Sage comme une image

As pretty as a picture or as quiet as a mouse? It depends from which side of the Atlantic you hail. What I understand this French expression to mean is that sometimes life imitates art (et non pas le contraire). So an especially tranquil child can be said to be ‘sage comme une image’. Here is a link to translations in various languages (just scroll down past the French).

This week I made an unexpected discovery, one that I found to be especially ‘sage’ (wise). The Museums of Paris have digitized and made a massive collection of art works available, free, online. These works whose rights are in the public domain offer an incredibly rich source of inspiration for blog posts, websites and more. And it’s absolutely free, so indulge!

Here’s a link to explore the collection. And a translation from the press release courtesy of Google:

This opening of data guarantees free access and reuse of all of digital files, without technical, legal or financial restrictions, for commercial use or not.

Images representing works belonging to the public domain under CCØ license (Creative Commons Zero) are made available to all internet users via the Paris Musées collections portal. Initially, reproductions of 2D works which are not subject to rights are available in Open Content, the images subjected to rights remain in low definition in order to illustrate the files of the collections website. Art lovers can for example download the works of the big names in photography (Atget, Blancard, Marville, Carjat …) or painting (Courbet, Delacroix, Rembrandt, Van Dyck …).

Paris Musées:

I chose the above image to illustrate this post for fairly obvious reasons. Confinement is evocative of a bohemian life in which we lounge around, read, relax and indulge in otherwise forbidden sloth. The reality is somewhat different for us. Husband is home and we are both working, in my case sporadically and mostly on administrative and creative projects for which I normally have no time. Catching up on my accounts and looking at revamping my professional website. Husband is, as usual, glued to his calls from morning to night, taking short breaks for exercise and dog walks.

We are healthy, touch wood, and for that I am immensely grateful. Had news from a friend, in her forties and otherwise in good health. She and her husband have just passed the worst of a ‘mild’ case of COVID-19. The symptoms peaked ten days in, and included fever and muscle pain, coughing and shortness of breath. She is hoping to feel better in another few days and be clear of the virus in about a week. But if that’s how healthy, relatively young people are affected, I hate to think of what it does to those who are fragile.

So I will try and be ‘sage comme une image’ for the next days and weeks, keep my spirits up in this space and only make grocery runs when needed. I’d love to help out in some way, if only I knew how. Online or by phone? Surely even in confinement there must be ways we can reach out to those in need of moral support. Any ideas?

Hope you are all staying well. Please share your tips and tricks for staying sage!

Image credit: Jean-Louis Forain (1852-1931). Imprimerie H. Herold. “La Vie de Bohême” par Puccini, G.Ricordi & Cie Editeurs, Paris. Affiche. Lithographie couleur, vers 1895. Paris, Musée Carnavalet.


  1. margaret21 · March 26, 2020

    I’m astonished at how much I’m enjoying this ‘social distance’. I’m lucky in that neither I nor anyone I care about has yet been struck down. But this inveterately busy person is enjoying the opportunity to change gear. I am indeed ‘sage comme une image’. I haven’t even had chance to browse all those online museum and gallery collections, but I’m looking forward to it.

    • MELewis · March 26, 2020

      Glad you’re enjoying the distancing and change of pace. I’m amazed how quickly the time flies by, even with little work. We are lucky to be in the country and be able to get out and enjoy nature a little each day. Do check out the museum images — lots of fun!

  2. Ally Bean · March 26, 2020

    I’d suggest that the best way to reach out to those in need of moral support is to get involved in the blogosphere, reading and commenting on more blogs. Different blogs. Making some new bloggy friends because virtual is where it’s at right now. At least that’s the approach I’m taking to what I’m calling my Sequestered Life.

    • MELewis · March 27, 2020

      It doesn’t feel all that different to me as I normally lead a fairly sequestered life anyway. Good idea to push the blogging boundaries and make some new online friends during our ‘captivity’ though, as I think of it. I tend to get stuck in my rut of friendly voices. 😀

      • Ally Bean · March 27, 2020

        Me too. Nothing wrong with checking in with the same bloggers, but if’n I’m stuck at home I’m going to use some of the time to becoming a blogging social butterfly. 😊

  3. Penny · March 26, 2020

    Bonjour to you! I have started an online Daily Limerick Challenge for some friends and family. I choose a key word with which to rhyme. Lately I’ve added a list if accompanying words that rhyme withe key word. It’s fun, it requires brain use, and the results are pretty entertaining. Gotta post my words for today. You’re welcome to play along! Stay well…

    • MELewis · March 27, 2020

      Sounds like fun! Feel free to post a link. Thanks for your wishes and good health to you!

      • Penny · March 27, 2020

        if you could just send me your email, that will do it. Would love to have you!

  4. vishesh · March 26, 2020

    This is pretty amazing, I didn’t knew about the online museum and gallery, I’ve been thinking about visiting to Paris this April but now the world’s shut down and I’m isolated in my home far away from Paris. Thank you so much for sharing it i’m really looking forward to browse the museum and the gallery collections.

    • MELewis · March 27, 2020

      Glad you found it interesting! Maybe it can help to virtually travel to Paris during our captive phase. I was surprised to find such a wonderful resource.

  5. Dale · March 26, 2020

    We have used that expression regularly and it I’ve often wondered at its raison d’être.
    I cannot say I am sad at being confined. I’m thinking my desire to actually get my house in order will kick in any day now…

    • MELewis · March 27, 2020

      One can always hope, eh? 😅 I had a moment of organizational madness last weekend, during which I packed away all my winter clothes. Needless to say the weather turned Arctic this week. But hey! I’m inside mostly anyway!

      • Dale · March 27, 2020

        And that’s Murphy”s Law for you…

  6. francetaste · March 26, 2020

    There are concerts, too. YoYo Ma posts a concert a day.
    How to help: if you can afford to, donate money. If you can, donate blood (terrible shortage). Call older relatives and friends. I took my 80-year-old aunt on a tour of our house via FaceTime. A respite from lockdown at the senior living center. Even younger ones–a young neighbor had a kidney transplant and is a nervous wreck about the situation. Very busy on the phone.

    • MELewis · March 27, 2020

      Great ideas! I do think the phone lines are enjoying a return to popularity. We’ve also been making calls to family in Lyon, Nice and Normandy, as well Canada. Sadly, our poor internet connection makes the video part extremely challenging. Thanks for the tip on Yo Yo Ma!

  7. Osyth · March 26, 2020

    I’m thrilled to learn that the French have digitised their publicly owned art. Some years ago (blimey! Ten!) I worked on a project called The Public Catalogues Foundation. It was the initiative of a benevolent millionaire who had stumbled upon the fact that much publicly owned art is not even on display in the place that housed it and more languished in council officials offices or even fire or police stations. Everything was photographed, catalogued and later digitised. It was fun to play a role in it – the finished result is called Art UK. I, too, am trying to find ways to help. Whatever I turn up won’t be much good to you, I guess, by don’t of geography but if I think of anything that would translate, I’ll holler 😊

    • MELewis · March 27, 2020

      Yet another chapter is your always fascinating memoirs, Miss Osyth! I checked it out and Art UK looks like a fabulous resource. It’s sad to think of all those wonderful pieces hidden from view due to lack of space. How great to share them more widely online! Hope you are keeping well along with your hounds.

      • Osyth · March 27, 2020

        Many of them were languishing in cupboards and basements entirely lost to the world. You would love Fred Hohler whose idea it was … a true maverick, very smart and VERY funny! All good with the hounds of hell – keep close with those gorgeous Frenchies (the dogs not the people 😉)

  8. midihideaways · March 26, 2020

    Most of the major opera houses show performaces with free streaming!! And many theatres too!! There’s so much on that I have to be really selective!! 🙂 Have been on a virtual visit of Versailles, which was fun!

    • MELewis · March 27, 2020

      Sounds like a feast for the culturally minded. Silver linings to this shutdown, and maybe even the start of alternatives for the future? There is just so much out there, and being able to access it virtually just makes sense in so many ways (environment, reduced mobility…). Glad to hear you are staying entertained while staying home!

      • midihideaways · March 28, 2020

        Absolutely!! Although I hope that virtual opera is not going to be a trend – nothing beats seeing a live performance of any kind, concert, theatre, opera, ballet… 😉

      • MELewis · March 28, 2020

        So true! It’s a good alternative but a live performance is a different thing entirely. Vive la fin du confinement!

  9. Suzanne et Pierre · March 26, 2020

    Glad to hear you are still doing well and not suffering too much by the current confinement. We are also keeping busy and staying healthy (so far!). But it is such a strange time, it is difficult to imagine what the world will look like once we are out of this current crisis. People have started loosing their jobs so lots of people are suffering with very little money to pay for the basics. Cross fingers that it will be over soon and that the world will be a better place afterward… (Suzanne)

    • MELewis · March 27, 2020

      As ever you are a voice of reason, Suzanne. The economic fall out of Covid-19 is a whole other crisis which, sadly, could result in more lives lost from poverty than we set out to save in the first place. I am hopeful that the scientists working so hard to find a cure or a vaccine will help leaders find a way forward soon, and maybe mitigate the worst effects of the slowdown. At best we are looking at a recession. Yet, the optimist in me can’t help but think that maybe it will be for the better ultimately. If we take away the valuable learnings from this crisis. Fingers crossed indeed!

  10. Colin Bisset · March 27, 2020

    If there is one thing we can get from these worrying times it’s the generosity of sharing, from the simple act of museums sharing images and orchestras playing whole concerts on-line to neighbours looking out to help those who might be hit hardest by the virus. The idea of paying-it-forward to help small businesses survive or simply shopping for older neighbours – it’s all about thinking of others, and that is surely humanity being its best. Being cooped up inside with one’s partner, of course, takes that to another level – breathe in 1-2-3 breathe out 1-2-3!

    • MELewis · March 27, 2020

      Ha, ha…you echo a theme that has been playing in my mind too! We signed up for better or for worse, but not 24/7! Methinks we’ll see a spate of posts or essays on that theme soon… Yes, such examples of generosity are heart-warming and a tonic for our times. Here’s hoping they outlast the virus!

  11. paul · March 27, 2020

    Thank you for this link. It is something that should keep me occupied in the coming weeks! London isn’t such a good place to be right now but neither is Paris or anywhere for that matter . In the proverbial words of Capatin Kirk “Beam me up Scottie” and I will dwell in the unchartered plains of the Internet amidst the fine works of art of the Paris museums

    • MELewis · March 29, 2020

      Glad you find it entertaining! There is no safe place at the moment (other than perhaps at home) as the virus knows no boundaries. Captain Kirk would be a voice of reason during all this craziness, I am sure!

  12. kairosia · March 29, 2020

    J’adore votre image. I had read about the virtual museums and vowed I’d frequent them. How many weeks are we into the virus and I have dropped into a single collection. At this moment, I’m wrapped up in sewing a new baby quilt, and the museums will have to wait. We’re somehow way more occupied than seems reasonable. Why is that. More from the US:

    • kairosia · March 29, 2020

      (that is, have *not* dropped in—proofreading!)

      • MELewis · March 31, 2020

        How lucky are you to have hand crafting skills to keep you busy! You are right about the time — somehow the days just fly by. I’m more thrilled about having access to the images to illustrate posts and websites than the online museum experience as such. There is just something about standing in a room with art works that is incomparable. Vive la fin du confinement!

  13. Salli · March 30, 2020

    That image is of Mimi (of La Boheme fame). She is not lounging around, she is dying! And that’s her little muff, given to her by the other soprano, Musetta.

    • MELewis · March 31, 2020

      Thanks for the culture note. I guess the image choice was ever more timely than I imagined! 😅

  14. roughwighting · April 1, 2020

    I was pleased to see that one of your commenters confessed that she’s enjoying the ‘lock down.’ I have learned something from this (well, probably many things); I like self-distancing. That is to say, I love my family and friends and miss them. But I don’t miss racing in my car to teach my classes, to arrive at the exercise studio in time, to drive to restaurants to meet friends for lunch, to hop in the car and pick up three 10-year-old ballerinas and get them to their ballet class three towns away. Nope. Don’t miss that at all. I like being ensconced in the house (with my guy, working like your guy) and writing and communicating with friends/family via FB videos and Facetiming and e-mails and texts. I like… being alone. Gasp. I feel guilty. My guy and I take l long walks in the woods – heaven. We order on-line from grocery stores and I cook every night. Yesterday – I baked homemade bread First time ever. And (gasp, again) I enjoyed the process!
    On the other hand, I feel for those who are not being paid, who are hungry and worried and stressed and lonely. I’m sending lots of snail mail cards/letters to those who are alone and who need a reminder that they are not forgotten.

    • MELewis · April 2, 2020

      It’s good to have had a busy life in terms of all that running around before the lockdown so as to better appreciate the contrast. Sounds like you are truly enjoying the isolation — et tant mieux! This whole thing is a lesson in so many ways. I already knew I liked solitude (perhaps a bit too much for my own good), so for me it’s been a revelation in terms of how much I miss the few contacts I do have. Also, getting used to sharing space with husband who is usually away four days a week. Realizing how many things I can get by without and making better use of what we have on hand. We’re also enjoying more frequent video calls to family and friends. It’s fun to socialize virtually and we can feel connected even from afar. How nice that you are thinking of others with the cards and letters!

      • roughwighting · April 2, 2020

        Yes – a happy mix is needed! ❤

  15. acflory · April 3, 2020

    Thanks for the info about the artwork. That’s huge. I’m sorry your friends got the virus, but it does reinforce the need to stay ‘sage’. 🙂
    -hugs from Australia-

  16. OC · May 12, 2020

    Brilliant article, thank you!

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