As a young child, Wilfried Genest would spend hours each week in museums in Paris by choice! His mother, and my good friend, Marie-Charlotte said that if he had any spare time, he spent it in the Louvre. Wilfried’s passion for the Louvre still inspires me and compels me to visit it every chance I get. This year I had a personal mission to fulfill. As my readers may recall, I discovered that my husband’s relatives had a famous artist in their French family history. Germain Pilon was his name and I was bound and determined to document his works for the family while in the City of Light.
Undeterred by jet-lag and dreary pouring down rain, I set out to walk from the Left Bank to the Right Bank and enter the Louvre just as it opened to avoid crowds and locate works by Master Pilon. First stop, the information booth. The terribly unattractive (Yes, there is such a beast in Paris, the fashion capital of the world!), yet eager woman behind the desk was sorry to tell me that there were no pieces currently at the Louvre by that artist. I explained to her in my best Rosetta Stone French that I had looked on the museum website and indeed found works by this artist currently on display. She looked unimpressed, but still was willing to give it another go. She clicked away, smiled, then frowned and told me that indeed she found him, but that his works were elsewhere. It was then that I thought of Wilfried’s determination (nay stubbornness for the arts) and tried harder to make her want to help me.
The line forming behind me was putting internal pressure on the both of us to wrap up this inquiry, but desperate, I resorted to emotional blackmail. I pulled out my passport and pointed to my last name – Pilon and put on the most pathetic face I could muster to show her how important this mission was to me. It was then she seemed resolved to the fact that I would not walk away until satisfied with the answer and seemed to cheer up at the thought of figuring out this puzzle. Voila! She found him and gave me the room number in the Richelieu section and wished me good luck following the map.
Now came the easy part, following the map straight to the riches of Germain Pilon. Wrong! Twists and turns were everywhere – construction detours with dead ends took me off track more than a few times. One hour into my mission and I was beginning to think failure might be an option. I asked at least four different docents along the way to help me locate Room 15 and they all shook their heads. They don’t know room numbers, they know artists names! Nervously I asked, “Do you know Germain Pilon?” Most knew, but told me in pretty loud (I thought one was supposed to whisper in a museum?) no uncertain terms that he was NOT in the Louvre. Two docents even told me that they knew him well, but the pieces were in a church in the Marais. They took offense that I might know something they didn’t know, but I didn’t blame them as who could possible know every item in the Louvre for heaven’s sake?!
Finally, a stern looking, but kind docent listened to me, really listened and took pity on me. He personally walked me over to the section where the room number was supposed to be, pointed upwards and wished me good luck. After 90 minutes of frantically looking, suddenly I saw a wash of orange brilliance against a wall and the magical words Salle 15 (Room 15) along with the name Pilon, and the words Sculptures of the 16th Century. Not only were there many sculptures by Pilon here, but he had his own room! Awe inspiring – need I say more? Here’s what I saw…