One thousand three (mille e tre in Italian) is the number of lovers Don Giovanni has had at the start of Mozart’s famous 18th century opera and it’s his servant Leporello’s job to keep track of them. He does so methodically, by listing them in a small notebook.
Lists. That’s the starting point of Umberto Eco’s undertaking at the Louvre this winter and the concept is wonderful. For one it appeals to everyone – who doesn’t make lists after all? – and secondly, it allows for marvellous associations across genres, centuries and civilisations that only someone as erudite as the famous Italian writer-philosopher-semiologist could come up with.
Thus, if you go to the Louvre before December 13th, 2009, you will be able to view late 19th century film footage from the Méliès brothers who documented subjects as wide and varied as traditional Japanese dancers performing in kimonos, blacksmiths giving a horse new hooves and military parades. This is on the groundfloor, just underneath I.M. Pei’s pyramid and you don’t even need a ticket to pop in and watch some extracts.
Upstairs, all the way at the end of the aile Denon or the wing of the palatial museum named after its first director, Dominique Vivant Denan, is Room 33, which is where one can admire lists made by 19th century Barbizon painter Theodore Rousseau, by pre-impressionist Jongkind, by Italian Renaissance painter Carpaccio, by French, by contemporary artists Christian Boltanski, Claude Closky and Annette Messager … and the list goes on.
Visitors are also invited to explore other parts of the Louvre such as the Sumerian antiquities department to see cuneiform lists such as the Code of Hamurabi that lists almost 300 laws that governed Babylon in the Ubuk period, or the Ancient Egypt section to view lists buried with the deceased indicating the treasures past in the hope that they may accompany them on their journey into the unknown.