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Les Plus Belles Fesses du Louvre

The sheer size of the Louvre—bigger than an airport and more labyrinthine—can be overwhelming; but even more daunting than that is the sheer academic weight of all those masterpieces staring down at you; centuries and centuries of art in room upon room of scholarship.

All those dates to learn, those artistic genres to distinguish, those unpronounceable latin names for ‘foreground’, ‘candlelight’ and ‘erection’. So one guide, the lanky, louche and leather-trousered Bruno de Baekque, takes a different approach. He takes you in through the back door, so to speak: guiding you (gleefully) on a tour concentrating on the finest cheeks in the Louvre. This sort of approach hasn’t won him many fans among the museum’s curators, mind, but it’s more than just a titillating look at a lot of marble mammaries. Bruno’s approach is designed to teach the visitor to save their questions about dates, styles and schools until they’ve learned to look for themselves, use their own eyes, form an aesthetic reaction of their own, and appreciate (or not) each work of art for what it is, entirely out of context. What better thing to choose, then, than the universal common ground of the buttock.

Bruno will arm you with an eye-mask as if for a Venetian masked ball, and take you on a whistle-stop run around the museum directing your eye to the dirty details, from the Michelangelo room (where he marvels at the rough-hewn gluteus maximus of the Slave) to the Gothic rooms (where a camp Christ flashes some thigh from behind his 15th century wooden toga) and on via terracotta centaurs ravishing maidens, Baroque paintings of Arabian princes with their concubines, Old Masters, Picassos, Berninis and all. Anywhere a particularly juicy bum can be appreciated, he’ll suggest you isolate the lines and contours by peeking through your eyemask at the midriff in question, and in doing so, little by little, he’ll hone your eye to detail, grace, beauty and sensuality. The end result may not be high art, but neither is it as vulgar as it sounds; he is after all a published author and licensed guide, and behind the theatre of the tour, he clearly knows his stuff.

The real joy, however, is Bruno’s enthusiasm for what he does, and the fact that in an army of a thousand guides towing the party line, here’s one who does it his way. And although he makes a big play of how different his approach is from the way the Louvre would have you experience their art, it also becomes clear that the curators themselves have their own cheeky sense of humour. Follow the gaze of a pious monk staring out from a bas-relief, and you’ll see that he’s oggling a Mary Magdelen with no togs on; find the most revealing angle of a crouching Venus, and lo and behold who’s behind her with a look of stoney seriousness on his face but some Pope or priest or Caesar. These little clins d’oeuil are what Bruno’s visits are all about, and all in all, it makes for a worthwhile and original take on an old institution.

When Jack isn’t critically examining the finest bottoms in the Louvre, he’s digging deep into all the little details of France for our curious clients.

The curators themselves have their own cheeky sense of humour.

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