The Burghers of Calais, Auguste Rodin

A visit to the Rodin Museum in Paris was not on my list of things to do. But I walked by, needed a break from the hot day, there was no line, and in I went. Talk about a voyage of discovery. My exposure to Rodin prior to this visit amounted to The Thinker and in the case of that work, I learned during my museum visit that there are multiple castings and different versions of the statue. I found The Burghers of Calais pictured here awe-inspiring. The work was commissioned by the city of Calais to commemorate the city’s role in an event during the Hundred Years’ War. Rodin’s design was chosen from among several submissions. The final work caused considerable controversy when it was unveiled in 1889 – it was not the larger-than-life heroic allegory the city had had in mind. Instead it is a very engaging study of the six very human burghers who were central characters in the historical event commemorated. Like many of the works in the Paris Rodin Museum, this is a plaster cast of Rodin’s design.

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Ta Phrom Temple, Cambodia

Although some restoration work is underway at the site, Ta Phrom temple remains in a state of disrepair. The quiet grandeur of this eight to nine hundred year old temple complex nonetheless shines through the rundown condition of many of the structures. In fact those conditions may actually enhance the grandeur. I remember being astonished by the soft colors and faded beauty of the Temple of the Sun in Beijing when I first visited in 1987. When I returned 25 years later, the site had been “restored” and looked like a gaudy movie set; it was very disappointing. In fairness, restoration work at the Forbidden City has, in my opinion, done an excellent job retaining the feel the place had before work began. Be that as it may, restoration is needed to preserve sites like Angkor Wat and the Forbidden City and to protect them from the damage the millions of tourists who visit each year can do, whether inadvertently or maliciously. Hopefully the work here will proceed with a sensitivity to retaining the sense of ancient power this place has.

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