning, Louvre officials had no updates on the status of the damaged artworks.
Throughout art history, the quest for remembrance and dominance has led to intense rivalries. Some of these have inspired feats of creative one-upmanship; some have been outright destructive. Either way, they have indelibly defined the stakes of art-making. Below, we list five of the most famous.
Raphael vs. Michelangelo
The youthful artist Raphael burst on the scene in Renaissance Italy in 1504 with an intricate style that was influenced by his predecessors Fra Bartolommeo, Leonardo, and Michelangelo. In 1508, at the age of 26, the young artist was invited by Pope Julius II to paint a fresco in the Pope’s private library in the Vatican Palace. Not only did he beat competitors such as Michelangelo and Leonardo to win the commission, his work gained rapturous reviews.
Even Renaissance chronicler Vasari, who basically viewed Michelangelo as a god and the high point of the Renaissance, acknowledged that Raphael gave the elder artist a run for his money:
Raphael of Urbino had risen into great credit as a painter, and his friends and adherents maintained that his works were more strictly in accordance with the rules of art than Michelganelo, affirming that they were graceful in coloring, of beautiful invention, admirable in expression, and of characteristic design; while those of Michelangelo, it was averred, had none of those qualities with the exception of the design. For these reasons, Raphael was judged, by those who thus opined, to be fully equal, if not superior, to Michelangelo in painting generally, and… decidedly superior to him regarding coloring in particular.
But Raphael could give as good as he got. For one thing, he famously painted Michelangelo’s features onto the figure of Heraclitus in The School of Athens.
Raphael painted a sulking Michelangelo into one of his frescoes. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.
Immortalizing one’s rival in the form of a pre-Socratic philosopher most famous for saying “you never step in the same river twice” might seem like a strange move, but Ross King clears up the meaning: “[I]t is not this philosophy of universal change that seems to have influenced Raphael to lend him the features of Michelangelo; more likely it was Heraclitus’s legendary sour temper and bitter scorn for all rivals.”
Ingres and Delacroix represented two different schools of painting in 19th century France. Photos: Wikimedia Commons.
Ingres vs. Delacroix
The rivalry between the two titans of French painting unfolded amid a clash of styles in 19th century France that saw the traditional neoclassical style favored by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres pitted against the avant-garde Romanticism championed by Eugene Delacroix.
The feud wasn’t just about artistic style; it was about the moral values ascribed to line and color, respectively. “Ingres was the self-appointed protector not only of linearism and classical tradition, but of morality and reason as well…,” writes Walter F. Friedlaender, the author of David to Delacroix. “[L]ine and linear abstraction embodied something moral, lawful, and universal, and every descent into the coloristic and irrational was a heresy and a moral aberration that must be strenuously combated.”
Thus, Delacroix, the most famous colorist, was viewed as not just artistically distinct, but a threat to the morality of French society. “I cannot look at Delacroix,” Ingres once said. “He smells of brimstone.”
Nor did the rivalry always stay in the realm of pure debate. Julian Barnes describes an encounter between the two rivals, who had been accidentally invited to the same party by a banker friend:
After much glowering, Ingres could no longer restrain himself. Cup of coffee in hand, he accosted his rival by a mantelpiece. ‘Sir!’ he declared, ‘Drawing means honesty! Drawing means honour!’ Becoming over-choleric in the face of the cool Delacroix, Ingres upset his coffee down his own shirt and waistcoat, then seized his hat and made for the door, where he turned and repeated, ‘Yes, sir! It is honour! It is honesty!’”
Clement Greenberg and Harold Rosenberg each advocated different aspects of abstract expressionism. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.
Greenberg vs. Rosenberg
These two giants of art criticism and the artists they advocated gave birth to the movement of American Abstract Expressionism and are associated with the US’s rise to artistic prominence. Greenberg gravitated toward the abstraction of Jackson Pollock; his rival, Rosenberg, favored the painting of Willem de Kooning.
Greenberg held strict formalist views, insisting that abstraction was a step in the progression of the tradition of painting, a claim rejected by Rosenberg, who’s advocacy of what he termed “Action Painting” led him to proclaim that painting was no longer a picture, but the recording of an event. Anecdotes describe how the two men had to be kept separate at parties—but it was in print where their battle really played out.
Thus, in “How Art Writing Earns Its Bad Name,” Greenberg blasted critics like Rosenberg for “perversions and abortions of discourse: pseudo-description, pseudo-narrative, pseudo-exposition, pseudo-history, pseudo-philosophy, pseudo-psychology, and—worst of all—pseudo-poetry.”
Rosenberg clapped back with this sarcastic passage from “Action Painting: A Decade of Distortion”:
“[T]he will to remove contemporary painting and sculpture into the domain of art-as-art favors the ‘expert’ who purveys to the bewildered. ‘I fail to see anything essential in it [Action Painting],’ writes Clement Greenberg, a tipster on masterpieces, current and future, ‘that cannot be shown to have evolved [presumably through the germ cells in the paint] out of either Cubism or Impressionism, just as I fail to see anything essential in Cubism or Impressionism whose development could not be traced back to Giotto and Masaccio and Giorgione and Titian.’ In this burlesque of art history, artists vanish, and paintings spring from one another with the help of no other generating principle than whatever ‘law of development’ the critic happens to have on hand.
Matisse and Picasso’s rivalry resulted in some of the artists’ best work. Photo: Ralph Gatti, George Stroud/Getty Images.
Matisse vs. Picasso
Though the rivalry between Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso remained on the whole respectful and cordial, the two artists relentlessly spurred each other on creatively. In his book The Art of Rivalry, critic Sebastian Smee describes the competition between the two greats as “a drama unlike any in the story of modern art.”
In his 20s, the relentlessly ambitious Picasso squared off with Matisse, 12 years his senior, unleashing an extraordinary period of growth for both artists. According to Smee, Matisse’s iconic Blue Nude: Memory of Biskra (1907) “forced Picasso to radically rethink what he was doing,” and shaped the creative impetus on what would become Les Demoiselles d’Avignon (1907), one of the Spaniard’s greatest works. When Matisse saw the latter, he lauded the younger Picasso as “an electrifying innovator,” and acknowledged he was a painter to “possibly learn from.”
It’s been argued, though, the status of this classic modernist rivalry, which has sustained scholarship and exhibition-making ever since, was a bit of a PR invention of the poet and avant-garde booster Apollinaire, who wrote a press release for a “Matisse/Picasso” show at Paul Guillaume’s gallery in 1918. To drum up enthusiasm, he depicted the show as a clash of the titans, and the rivalry of Matisse and Picasso as all that mattered for art-lovers, describing them as “the two most famous representatives of the two grand opposing tendencies in great contemporary art.”
Paul Gauguin and Vincent Van Gogh’s friendship turned sour. Photos: Wikimedia Commons.
van Gogh vs. Gauguin
Vincent van Gogh and Paul Gauguin’s rivalry began as a friendship. Van Gogh invited Gauguin to join him in the south of France where he was trying to establish an artist’s commune in the town of Arles. For a brief period, the Post-Impressionist masters fruitfully lived, worked, and collaborated alongside one another in the so-called Yellow House, resulting in a competitive but friendly artistic rivalry from which both benefited.
However, the arrangement soured. Both men were difficult characters. Van Gogh was plagued by mental instability, while Gauguin had a reputation for being a narcissistic and unpleasant person. When Gauguin depicted his friend in The Painter of Sunflowers, van Gogh is said to have recoiled, saying, “It’s me, but it’s me gone mad.” Not exactly helping his case, in a café afterwards, van Gogh hurled a glass of absinthe at Gauguin’s head.
Paul Gauguin, The Painter of Sunflowers (Portrait of Vincent van Gogh) (1888). Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons.
According to legend, the Dutch painter cut off his ear after a row with Gauguin in 1888, giving the bloody ear to a stunned prostitute at a nearby brothel. Yet, so heated did their relationship become that recently some German art historians have put forward an alternate theory of the ear amputation, in the book In Van Gogh’s Ear: Paul Gauguin and the Pact of Silence. One of the historians, Hans Kaufmann, narrated the supposed actual scene to the Guardian:
Near the brothel, about 300 metres from the Yellow House, there was a final encounter between them: Vincent might have attacked him, Gauguin wanted to defend himself and to get rid of this ‘madman’. He drew his weapon, made some movement in the direction of Vincent and by that cut off his left ear.
Van Gogh experts generally stand by the story of self-mutilation. Kaufmann points to inconsistencies in the two artists’ stories, and at a passage in one of Van Gogh’s letters to Theo that seems to indicate a brutal potential within their rivalry: “Luckily Gauguin… is not yet armed with machine guns and other dangerous war weapons.”
While James Bond might enjoy a martini from time to time, Lorraine Broughton—the MI6 agent played by Charlize Theron in the new action flick Atomic Blonde—would prefer a Stoli on the rocks. This is the drink she pours herself in the film’s opening moments as she eases into an ice bath, her body a constellation of bruises, her eye swollen and ringed with a web of magenta. And though she’s promised tea at Buckingham Palace, it’s a Stoli on the rocks she orders again at an East Berlin bar filled with KGB agents, shortly before she takes home a French intelligence agent by the name of Delphine (Sofia Boutella).
Her drink order is as much a trademark as it is a sendup of the Bond trademark—shaken not stirred—and it’s a sly wink at a proposition that seems more sensible with each new role Theron takes on: Better than any other actress, she's perfectly positioned to be the first woman to play James Bond.
As Daniel Craig flirts with his return to the franchise after four films of his contracted five—British tabloids report that he will in fact reprise the character in Bond 25; on the other hand, Craig also recently said he’d “rather break this glass and slash my wrists” than continue playing the role—critics have already begun to speculate who will take up the mantle. The frontrunners have all possessed strong Bondian resumes: Tom Hiddleston, of The Night Manager; Idris Elba, of Luther; Theron’s Mad Max: Fury Road co-star Tom Hardy; Michael Fassbender, who has sworn he’ll never take the part; and even Gillian Anderson, of The Fall and, of course, The X-Files—also a contender for the first woman to play Bond.
But none present as strong an argument as Theron does in Atomic Blonde, a project of her devising she developed from the graphic novel The Coldest City by Anthony Johnston.
The film is not Theron's audition for Bond, though they are not without their parallels. Bond and Broughton are both MI6 agents of few words, questionable morals, and excellent wardrobes. They are covert spies and unstoppable killers who use every tool at their disposal, including sex, to get the job done. The film itself, like the Bond franchise, is sleek, stylish, and winks at the conventions of the spy genre without losing its cool.
Instead, Theron's performance is the latest in a long line of tough, sometimes unlikable, characters she's relished taking since the earliest stages of her career. Combined, all those roles make up for one badass body of work that make her an irresistible candidate to take on pop culture's most iconic spy—and really give the franchise the kick in the rear it needs.
Can't you just see the poster? "Same name. Same number. Whole new world. Charlize Theron is 007."
Since Theron earned the Best Actress Oscar for her performance as serial killer Aileen Wuornos in the 2003 film Monster, she's demonstrated a penchant for playing fearless women. Theron herself seems equally fearless: Once an aspiring dancer but sidelined by a knee injury at 18, she still embraces the physical challenges of her parts. She performed many of her own stunts in 2000’s Reindeer Games, much to the chagrin of her stunt double. (“My stunt girl hates me,” Theron told EW in 2000, “because we’d fly her out and then I’d be like, ‘Let me do it.’”)
In 2003, she appeared in the Mark Wahlberg-starring heist film The Italian Job in addition to Monster, which famously required she gain 30 pounds and wear prosthetic teeth. The following year—the same year she won her Oscar—she starred as the titular rebel assassin in the dystopian science fiction film Aeon Flux, an adaptation of the ’90s animated series of the same title. Monster might have required a radical physical transformation, but Theron proved she was no less committed to Aeon Flux: While filming one action sequence, she took a bad fall that required a spinal fusion eight years later. (During Atomic Blonde, Theron cracked several teeth while training to "throw some big dudes," she told Variety.)
Then came blockbuster genre films like Snow White and the Huntsman (and its sequel), playing an evil vanity-obsessed queen; Prometheus, where she was a corporate suit of dubious ethics; and this year's The Fate of the Furious, where she strut in like the sort of villain who chews up the scenery and asks questions later.
"She's embodies every sort of ounce of strength and nobility and dignity and integrity that that character should have," Chris Hemsworth, Theron's costar in Huntsman, recently told W's Lynn Hirschberg, endorsing the idea of Theron as 007. "She's smart as hell. She's physically able. I worked with her on Snow White and the Huntsman. Watching her in those fight scenes, doing it in high heels, by the way, and an eight foot long gown was even more impressive."
There’s perhaps no film of Theron’s past decade on screen that has defined her more than Mad Max: Fury Road, a film that is, in some ways, the perfect spiritual prequel to Atomic Blonde. The George Miller-helmed film is essentially a two-hour-long car chase, just as Atomic Blonde is a two-hour-long, Bowie-soundtracked fight sequence. Both Mad Maxand Atomic Blonde also permit their female characters’ histories to be inscribed on their skin, written on their bodies in a way that is not typically permitted of women in film. In Mad Max, Theron’s Imperator Furiosa wears a prosthetic arm, hinting at some prior trauma that is never explained outright.
And as Atomic Blonde rewinds, told through a series of flashbacks narrated by Lorraine’s joint MI6-CIA debrief to explain how she ended up in that ice bath in a crisp London hotel, there are black eyes and split lips and bloodied noses and likely more than a cracked rib or two—not just for Lorraine, but for her opponents, too, with whom she single-handedly dispatches. It’s unflinchingly ugly beneath its neon-lit veneer, and the ugliness—the violence, the grit of East Berlin circa 1989—stands out in sharp relief against Lorraine’s glossy surroundings, and against Theron’s own stupefying beauty. She pummels her opponents, but she doesn’t get away unscathed. Well, except in one scene, in which she takes out a squad of East Berlin police officers wearing a white coat and stilettos, escaping with not a mark on her immaculate outerwear.
As evidenced in both films, Theron excels at playing the icy, taciturn antihero, which is itself a Bond archetype. Though the audience is rooting for Lorraine throughout Atomic Blonde, she racks up quite the death toll, and her alliances—with MI6, with the CIA, with the French agent Delphine—are all shaky. Towards the end of the film, she finally confronts the man she believes to be the double agent code-named Satchel: “It is a double pleasure to deceive the deceiver,” she says, tellingly quoting the Renaissance political writer Niccolò Machiavelli.
“I’ve always been fascinated by abhorrent behavior. I have a real interest in why people do horrible things,” she told W’s Lynn Hirschberg in a recent interview. “There’s a part of me that wants to understand that darkness, but I can’t really understand it. So, it is cathartic to play a character who is evil. It’s a free pass for your soul: Nothing bad is going to happen, and you can explore what it would be like to be in that skin.”
Midway through Atomic Blonde, Theron finally finds herself face-to-face with Delphine, a novice French intelligent agent who had been quietly following Broughton for the first half of the film. As Broughton cautiously flirts with an older KGB agent, Delphine commandeers the conversation. Thwarted, the Russian agent moves aside. “You looked like you needed saving,” Delphine tells Lorraine—the irony being, of course, no one has ever looked less like they needed saving. Cut to Lorraine and Delphine making out in the bathroom; cut again to Lorraine and Delphine in Lorraine’s bed.
“The sex scene, people were like, ‘Wow, oh my God!’ like none of this exists,” Theron recently told the Los Angeles Times, to which the actress responded, “Trust me, women pick other women up and have hot sex. The first thing I heard was, ‘No, but does she fall in love?’ She doesn’t need to fall in love; it’s OK.”
Part of what makes the scene so thrilling, and so transgressive, is to see Lorraine so fully inhabiting the part traditionally played by a man, the part that is so integral to the Bond myth: the womanizer. Here, Theron doesn't slink away from the challenge, but faces it head on, subverting the archetype and satirizing some of the elements that have made the Bond franchise sometimes feel retro.
This year has already seen the release of films like Wonder Woman, Baby Driver, and Alien: Covenant, genre films with physically and intellectually powerful women at the front who aren’t defined exclusively by their relationships with the men around them. Atomic Blonde, which Theron spent five years developing, adds yet another film to that roster.
The actress has long been outspoken about the kinds of films available to women in Hollywood, and particularly in action films. “You’re either a really good mother,” she told the Guardian in 2015, just ahead of the release of Mad Max. “Or you’re a really good hooker. The problem with how movies represent women goes right back to the Madonna/whore complex. You can’t be a really good hooker-mother. It’s impossible.”
But instead of accepting the status quo, Theron went out and created the kind of part she wanted to see. Having envisioned her own Bond, Theron is perfectly positioned to re-envision 007 himself. Just don't call her a Bond girl.