Friday, June 30, 2023


( Pateesa from Prem Sweets ,Jammu )
               ( A Patisserie  shop in Paris )


 In France more than 200,000 tonnes of sweets are consumed every year.Sweets are taken so seriously in France that there’s even a national union dedicated to candy. The Syndicat National de la Confiserie is tasked with ensuring “the diversity and quality” .

The French consume bread ( mostly baguette ) , butter, cheese, wine, pastries, and sweets on a regular, if not, daily basis. Upon finishing a meal, the French tend to end on a high note—that is, with a dessert, digestif, and/or simple coffee. For lighter lunches, a small cookie or piece of chocolate( pronounced as Shokola in French )  with an espresso will do the trick, though for dinner, they  always prefer a heavy dessert.

The sweet, hand-made delicacies enjoyed across France today have a long history. While patisserie and cake-making are often traced back to the 13th century and a man named Regnaut-Barbon, who in 1270 founded a guild of pastry chefs, la confiserie has an even older pedigree, beginning in the Middle Ages. It was around this time that sugar arrived in France, albeit in small quantities. It was consumed only by kings and lords,and in the form of épices de chambre (room spices) — a heady mixture of seeds, pine nuts, almonds, cinnamon, and ginger rolled in sugar and fried in a pan. Candies were traditionally eaten in the royal bedrooms pour mieux s’en régaler (to enjoy them more fully), and were also consumed at the King’s court, usually as a digestif following savory fare.
Recently,  I  had taken Jammu Pateesa to Paris. It was tasted by three French persons who were bowled over by this mouthwatering speciality ( Mithai ) from Kud .A person had this to say in Paris when he tasted Pateesa:- 

" Nothing like it. Where is it sold? I want to buy one year's stock. This speciality will go extremely well with all over here. It is something that we wanted but couldn't create. Can't the trader open an outlet here ?"

( Avtar Mota )

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I found enormous goodwill and warmth in the hearts of Parisians for Princess Diana.This was evident when a square was named after her and the Flame of Liberty sculpture over the Point de l'Alma tunnel  was converted to a Memorial site.   The Pont de l'Alma  tunnel (the notorious tunnel near Pont de l'Alma bridge  ) is located at Place de l'Alma in Paris, France . It is  a moving spot for views of Paris and also for the admirers of  Princess Diana who met with a fatal accident close to  it. The bridge was named to commemorate the Battle of Alma during the Crimean War, in which the Ottoman-Franco-British alliance achieved victory over the Russian army sometime during  1854. This bridge was inaugurated by Napoleon III on 2 April 1856.
The Metro station Alma - Marceau is near the north end of the bridge while the RER station Pont de l'Alma lies  near the south end of the bridge. 
As a matter of fact, the Alma tunnel is not a  tunnel but an underpass  for Pont de  l'Alma bridge. Pont pronounced as pon in French means a bridge. It is a tunnel that goes under the intersection to allow riverside traffic to continue without stopping.
This is the underpass or the tunnel where Princess Diana was critically injured and later succumbed to her injuries in the hospital. Diana's partner, Dodi Fayed, and the driver of the Mercedes-Benz W140, Henri Paul, also died in the crash. Neither the princess nor Dodi nor the tipsy driver were wearing seat belts when the car hit a side railing at a speed of 108 km per hour. The only survivor was Diana's security guard, Trevor Rees-Jones, the only  traveller with a seatbelt fastened to his body . The fatal accident took place during the early hours of 31st August 1997.The car crash that claimed the life of Princess Diana happened in the tunnel below the Flame of Liberty statue. The statue  has since become a memorial for her. The Flame of  Liberty statue   was erected in 1989  to celebrate the Franco-American friendship. Somewhat forgotten, the Flame of Liberty statue   benefited from a renewed interest when Diana, Princess of Wales, died on 31st  August 1997, in a car  a road accident that took place inside  the tunnel below the monument. 

 The 3.5 m tall Flame of Liberty is a full-sized gilded copper replica of the torch  portion of the 'Statue of Liberty ' guarding the entrance of New-York Harbour. The Flame of Liberty stands on a grey-and-black marble pedestal placed just above the exit of the Pont de l'Alma tunnel. The Memorial has the  Eiffel Tower in the background.
The Liberty Flame  (completed in 1987), at the bridge's north end has become an unofficial memorial to Princess  Diana. The square is now officially named Place Diana. The tunnel is known as an accident black spot. From 1982 to 1997 , there were more than  11 deaths in the area .There are love locks on the chains around the Flame of Liberty  statue. Further  pictures of Diana have been  placed at the base of the statue while graffiti notes to her  have also been written on the bridge next to it.

Zamaana Bade shauq se suun Raha tha,
Hum hi so gaye daastaan kehte kehte

( Avtar Mota)

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A VISIT  TO LOUVRE  MUSEUM, PARIS...Great Sphinx of Tanis ..
(Lying in  room No 338,  Sully Wing,Level 1, Louvre Museum ,Paris)

An enigmatic half-human, half-animal creature with the body of a lion and the face of a King stands guard at the entrance to the Louvre's Department of Egyptian Antiquities.Deep down in the crypt, the Great Sphinx of Tanis welcomes visitors to a vast display of over 6,000 works spanning almost 5,000 years of Egyptian history.The displays on Level 1 take a historical and artistic approach with an overview of almost 5,000 years of Egyptian art. Highlights include the famous Seated Scribe with his bright-eyed gaze, and the statues of kings and queens including Sesostris III, Ahmose Nefertari, Hatshepsut, Amenophis III, Nefertiti, Akhenaton and Ramesses II.

This Sphinx was discovered among the ruins of the Temple of at Tanis (the capital of the 21st and 22nd dynasties in ancient Egypt) by a local in 1825 AD.This granite sculpture is about 4000 years old. It  was successively inscribed with the names of the pharaohs Ammenemes II (12th Dynasty, 1929-1895 BC), Merneptah (19th Dynasty, 1212-02 BC) and Shoshenq I (22nd Dynasty, 945-24 BC).According to archaeologists, certain details suggest that this sphinx dates to an earlier period - the Old Kingdom (c. 2600 BC).
This  Sphinx at Louvre is  not to be confused with the massive Sphinx at Giza .The famous Great Sphinx in Giza is alongside the Roman Colosseum in Rome, Italy, and the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France as one of the most popular and fascinating monuments in the world.
There are many  sphinxes outside of Egypt and  some are on display inside the Louvre Museum  in Paris. One amongst the displayed Sphinxes is the Great Sphinx Of Tanis .It had been buried in the sand for centuries and was in a poor state of preservation.Captain Pierre Bouchard and his team excavated the Sphinx and brought it to the Louvre Museum in Paris, where it has been on display ever since. It is said that the Sphinx Lion design is inspired by the constellation Leo.

A Sphinx is an ancient Egyptian world described by the Greek name Ssp Ankh, which translates to “living image.” Amenemhat III was the first King to have a lion mane and a sphinx on his head. Sphinxes are common in many mythologies, including Ancient Greece. They are usually portrayed as having human heads, with the bodies of a lion and are sometimes depicted as winged. In Egyptian mythology, they are often portrayed as benevolent and strong and they are usually associated with royalty. The best-known Sphinx in Egypt is, of course, the colossal one at Giza, adjacent to the Great Pyramids.The famous Great Sphinx in Giza is alongside the Roman Colosseum in Rome, Italy, and the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France as one of the most popular and fascinating monuments in the world.

(Avtar Mota )


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Friday, June 23, 2023


               (Portrait of  Josephine Bonaparte )
              ( A  Painting in Louvre Museum )
      ( Portrait of Queen Konigin Pauline Wurttemberg )
                ( Portrait of   Marie Antoinette)


When shawls were exported to Europe  (mainly France and England), they were worn exclusively by women from elite families or by queens and princesses. Paintings from the last quarter of the  18th century show high-society ladies of Europe wearing expensive Kashmiri shawls in various ways as accessories to the then-fashion trends.
From 1780 to 1830, there was a sudden profusion of portraits of women throughout Europe with Kashmir shawls wrapped around them. An artist who could skillfully depict a face and a shawl design was able to make a living. These paintings can be seen in the museums of Paris notably the Louvre.  I also saw some such paintings on display in the  Versailles Palace.  From mid 18th century, embroidered Pashmina and Kani Shawl became a much sought-after commodity in the  European markets. 
In France, I came to know that many Egyptian traders would move to Europe and sell Kashmiri Shawls. Apart from other commodities or handicrafts, some shops in Cairo used to sell Kashmiri shawls. Many books reveal the movement of silk, and other handicrafts including woollen shawls from India on the ancient Silk Route right up to Palmyra  (Syria), the last outpost of the Roman Empire.
   Merchants on the Silk Road transported goods and traded at bazaars or caravanserai along the way. They traded goods such as silk, spices, tea, ivory, cotton,  handicrafts,  Pashmina wool, precious metals, and many more items.Palmyra was a wealthy city located on the Silk Road, an ancient trade route linking China with Parthia and the Roman Empire.From these references, one can safely conclude that shawl-making has been in vogue in ancient Kashmir.

Josephine Bonaparte wife of Napoleon was gifted the first Kashmiri Pashmina Shawl by an Egyptian high official. I saw a portrait of  Josephine  Bonaparte wearing a gown, the lower part of which is made from a Kashmiri embroidered Pashmina shawl. The portrait was done by Antoine Jean Gros.

In another portrait that I saw, Queen Konigin Pauline Wurttemberg, Germany is shown wearing a Kashmiri shawl. This portrait was done in 1825 by artist  Joseph Karl Stieler. The queen is holding her son Karl who later married Grand Princess Olga.

I  also saw a portrait of   Marie Antoinette wife of King Louis XVI done by Jacques Louis David in 1790. She is shown wearing an exquisite  Kashmiri shawl over her left shoulder and elements of it hang down below her leg, revealing a patterned tip. The pretty queen was publicly guillotined by revolutionaries in Paris following the French Revolution which also abolished the monarchy in France.

Walter Benjamin in his book  “The Arcade Project “ , writes this:-
“In 1798 and 1799, the Egyptian campaign lent frightful importance to the fashion for shawls. Some generals in the expeditionary army, taking advantage of the proximity of India, sent home shawls … of cashmere to their wives and lady friends … From then on, the disease that might be called cashmere fever took on significant proportions. It began to spread during the Consulate, grew greater under the Empire, became gigantic during the Restoration, reached colossal size under the July Monarchy, and has finally assumed Sphinx-like dimensions since the February Revolution of 1848”

Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s conquest of Kashmir and his interest in the shawls led to a revival of the industry hit by natural calamity. The Sikh Maharaja had recruited two members of Napoleon’s army, Jean-Francois Allard and Jean-Baptiste Ventura — as his Generals. By 1835, the Generals were exporting shawls to Europe, and Amritsar had become the centre of the Kashmiri shawl trade.

( Avtar Mota)

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"Kissi ko kyaa na milaa zindagi mein waa-e-naseeb,
Hamaare haath bas ik dil rahaa, rahaa bhi nahin…
Wo aankh kahti hai aisay ka kyaa thikaana hai ,
‘Firaq’ aadmi to hai bhalaa, bhalaa bhi nahin……"
( Firaq Gorakhpuri  from Gul e Nagma )

"Munh se hum apne bura to nahin kehte ke Firaq,
Hai tera dost magar aadmi achha bhi nahin."
( A couplet of Firaq ) 

"Aane vaali naslein  tum par faḳhr karengi ham-asron,
Jab bhi un ko dhyaan aayega tum ne Firaq ko dekha  hai.."

( A couplet of Firaq )

" Logon ki samajh mein aa na sakaa
 kuchh mujh ko bhi hai taa’jub sa,
Sunn meri udaasi ka kaaran 
aey humdum bahut akela huun.."

( A couplet of Firaq )

"Nirdhan kavi ke paas kyaa -kuchh peeda kuchh preet,
Kuchh andekhay sapne hain _ dard bharay kuchh geet.."
( A Doha of Firaq ) 

( Avtar Mota)

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Tuesday, June 20, 2023



THE ABDUCTION OF SABINE WOMEN... by Nicolas Poussin ( 1594-1665) ..Oil on canvas, 159 x 206 cm

( On display inside  the Louvre Museum( Paris) , Richelieu Wing,  room 828) 

Sabines were  an ancient Oscan-speaking people of the central Apennines in Italy, northeast of Rome, who feature in early Roman legends and also in the Bible . They were forcibly incorporated into the Roman state .Legend says that the Romans abducted Sabine women to populate the newly built Rome. According to scholars and historians, the sad event of rape and abduction of the Sabine women took place just a few days after the foundation of Rome in the 8th century BC. The alleged crime was committed by Romulus, the first King and founder of Rome, and his male followers

This  abduction  is described by several classical writers. While accounts vary, key details are consistent: Romulus, founder and then king of Rome, had built an impressive city, but there was a shortage of women. He invited the Sabines, who lived in the mountains nearby, to bring their wives and daughters to a festival of chariot racing festival , intending to seize the unmarried women.
When the festival was in full swing, Romulus gave the signal to his men and they immediately abducted the Sabine women — overpowering the Sabine men. The historian Livy counts as many as thirty women to have been kidnapped and raped by the Romans on that day, all of whom are said to be virgins, except Hersilia, who later became Romulus’ wife and played an important part in ending the subsequent conflicts.
 In the painting, one can see the women reeling  back in distress, while in the foreground is a close-up view of some  victims being physically  carried away. 

 The painting was done in 1633 or 1634 using oil on canvas  This dramatic story gave Poussin the opportunity to display his command of gesture and pose and his knowledge of ancient sculpture and architecture. The painting belonged to the maréchal de Créquy, who was the French ambassador to Rome from June 1633 to July 1634. Later , it remained in the custody of   Cardinal Richelieu.Cardinal Richelieu was a French clergyman, nobleman, and statesman, serving as King Louis XIII’s Chief Minister (sometimes also called First Minister) from 1624. He sought to consolidate royal power and strengthen France’s international position. 

Nicolas Poussin ( 1594-1665) was the leading painter of the classical French Baroque style. As artist, he spent  major part of his life in Rome.Poussin is admired for his strong use of colour and his inclination to prioritise the cerebral over the emotional. He was able to demonstrate that art could be an intellectual pursuit and through his layering of meaning he produced paintings of extraordinary dramatic depth and allegorical complexity. His another masterpiece titled ,' Four Seasons'  is also on display in the Louvre Museum. In 2022, I  saw another version of the "Abduction of Sabine Women " by Poussin on display in the  Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York.The incident of 'Abduction of Sabine Women'  is referenced numerous times throughout history and it inspired various artworks by legendary artists like Pablo Picasso, Rubens, 
Andrea Andreani and Giambologna.

I have cut some segments from the painting . These segments may help the viewer to appreciate this work . I found a crowd near this painting. This painting remains one amongst some masterpieces on display in the Louvre Museum.

( Avtar Mota)

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Thursday, June 15, 2023




A VISIT TO LOUVRE MUSEUM, PARIS: Diana of Versailles.( In room No 348, Sully Wing, Musee du Louvre )


As one enters room no 358 of the Sully Wing in the Louvre Museum, Paris, one is confronted with some amazing sculptures. Done in marble, most of these sculptures are either from ancient Greece or ancient Rome. One prominent sculpture on display in this room is known as Diana of Versailles. It is a marble statue gifted by Pope Paul IV to the King of France in 1556. It was discovered in Italy. Some sources suggest its origin in the Temple of Diana (Nemi), an ancient sanctuary while some suggest its origin in Hadrian's Villa at Tibur.

In the sculpture under discussion, the Greek goddess Artemis (Roman Diana) draws an arrow from her quiver and grasps a stag by the horns. She wears a knee-length maiden's dress, sandals and a tiara crown. Known as the Diana of Versailles in France as it used to adorn the 'Hall of Mirrors ' at the Château de Versailles, it is a slightly over-life-size statue of the Greek goddess. It was done in Rome sometime 1st or 2nd century AD. The original bronze statue in Greece, attributed to the Greek sculptor Leochares was lost. The original bronze statue is believed to have been done in c. 325 BC. There is a striking similarity between the Diana of Versailles and the famous Apollo Belvedere in the Vatican and believed to have been done by Leochares. It is believed that in ancient Greek society, tall women were associated with power, dignity and poise. 

Leochares (4th Century BCE) was one of the prominent sculptors of Athenian Hellenistic Greece during the 4th century BCE. Leochares's main claim to fame was that he worked on the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus with Skopas - one of the greatest sculptors of 'Classical Antiquity'.

The statue is also known as Diana à la Biche, Diane Chasseresse ("Diana Huntress"), Artemis of the Chase, and Artemis with the Hind. 

The statue was given by Pope Paul IV to Henry II of France in 1556 and intended for the King's mistress, Diane de Poitiers. 

 In 1602, Henri IV removed it to the Palais du Louvre, where it was installed in a gallery specially designed for it. In 1696, it was installed in the Grande Galerie (Hall of Mirrors) of Versailles Palace by Louis XIV. As one of France's greatest treasures, the statue returned to the Louvre after the French Revolution. In France, this statue acquired a reputation equivalent to the masterpieces in the Belvedere or the Villa Borghese.

Artemis was one of the most widely venerated of the Ancient Greek deities. Her Roman equivalent is Diana. Some scholars believe that the name, and indeed the goddess herself, was originally pre-Greek. Homer refers to her as Artemis Agrotera, Potnia Theron: "Artemis of the wildland, Mistress of Animals". The Arcadians believed she was the daughter of Demeter.

 In the classical period of Greek mythology, Artemis (Ancient Greek) was often described as the daughter of Zeus and Leto, and the twin sister of Apollo. She was the Hellenic goddess of the hunt, wild animals, wilderness, childbirth, virginity and protector of young girls, bringing and relieving disease in women; she often was depicted as a huntress carrying a bow and arrows. The deer and the cypress were sacred to her. In later Hellenistic times, she even assumed the ancient role of Eileithyia in aiding childbirth. 

This goddess of chastity could punish the misdeeds of men by shooting arrows. In the sculpture, Artemis is shown in action, with her tunic (the chiton) tucked up to her knees to make it easier to pursue her quarry. A cape (the himation) passing over her left shoulder, clings closely to her form.


( Avtar Mota )

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Monday, June 12, 2023





( On display inside room no 711, Denon Wing, Level 1, Louvre Museum, on the wall facing Paris )

As one enters room no 711 of Denon Wing (Level 1) in the Louvre Museum, Paris to see Mon Lisa, one finds a huge (6.75 metres by 9.95 metres)  painting adorning the entire wall facing Mona Lisa. It looks as if Mona Lisa is continuously looking at this work and admiring it. Known the world over as "The Wedding Feast At Cana", this is the largest painting displayed in the Louvre Museum, in Paris. I visited the museum thrice in 2023. The room was always crowded obviously on account of the Mona Lisa. It is quite challenging to capture this painting with a mobile camera on account of its size and the crowds.

This huge painting has been done by Paolo Cagliari, known as Paolo Veronese, who is considered as one of the most prominent painters of the Renaissance in Venice, Italy. He lived in the sixteenth century between 1528 and 1588. He was born in Verona (which explains his surname). He is one of the three most important members of the 16th-century Venetian school of painters; the other members are; Titian and Tintoretto. He is known for his large, dramatic, and very colourful paintings.

' The Wedding Feast At Cana' combines many elements of several different styles in art. From the Venetian colorito philosophy of Titian to the compositional disegno of the High Renaissance - exemplified by the work of Leonardo, Raphael, and Michelangelo, the artist has also added one or two characteristics of Mannerism, as well as a quantity of allegorical and symbolic features.In this painting, Jesus is shown sitting in the middle of the table, and Maria is sitting to the left of him (one can recognise them by their halos). They are surrounded by a mix of biblical figures and Venetian contemporaries of Paolo Veronese, including some of the other apostles, princes, Venetian noblemen, and servants. In total, there are more than 130 people. The bride and groom are in the left bottom corner sitting at the table. A servant is offering a glass of wine to the groom to taste the new wine. The bearded ceremonial master, dressed in a green mantle, is standing behind the servant. On the right, one can see a man pouring the wine from one of the white stone water jars into a smaller jar. To the left of him is the head wine taster, who approves the wine.

'​The Wedding Feast At Cana' is illustrated as a lavish Venetian feast, evidenced by the abundance of 16th-century Venetian elements, such as the presence of Dorian (in the foreground) and Corinthian (in the background) columns, the clothing of many of the guests, the silver tableware, etc. One can also see the dogs, birds, parrot, and a cat.

In September 1797, Napoleon’s soldiers removed this huge painting from the walls of the refectory for which it was made. It was taken as war booty and brought to France and finally brought to Louvre Museum. Due to its enormous size, the painting was cut in half, rolled up, and transported to Paris, where it was stitched together.

The Wedding Feast at Cana' represents a story from the New Testament. At a wedding party in Cana, Galilee, Jesus Christ performs his first miracle by turning water into wine. Towards the end of the wedding feast, as the wine begins to run out, Jesus asks that stone jars be filled with water. His followers do so and they are surprised to see the water turning into wine. It was a popular theme during the Italian Renaissance and during the Mannerist era: famous versions of the subject include: "Marriage at Cana" (1305, Scrovegni Chapel) by Giotto; "Wedding at Cana" (1561, Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute) by Tintoretto; "Marriage at Cana" (1566, Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest) by Giorgio Vasari. However, unlike most conventional interpretations, Veronese transposed the Bible story to the more modern setting of a typically extravagant Venetian wedding.

Veronese was paid 324 ducats as his fee for doing the painting. He was also given a barrel of wine. The huge work was commissioned for the refectory in the Benedictine monastery on the island of San Giorgio Maggiore, Venice. Helped by his brother, Benedetto Caliari (1538-98), Veronese completed the huge painting in fifteen months.

Veronese's glowing colours include the hugely expensive lapis lazuli blues, imported along the Silk Route from the mines of Afghanistan; as well as yellow oranges, burning reds, and Verdigris blue greens. Due to a recent 3-year restoration programme at the Louvre, many hues have regained their original brilliance. It was no coincidence that Peter Paul. Rubens (1577-1640), the greatest colourist painter during the era of Baroque painting, owned a number of pictures by Veronese, which he kept in his studio.

The painting caused a huge scandal in the Venetian society. Veronese's emphasis on the hedonistic aspects of a marriage banquet, at the expense of the pious aspects of the occasion, ran counter to the religious sensibilities of the 16th-century Republic of Venice. Undeterred by the controversy, Veronese produced an equally contentious "Last Supper" (1573), which so offended 'public taste' that a tribunal of the Inquisition ordered him to make a number of alterations. He refused and simply retitled the painting, The Feast in the House of Levi (1573, Venice Academy Gallery). John Ruskin once wrote that from Veronese’s art, he learned that, ‘to be a first rate-painter, you mustn’t be pious – but rather a little wicked and entirely a man of the world’. And indeed no matter the subject, Veronese’s paintings always exude the worldly, festive atmosphere of 16th-century Venice.

Calling 'The Wedding Feast At Cana' the “greatest known picture in the world", Jacques-Louis David took the Veronese piece as inspiration and made his own 32-foot-long painting, 'The Coronation of Napoleon (1807)', which also hangs in the museum. Later on, Eugène Delacroix wrote that he “wouldn’t miss” The Wedding Feast at Cana upon any of his numerous visits to the Paris museum, and Vincent van Gogh considered the Veronese evidence that painters ought to use colour toward more expressive means.


( Avtar Mota )

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