Art has been important in my life as far back as I can remember. My mother was always taking my sister and me to art museums and exhibits. I didn’t realize it wasn’t a rather standard childhood activity. Some families made trips to the zoo. We went to the Louvre. (We were also a travelling family.)
When I was 9 years old, our little family moved to France for a year. It was a very influential time in my life. Especially in terms of art exposure. My taste in art has changed a lot since then. (I’m now partial to contemporary, abstract and surrealist art.) But when I was 9 years old, I was quite taken with the painting “The Coronation of Napoleon,” by Jacques-Louis David. (I see that it’s in the Louvre now, but I don’t remember where it was when I first met it. I’m quite sure I saw at the Palace of Versailles at some point, but that may have been years later.) It was a huge painting, over 20 by 30 feet.
I was taken in by the luscious colors and incredibly rich detail, particularly of the lavish clothing and jewelry. I bought an oversized postcard-type reproduction of the painting, and would enjoy looking at the details, perhaps imagining myself there. On the back of the card, there was an index to many of the participants of the ceremony depicted, and I was intrigued by the fact that the artist had painted himself in the audience.
I’m also remembering that I was generally quite fascinated by royalty at that time. My friends and I would play “royalty” at school. That is, we’d pretend to be various members of a royal family, and act out various scenarios. We may well have been, in part, inspired by the fact that one of our school buildings was, I kid you not, a castle. For some reason, and I’m quite proud of my childhood self about this now, I wasn’t interested in being a princess. I always wanted to play the queen mother. Or as I called her, The Elderly. I didn’t have a crown at that time, though.
I’ve been reflecting on these things because tomorrow at 2:00 p.m., I get a crown. At the dentist’s office, that is. I’m not expecting too much ceremony for the occasion.