Subtitled “A Graphic Poem,” Christian Durieux’s An Enchantment (NBM) is the latest in a series of works inspired by the Louvre Museum. As with other entries in the series (On the Odd Hours and Rohan at the Louvre), Durieux’s piece blends fantasy with an artist’s appreciation of the works on display in that citadel of art. This latest volume is built around a conceit that viewers of Rod Serling’s Night Gallery might find familiar.
The book opens with a retirement party being held in the museum for an unnamed government functionary whose appreciation for the art on display is at odds with his former position as a bureaucrat. Ditching the event to wander the halls of the museum, the melancholy retiree meets a free-spirited young lady who coaches him on the ways to fully appreciate the creativity that surrounds them. The duo dodge museum guards and grow every more flirtatious with each other – despite their seeming age discrepancy. The woman is more than she seems, of course.
Durieux uses various classic works in the museum to push the relationship between our unlikely couple: as the book opens, we see our rueful hero sarcastically contrasting the festivities with Jacque-Louis David’s “The Consecration of Emperor Napoleon,” while the duo’s night ends with a life-changing appreciation of Antoine Watteau’s “The Embarkation for Cythera,” a famous 18th century painting celebrating the birthplace of Venus. “To love museums, you must love ghosts,” Durieux asserts in the book’s afterword. An Enchantment possesses that love of the ghostly, though it also contains an honest appreciation of the corporeal. An objet d’art 18th century bed also plays a role in our couple’s developing relationship.
Tinged with themes of regret and late life redemption, Durieux’s work is more a ruminative dialog than a complex tale. The book’s strength rests on its evocative earth-toned art and its appealing couple, who we can honestly accept in their late night museum setting. His heroine proves particularly striking; in lesser hands, she’d prove sentimentally Boho, but Durieux gives her dialogue a scholarly intelligence that’s suited to this lovingly illustrated graphic discourse on art and humanity. Every one of the volumes to date in the Louvre series has been an art and comics lover’s treat: An Enchantment does not prove an exception.