Visiting My Three Muses at the Louvre

The Louvre Museum, Paris, France – June 2015
Photos by Sim Tupa

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(Above the Louvre, overlooking the promenade and the Pyramide du Louvre.)

This was my second time to the Louvre Museum and I had some favorites to visit and new ones that I missed the last time I was here. My personal favorite was The Winged Victory of Samothrace, a beautiful headless and armless sculpture of the Greek Goddess Nike from the Hellenistic period.

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(The Winged Victory of Samothrace (Nike)

My second favourite was La Jaconde or more popularly known as Mona Lisa. She was still everyone’s favorite that I had to wait patiently for my turn to get closer to the protective glass and see her enigmatic smile more clearly. There is simply no way to be alone with her. After a few minutes of admiring this intriguing beauty, I hesitantly bade her goodbye and made my way to find my third muse.

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(Mona Lisa)

The Venus of Milo whose arms were never found, has never been determined if she is the Goddess Aphrodite or the sea goddess Amphitrite. Whatever clues she reveals about her true identity are still missing to this day.

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(Venus of Milo)

Nevertheless, I gravitate towards these three muses in my visits. What is it about these amputated and incomplete women that I find fascinating and beautiful? Is it because what gives them their mystery and uniqueness are their missing parts? If Nike had not lost her head and arms, Mona Lisa her eyebrows and eyelashes, and Venus of Milo, her arms, would we still give them our extra attention, those extra minutes we give them queueing in line if they had been all perfect and not missing body parts? Do we not see beauty and perfection in them because of these incompleteness, just as we see beauty in our own imperfections and incompleteness? Are we not led to ask, “What happened?” “Where?” “How?” and “Why?” because of what’s lacking in them? Don’t these missing parts reveal to us our own humanity and make us recognise the humanity in others?

We do not have to be literal about it. Losing a head could mean losing your head (and heart) over someone who mistakes you for a punching bag. Or losing your arms could mean not grasping a situation in your life, or not having the skills to create a hand-made life. Perhaps not having any eyebrows and eyelashes could mean not having balance and proper perspective on things in your life. If we look at it this way, losing parts of ourselves is really symbolic and is a natural occurence in our everyday lives.

It is not easy to be a woman. You and I know this. When you want to achieve or survive in something, most often you need to fight for it. Along the way, you sacrifice some parts of you in order to gain something more important. What is important is that you made it here and now.

These three muses have travelled long and hard in time to be here with us today. Like you and me, they lost parts of themselves. This is the great cost they have paid to be with us. Yet due to some unexpected turn of events, they are even greater now than when they first started in their journey. Greater not only in name but also in strength, in whatever state they are in. That they are not less but more, their character having gained more substance in their loss.

So if you ever visit The Louvre, seek out these three muses. Notice not just their beauty and craftsmanship but also how they wear their imperfections and scars. Emulate them and take inspiration from the way they wear their badges of honor, like battle-scars worn with pride, with head and “headlessness” held high.

So should you and me.

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(At the Promenade, the Louvre and the Pyramide du Louvre at the back.)

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