How I do love having a museum to myself. So when Remi asked me if I could be his assistant for a technically challenging photo shoot at the Musée départemental Arles Antique on Tuesday, I immediately said yes. It wasn't the first time. I had already spent seven hours there - at night! - while Remi was shooting his story on the Roman Boat for National Geographic Magazine. But this was even more to my liking as he would be focusing on one of my favorites of the art world...Roman mosaics.
I remember having been fascinated by the wonderful collection at the Brooklyn Museum as a young woman. How could these ancient tiles still hold such color and wonder? How could each tiny piece be put together to make such a magnificent whole? I went back to visit them again and again. They were a direct key to a distant and unknowable past.
Arles is nothing but layers of history. Scratch below the surface and who knows what you might find? Such was the case when the foundations of an entire Roman villa where uncovered across the Rhone River in the Trinquetaille neighborhood. The extensive and largely intact mosaic flooring is the basis for the MDAA's extraordinary collection, one of the finest in France. The museum is also home to a laboratory of experts in mosaic renovation that was formed in a partnership with the Louvre.
But their offices were quiet and only the occasional 'beep' of a roaming security guards walkie-talkie echoed in the background, one met in response by the 'pop' of Remi's flashes lighting up these slivers of time. Such true patina, well-worn and deserved, what fine classical beauty.
Medusa, not a Classical Beauty
The day flew by quickly and was a success. We packed up Remi's extensive studio equipment and then I ducked under the barriers one last time, basking in the opportunity to be so close to something so far away...
There is incredible patina in the museum's ancient stones as well but that is a story for another time.
Happy May Day!