Art: Out of a Grand Ruin, a Great Museum

Paris opens a showcase of 19th century works

Last week, in the mild sunlight over the Seine, in the belated blue of a dying November, the work of grooming the "elephant" for its last incarnation drew to an end. Masons were finishing the limestone slabs on its wide steps up from the Quai Anatole France. On the parapet, a crane solicitously set down an allegorical bronze of Oceania by some 19th century pompier -- a colonial damsel with thick lips, melon breasts and a Tahitian war club, flanked by a kangaroo.

Inside, the elephant seemed perfect, down to the last coat of beige paint on the last iron rosette...

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