A Historic Monument. Chapter 5 — The Louvre

10 months ago

Anyone who has a passion for history and culture, dreams of visiting the Louvre in the heart of Paris. The Musée du Louvre is also known by the names Grand Louvre or the Louvre Museum. The Louvre in Paris is the world’s best-known, biggest, and busiest museum. It is located in the Louvre Palace (Palais du Louvre), which was originally a fortress built in the late 12th century under Philip II on the Right Bank of the Seine in the 1st arrondissement district. During the French Revolution the Louvre was transformed into a public museum. On 10 August 1792, the Louvre became a national property after the imprisonment of Louis XVI.

Since the glass pyramid entrance opened in 1989, the number of visitors to this gargantuan treasure house has tripled. It’s hardly surprising. It is home to the Mona Lisa, the Venus de Milo, Michelangelo’s slaves, Vermeer’s Lacemaker, a matchless collection of Raphaels, and some of the greatest finds from the ancient world.

If you go to see Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa – at least once, in person. You may be disappointed. You may find her to be unattractive, but the old gal has staying power. She’s been around since the 1500s.

These are seminal works in the history of art, and virtually every visitor to Paris seems to want to tick them off their list. Almost 15,000 people visit the Louvre per day, 65 percent of whom are tourists. This is natural as it houses one of the most famous pieces of art in the whole world.

The Louvre buildings comprise two former royal palaces - the Louvre and the Tuileries - linked together to form a vast, three-sided building. It began life as a 12th-century fort, but was massively expanded, rebuilt and embellished, by a succession of French kings, several of whom were great patrons of the arts: Francois I persuaded Leonardo to come to France - he brought the Mona Lisa with him and eventually died in the arms of the king. Next in line, Henri II acquired the Michelangelo sculptures. In the wake of the French Revolution, the palace and its contents were effectively nationalised and it was first opened as a museum in 1793. The collection has been added to ever since - most signifcantly by Napoleon’s looting, and later from private donations. The museum we see today owes most to renovations by Napoleon III, and most recently President Mitterand.

The Louvre has a gigantic collection of more than 380,000 objects and displays 35,000 works of art in eight curatorial departments with more than 60,600 square meters (652,000 sq ft) used up by the permanent collection. The collection at the Louvre is divided among eight curatorial departments: Egyptian Antiquities; Near Eastern Antiquities; Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities; Islamic Art; Sculpture; Decorative Arts; Paintings; Prints and Drawings.

The Louvre consists of world-renowned attractions namely the Venus de Milo, the Victory of Samothrace, The Seated Scribe (Egyptian Sculpture); Venus de Milo, Winged Victory of Samothrace, Apollo of Piombino, Diana of Versailles (Greek Sculpture); Dying Slave by Michelangelo; and Bacchus, Mona Lisa, St. John the Baptist, Virgin of the Rocks, The Virgin and Child with St. Anne by Leonardo da Vinci.

Our recommend 8 masterpieces of Louvre artwork which is based on those that are most popular with the public. (Indeed, each masterpiece is a sign of its time.)

1. The Mona Lisa: The portrait assumed to be of the wife of Francesco del Giocondo is considered to be the most famous painting in the world. The theft of this canvas by Leonardo da Vinci in the 19th century and the mystery surrounding its origin never fail to draw the crowds.

2. The Raft of the Medusa: Painted by Théodore Géricault in the 19th century (1818-1819), the Raft of the Medusa is not always recommended for those of a sensitive disposition because it is so realistic. It depicts the survivors (and the casualties) of the Medusa shipwreck calling for help when they see in the distance the outline of another ship that could save them.

3. The Wedding at Cana: The Wedding at Cana is a story from the Old Testament of the Bible. The painting commissioned from the painter Veronese by the Benedictine monks of a Venice monastery has this as its theme. It is highly regarded for the way it depicts Venetian society at the time through a bible story.

4. The Winged Victory of Samothrace: Standing 8 feet tall, the Winged Victory of Samothrace is one of the most emblematic works in the Louvre, and one of the most impressive. A legacy of the artwork of Ancient Greece.

5. The Venus de Milo: The Venus de Milo has no arms but this does not retract in any way from its beauty. Discovered in 1820, it was offered to King Louis XIII who gave it to the Louvre Museum. It is one of the most famous representations of the goddess Venus (Aphrodite to the Greeks).

6. The Coronation of Napoleon: The Coronation of Napoleon is a work commissioned from the painter Jacques-Louis David, famous for his historical murals. Napoleon made a huge painting of it showing the Emperor at his consecration and the coronation of the Emperor Josephine. This painting depicts the splendor of the ceremony, where each person’s position was studied for aesthetic and political purposes.

7. Liberty Leading the People: In the 1830s the Louvre hosted exhibitions in which contemporary paintings were presented. Amongst the works known to have been in the catalog was Liberty Leading the People. Inspired by the Revolution of the Glorious Thirties, the painting depicts the allegory of liberty in the form of a bare-breasted woman. She has often been used over the course of history as a symbol of Liberty and the Republic.

8. The Horse Tamers: Today, the castings can be seen in the Château de Marly in the town of Marly-le-Roi. The originals of this pair of horses accompanied by grooms are on display in the Louvre Museum. They were a huge success at the time and even greatly influenced the equestrian fashion in art.

The world’s largest collection is displayed by the Egyptian department at the Louvre. It consists of 50,000 pieces, including artifacts from the Nile civilizations which date from 4,000 BC to the 4th century. The Louvres major collections are all pre-19th century and span every period, style, school, etc going back to pre-history.

The Louvre indulges in the lending and borrowing of thousands of works with other museums across the globe. This policy has been an important factor in boosting the economy. It has a global outreach in the form of associations and various tie-ups with museums all over the world. It has strong cultural bonds with countries not only in Europe, but also with United States, Japan, Saudi Arabia, China, Korea, Australia, Singapore, Oman, and Canada. In 2008–09 alone the Louvre organized exhibitions in 16 countries, attracting an estimated 6.5 million visitors.

1. Due to the high percentage of tourists that visit each day, the Louvre is also a haven for pickpockets. So keep an eye on your personal items.

2. The amount of artwork that can be can seen at Musee du Louvre is daunting, especially if you arrive and don’t know what to see or where to go. Probably the most important thing you can do before visiting the Louvre is to familiarize yourself with the museum layout and determine what collections and items you want to see during the time you have available for your visit.

* Image credit: OGP


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