On July 16th, 2015, our first full day in Paris, we took a taxi to the Louvre Museum. We were a little nervous bringing a four-year-old into what is arguably the most incredible museum in the world, but it actually went really well and I’m excited to share the experience!
First of all, I wasn’t sure if my spirited, energetic son would actually enjoy any of the beauty and the history or simply endure them. If you don’t know my son …. he likes to jump, he likes to yell, he likes to run, and he LICKED A WALL in downtown Paris. So I popped a sucker in his mouth to keep it occupied and held his hand the entire time, and crossed my fingers he would at the least not destroy anything. But I was so hoping he would grasp some of the greatness we were about to see.
We started by looking at the sculptures, which took up nearly an entire wing of the museum—some were large, some small, but all were very old and intricately designed.
Knowing how old these sculptures were, I wanted my son to have some sense of awe and respect for them, but I had no idea how to show him how beautiful they were. Luckily, my son began the conversation: “Look at this one—it’s a mommy with her sweetie!” It was then that I realized the best way for him to connect with them was to see each one for what they were really trying to portray. “Can you see how much she loves her baby by the way she’s looking at him and how she’s holding him?” I asked. My son’s face exploded into a smile and he nodded. After that we stopped at every “mommy with her sweetie” sculpture and my son wanted to give me a hug and a kiss at everyone, because the sculptures were making him feel something – exactly as the artist intended.
There was one statue of a man holding his son, which we spent awhile just looking at. He saw the love in the faces carved into marble and stone and it reminded him how much his mom and dad loved him and how much he loved being close to us.
“Mom, why is the lion biting his butt?” Good question!
We also saw sculptures of large snakes with swords and shields and we talked about who was winning the battle and why. “Mom, this one has knights and fairies and man-babies,” he said. “Those are actually called cherubs, but they def look like man-babies,” I told him. Ha!
There were quite a few sculptures of kids and he was cracking himself up imitating some of them. “Hey mom! Look at me!”
On the way to see the Mona Lisa exhibit we saw many other paintings. Some were ginormous — it was awe-inspiring.
Holding hands, we didn’t stop to read the silver and bronze plaques; how old they were or who painted them, but we paid special attention to the paintings with kids and animals. We had fun finding hidden puppies, bunnies, turtles, and cats in murals that were as big as an entire wall.
Many of the paintings were larger than life-size. Some were bright, realistic colors and others were dark and ominous looking. We spent a long time looking at a smaller portrait of a man’s face. “I think he looks angry. What do you think he’s feeling?” I asked my son. He thought the man looked both mad and surprised. I hadn’t noticed that he looked surprised, but when I looked closer at his eyes, I agreed. We saw portraits of mothers breastfeeding their babies and families eating dinner together. There were sheep and goats on a mountain in one, musical instruments in another. My husband waited in line to see the Mona Lisa while my son and I rested on a bench and played with some small Star Wars toys we had brought along.
Without a tour guide or even reading most of the plaques, I still got the deep feeling of my small place in the universe and how life can be so similar to the lives of people who lived so many centuries ago. Happily, I also felt that my son enjoyed the depth of how old the pieces were, and he also realized how like us all these people were: with their happiness and their fear, the mother’s love and the father’s protection. The brave, the happy, and the dead all mixed together. We only spent about two hours at the Louvre before my son was bored and hungry and wanting to wipe his fingers on all the walls or kick something, but I felt like we really made the most out of our time there.
This experience at the Louvre showed me that it is possible for a young and wild boy to feel both wonder and empathy looking at artwork. What more can anyone hope for when experiencing art? As a mother, it is heartwarming to know that my son is capable of exploring his feelings through art, and at such a young age. He is almost six now and whether or not he remembers the details years from now, I think he is on the right track to appreciating art as life.