At the Musée de l’homme, prehistory and its masterpieces are honored

Some are as big as your thumb and yet they fascinate. At the Musée de l’homme, a dozen small “Venuses”, carved from stone or mammoth ivory, welcome visitors to the “Art and prehistory” exhibition. The oldest, around 30,000 years old, are heavy-breasted callipygian beauties, like the superb Venus of Lespuguediscovered just one hundred years ago, returned to the museum after three years of analysis and restoration.

With its 44 centimeters high, the Horned Venus, a bas-relief found at Laussel (Dordogne), is no less spectacular. Their younger sisters of the Magdalenian turn out to be more elongated, sometimes even reduced to the simple schematic drawing of a torso on a buttocks. As for the sexualized male figures, they remain in the minority, like the phalluses carved out of reindeer antler or the couple in full coitus, engraved on a plaque from the Marche cave (Vienne).

Extraordinary naturalism

The animal dominates in most images that explode from the Upper Paleolithic, with the expansion of Sapiens in Asia and Europe. Lined up in showcases, small sculptures and engravings on bone, wood or stone bear witness to his rich bestiary. If horses and bovids reign supreme, lions, wolves, seals, snakes are looming, and even a sperm whale, a salamander, a grasshopper…

Some animals are extraordinarily natural, such as these ibexes facing off on a propeller. Others tell us about the climate, like these images of mammoths fainting at the end of the ice age. Still others seem to be shrouded in a spiritual aura, such as this aurochs surrounded by rays, 14,000 years old, discovered in 2013 in the shelter of the Empress’s rock in Plougastel-Daoulas (Finistère) and presented for the first time. to the public.

Already styles are spreading

After this exceptional gathering of some 90 original works from all over Europe, parietal art is evoked through image projections. The horizon thus widens to Africa, South America, Australia and Asia, where paintings of almost 45,000 years old were discovered in Sulawesi (Indonesia) in 2017. “Most often, the rock dictates the form”, explains Patrick Paillet, curator of the exhibition with Éric Robert, both teacher-researchers in prehistory at the National Museum of Natural History. Touch screens allow visitors to identify “styles” that spread over vast geographical areas, attesting to exchanges between human groups.

Favoring an aesthetic approach here, the Musée de l’homme preferred to conclude with the tributes paid to Venus of Lespugue by a dozen modern and contemporary artists, from Zadkine to Laure Prouvost. In February, a final section will be added devoted to “Picasso and prehistory”, another great admirer of parietal art.

Source : BBN NEWS

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