Los Angeles Times Features Paris Muse

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March 19, 2004 — In an article today about the long-running popularity of bestseller “The Da Vinci Code,” The Los Angeles Times turned the spotlight on the “Cracking ‘The Da Vinci Code’ at the Louvre” tour by Paris Muse. An excerpt is included below.

Excerpt
Deep into the ‘Code’: ‘Da Vinci’ talks, tours, follow-up books serve a renaissance of interest in art and religion

On a rainy day in Paris last week, 50-year-old Linda Ackerman headed to the Louvre for a bit of detective work. Her checklist included the “Mona Lisa,” a painting that she had seen before — but not this way, not with new eyes on the “Cracking the Da Vinci Code at the Louvre” tour [by Paris Muse].

Sure enough, just as author Dan Brown had described in his novel, “The Da Vinci Code,” Ackerman noticed for the first time that the woman in the Renaissance masterpiece looked androgynous. Ackerman took in the bulky shoulders, masculine face and, of course, the Smile. In Brown’s mystery-thriller, Da Vinci left clues in his artwork pointing to an explosive secret about early Christianity and the irresistible notion of a cover-up by the Catholic Church and other power players.

In Paris, throughout the U.S. and elsewhere, insatiable fans are exploring the controversial themes in “The Da Vinci Code,” even pulling members of the intelligentsia into the novel’s energy field. The book’s grip on the popular imagination is so fierce that academics and theologians are putting aside their ancient Greek and Latin texts and boning up on Brown’s characters, including a self-mutilating, white-haired albino villain.

In response to the craze, tour companies are building itineraries around the book’s settings in Paris, while others are adding “Da Vinci”-related stops to existing tours.

Ackerman, who works as a bank officer in Philadelphia, had been considering a trip to Paris when a friend dangled the piece de resistance — the special Louvre tour. The 2-1/2-hour tour has been offered by Paris Muse since February and has become the guide service’s most popular, said director Ellen McBreen, an art historian with degrees from Harvard and New York University.

“For me, the thunderbolt came when visitors to the Louvre started asking me questions like, ‘Is this the room where the curator was murdered in “The Da Vinci Code?” McBreen said.