In an attempt to fulfill a core curriculum requirement, among the classes I took my first semester of college was art history. Through some toxic combination of arrogance, distraction, anger, and laziness, I managed to completely blow the first exam, to the point at which numerically, I was not going to be able to pass the class. Fortunately, I was not the only one who massively misjudged what an art history exam was likely to cover, and the professor, magnanimous as he was, offered us a bargain of sorts; if we could prove to him, on the midterm paper, that we were willing to “work hard,” he’d be willing to perform some sort of voodoo in which the grade from that first exam was raised to a level near that of that of the paper, and we’d be saved.
This is how I came to write a three page (he capped the number of pages; don’t look at me like that) paper on Nike of Samothrace in the fall of 2000.
The Purrito has been talking about going to the Louvre since well before we arrived in Paris. Having seen the crowds in front of the Pyramides on numerous occasions, we’d put our first visit off, hoping that things would be more bearable once the zenith of the tourist season was behind us. With the Louvre open late on Wednesdays and Fridays, I headed home a touch early and met her at the Metro station. We consumed a snack, and entered the museum.
While my profession is a technical one, I’ve found, over the past few years, that I harbor “ridiculous” ideas regarding education; I’m a firm believer in a liberal arts education and believe that core curricula are indeed of value. While I’ve never used a sonnet I’ve read or a poem I’ve memorized in a calculation, I believe that acquiring knowledge of the arts, to literature, to non-pragmatic disciplines is a worthy pursuit (if for no other reason than to use said knowledge as a cudgel, per certain crossed parties). I recognize that artisan classes are features of great societies.
All that said, I don’t have an extensive repository of art-related knowledge, so when the Purrito mentioned that the Louvre was home to the Winged Victory, I said that I wanted to see her on our first visit. Standing on the staircase looking at a headless, armless statue, I found myself surprised at the feeling that washed over me. I don’t know if it was a manifestation of a sort of culturally-ingrained expectation of a feeling of profundity when viewing major works of art, but it did indeed feel profound. She was beautiful. I felt like I got something out of standing there, gawping at a piece of two-thousand-year-old marble, something that I had not been able to get out of looking at pictures of her. I could not for the life of me recall much of the paper I’d written so long ago, but it didn’t matter; I was there, looking, and for a brief moment just standing there had meaning.
Incidentally, I ended up with a low A or high B in that art history class.