Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Musee National De Prehistoire

We drove on to Les Eyzies-de-Tayac and its nice 5 euro camping aire, right on the Vezere, and set forth walking the few hundred meters to the National Museum of Prehistory. Les Eyzies is sort of the epicenter of the cave art world around here. The Grotte de Font de Gaume, the last of the polychrome caves open to the public, is just a few more hundred meters down the road. A bit to our surprise, there was no admission fee at  the museum, since it was first Sunday of the month. (We are not always fully aware what day it is). There's another great museum of prehistory near Paris, which we saw in 1989 and will probably see again this month or in the fall, but it deals largely with neolithic culture. As I recall. The museum in Les Eyzies covers all of the paleolithic, from Africa to France right up to the neolithic, but mostly the Magdalenian, which is mostly what one finds here. The Magdalenian culture existed from Portugal to Poland encompassing roughly 11,000-17,000BC. It is named for a rock shelter, La Madeline, near here on the Vezere.
The renovated museum (2004) is built in to the overhangs
overlooking Les Eyzies


There is a staggering array of stones and bones; rows and
cases of them, very well displayed; displays are in French
but there are useful English hand-outs throughout

Some very realistic dioramas; here a
paleo-toddler gets instruction on who's the
boss of you

Cast of a wooly rhinoceros found in the area; yes, there
were also saber-toothed tigers, wooly mammoths, and
giant reindeer

Perhaps best were the many video presentations of
paleolithic technology, tool and weapon-making, also
art of the era; here, paint-mixing 101

Here, my favorite, the carving of a Willendorf-style Venus,
using only stone and bone tools; I have always felt that
Rubens was heavily influenced by Magdalenian art

Examples and demonstration of use of the atl-atl

Scores of tiny shells for necklace use

Dressy Magdalenian sea-shell cap and vest

The Magdalenians were into portable art, stuff you could
carry around with you

One of the most famous instances (apart from all the
Venuses); there is nothing unsophisticated nor crude
about their art; as Picasso said after touring Lascaux,
"we have learned nothing"

Stone implement found at Lascaux

Most of their representations are of animals; apart from the
hundreds of hands-in-negative, there are almost no human
representations; here's one, arguably, of the sun;
understandably, people who lived in the Ice Age might
develop a fondness for the sun...

A much larger relief of aurochs...

Out on the terrace; it's surprising to me that
the Museum would have chosen a
Neanderthal figure to be its emblem--the
locals, that is, the Magdalenians, were Cro
Magnons and indistinguishable from you
and me--but I can go with the program

1 comment:

Tawana said...

While in Chicago, we went to the Art Institute and enjoyed the Picasso exhibit. Apparently the first ever show of Picasso's works in the USA occurred in Chicago. He never visited there, although he did make a huge modernistic statue for Daley Plaza as a gift to the people of Chicago.