One place you can’t miss visiting in France is the Louvre, and trust me when I say that this trip needs a whole lot of preparation. The Louvre is massive! It houses more than 50 thousand art works… FIFTY THOUSAND! You definitely can’t see everything in one go so I took it upon myself to list down my top ten must see in the museum (and no, the Mona Lisa is not one of them).
Let’s get started!
Gabrielle d’Éstrées and her Sister in a Bath
School of Fontainebleu c. 1595
If you like drama and intrigue, this painting’s history is right up your alley! According to art historians, this is a painting of Gabrielle d’Éstrées, a mistress to King Henry IV. Her sister, seen pinching her nipple, alludes to her pregnancy as is the lady behind them, supposedly sewing baby clothes.
Lamassu at the Louvre
The human and bull hybrid winged statue, Lamassu, is a protective deity usually seen at the entrances of cities and palaces. When you encounter these gigantic sculptures, count their legs. They have five instead of four! This is so they appear standing still when you look at them from the front, and walking when seen from the side.
Portrait of a Princess of the House of Este
Pisanello c. 1449
Some might argue with me but I find this painting much more intriguing than the Mona Lisa. The young girl is seen sitting sideways. Her background a mixed of different colored columbine flowers with a juniper tucked in her dress and a butterfly near her brow. It is said that the butterfly symbolized the princess’ soul while the juniper is evidence that she is Ginevre d’Este, an Italian noblewoman. Juniper is also known as genièvre in certain dialects.
Cupid and Psyche
Picot c. 1817
Who says one-night stands were a recent trend? In this painting, we see Cupid glancing back at Psyche while reaching for his clothes on the chair. Psyche’s arm outstretched, an empty space left from where he was laying down. You just know he’s trying to stay as quiet as possible so as not to wake up the naive girl. She doesn’t know what she signed up for.
Winged Victory of Samothrace
The Winged Victory, displayed at the top of the Louvre’s Daru staircase, is said to have been created to commemorate a naval victory. Which victory? No one can really say for certain though there are plenty of theories. Missing both head and arms, it doesn’t deter people from calling it a masterpiece. I think the incompleteness gives the statue character, together with the seemingly soft movement of the tunic and strong stance of the wings.
Dadd c. 1817 – 1886
A fan of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, imagine my delight when I came across this painting entitled Le Sommeil de Titania. Dadd the painter, though known for going crazy and killing his father, created a magical scene in this artwork. It almost has a theatrical or stage-like presence to it. The spotlight is on Queen Titania and her handmaidens while King Oberon’s mysterious silhouette is seen standing inside the cave.
Perseus and Andromeda
Puget c. 1678 – 1684
Originally intended for Versailles, the sculpture of Perseus and Andromeda is now housed in the Louvre. It depicts the saving of Andromeda from the sea monster Cetus. This spoke to me because of the highly dramatized pose. Puget has always been a master at creating life-like sculptures.
Mummy of a Man
This mummy was named Nenu or Pachery. With the hasty scribbling of his name, experts cannot be sure. A well-preserved cadaver may not seem like art but the way the linen strips is intricately wrapped around his face is already art in itself.
The Ghosts of Paolo and Francesca Appear to Dante and Virgil
Scheffer c. 1835
In the poem Inferno, Dante tells the story of his journey through hell together with the poet Virgil. Because of the popularity of his work, a lot of other works have been derived from it. One of these is the work of Scheffer, seen in the photo above. It depicts Dante and Virgil’s time at the second circle of Hell (lust). They encounter the couple Paolo and Francesca who were condemned because they had an illicit affair while Francesca was married to Paolo’s brother.
The Louvre Pyramid
I.M. Pei c. 1989
A recent addition to the Louvre, this construction has been embroiled in a lot of controversies. Most notably was that the pyramid was created with 666 panes alluding to Satanism. Some think it’s an aberration to France’s old Renaissance architecture, others say it’s an interesting contrast between the past and present. I happen to agree with the latter and enjoy the juxtaposition between the two eras.
And that concludes my top ten favorite artworks!
Before your visit, I suggest researching and listing your own must-see artworks in the Louvre, downloading the map and plotting the best way to go around. You can find information on the artworks (which wing, floor or number) in the Louvre website.
Planning your route beforehand is just common sense especially at a place where you can absolutely get lost in. For more tips, check this awesome trip advisor post by Brad Jill. Good luck!