November 13th, 2011



I've started reading The Zodiac of Paris. It provides a lot of background on the intellectual milieu and history of pre-Revolutionary, Revolutionary and Napoleonic France -- stuff I know very little about. But a number of colorful characters appear.

Lalande, the spider-eating "free-thinker who preferred monarchy, an atheist who admired the Jesuits, a feminist who propositioned young women, as ugly as ever and still just as vain," who nearly discovered Neptune 50 years 'early'.

"In particular, Denon was one of the very first men to appreciate the importance of the Italian 'primitives'. The majority of those now in the Louvre were looted by Denon during a sweep he made through Italy in 1812. They were publicly paraded, with elephants and other wild animals, like a Roman Triumph, through the streets of Paris, before being deposited in the Louvre."