We visit the first museums of France

The entry fees are not steep, but the admission numbers are very tightly controlled in these stunning repositories of French art.

Yes, we are in the area that cradled early civilization in this country, the Vézère Valley, where numerous prehistoric caves have been discovered, some with the most astonishing art and sculpture.

We lined up very early yesterday to secure tickets for three main sites:  Font-de-Gaume, Grotte des Combarelles, and Abri du Cap Blanc. The first has the only multi-colored paintings in a cave still open to the public, with 14,000-year-old galleries of over 230 animals, only some of which we could see. (I cheated on the pictures here. Absolutely no photography allowed in the caves.)

The second contains many engravings of animals that seem to leap from the rocks. And the last has a 40-foot frieze of Cro-Magnon art containing stunning sculptures in high relief of horses and bison.

We were privileged to see these places, and will see more of these original museums today. But for now, it seems that ancient man had a grip on art that it took millennia to replicate. Perspective? They understood it. Minimalism? Say no more. Movement? It came naturally.

How lucky we were to have a chance to breathe the air of these caves. It adds so much to the appreciation of these monumental works of art.


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