LOUVRE – MORE THAN JUST A MUSEUM
The Louvre is the world’s largest and most visited art museum. A central landmark of the city of Paris, more recognisable for its iconic glass pyramid, is located on the Right Bank of the Seine. It has almost 10 million visitors annually.
The glass pyramids were opened in 1989 and while they were controversial at the time, have added an incredible dimension to the courtyard of this historic and beautiful building.
While many people visit the museum itself, others with limited time come to photograph the pryamids from every angle at different times of the day. It truly is a great photographic subject.
The museum opened in 1793 taking over what was once the royal household of King Loius XIV. He moved to the Palace of Versailles.
We visited in April when the crowds were not huge. Spending a full day there, we covered so much but of course a complete visit would take many days. Whilst the weather was cool outside the museum was quite warm which meant carrying unwanted coats all day.
The museum is divided into eight departments: Besides paintings and sculptures, there are Egyptian, Roman, Islamic and Greek antiquities.
We entered the museum is through the largest pyramid. Once downstairs in the foyer, we purchased tickets and a map and were ready for a big day. But first take a look up through the glass to the buildings outside.
Many people come to see the most famous of all paintings, the Mona Lisa. An oil painting by Leonardo da Vinci in 1519 was actually quite small and housed behind bulletproof glass for security.
As luck would have it, there were very few people in the room at the time. Once the people in front got their selfies, I was able to go right to the front and get my photos. And like most people I left without really looking around at some of the other amazing paintings in the room.
There were so many famous paintings throughout the Louvre. These are a few that caught my eye.
As we wandered through the many exhibits, I was overwhelmed by the beauty of the building itself.
Looking up and around those ceilings was of course art in itself.
Zoom in where you can on those intricate carvings, reliefs, gold leaf and tiny paintings.
There are quite a few opportunities to look through windows to the outside.
Use the windows to frame your picture.
We then proceeded to get “lost” in the different exhibits, photographing some of those famous works of art. As I am not an expert in art history, we were often drawn to a particular piece by the crowds surrounding it.
A lot can be read about the museum pieces online so you can either research beforehand (or like I did, after my visit).
Here a few of my favourites:
Venus de Milo – an ancient Greek statue over 2,000 years old. Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love and beauty
Diana of Versailles, a Roman 1-2 AD was a copy of a lost Greek original from 325BC
“Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss” by Antonio Canova shows mythological lovers at a moment of high emotion.
Winged Victory of Samothrace – Nike, the Greek goddess of Victory. Created around 190BC
The many sculptures did not disappoint. So much marble, so much detail.
A lot have information beside the pieces – great to take a photo and find out more later on.
Some of the sculptures themselves were strategically placed in grand positions. Take photos from behind as there is just as much detail that most would miss.
So, so many statues and busts.
Egyptian Antiquities wing – so much to see here. Walls of hieroglyphs, sarcophagi and household implements.
The earthy colours draw you in, the gold painting and just knowing the sheer age of these antiquities before you will leave you in awe of being in their presence.
Step outside to the glass-covered courtyards where you will find large marble sculptures and bronze statues. Man vs beast are featured a lot here. It’s also a good place to take a breather here as there is lots of seating.
The Near Eastern Antiquities section, a collection spanning 9,000 years, from prehistory to the early Islamic period, covers an area from North Africa to Central Asia and the Arabian Peninsula. This is a lesser known part of the museum but nevertheless worth visiting.
The centerpiece of the main Persian room is the upper part of what was a nearly 70-foot-tall limestone column, decorated at the top with two kneeling bulls.
The massive frieze of archers made of polychrome glazed bricks seem to indicate the royal guards of Darius 1 (522-486 BC).
The many other friezes were amazing with their intricacies and of course the beautiful colours that were predominately turquoise and yellow.
This is another version of the archers.
There were bronze statues and other objects on display.
This winged ibex made of silver and gold was once a handle of a 4 BC vase. So well preserved.
An ivory and silver casket dates back to Muslim Spain 966 BC.
Law Code of Hammurabi – a stele erected by King of Babylon 18BC. A set of 282 rules and laws of the time. An example is the famous “eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth” punishment. Much more about this can be researched online.
Many beautiful urns and vases.
Napoleon III Apartments:
Napoleon III occupied several rooms in these apartments located in the Richelieu wing of the Louvre.
Sheer opulence is everywhere. In fact it was quite overwhelming, but nevertheless amazing to see.
The state dining room features a massive table with formal red leather chairs, a black wood and gilt bronze sideboard and an incredible ceiling.
However the drawing room with its lavish décor was luxury at its best.
The magnificent ceilings with their chandeliers throughout were the standout features here.
Surprisingly, this was one area of the museum that didn’t attract as many visitors so we had the place almost all to ourselves.
Take the time to look at the small details of the furniture, walls, doors lamps and of course the many exquisite objets d’art that are carefully placed throughout.
The bedroom was decorated in blue and gold Baroque style.
By the time we had made our way through these apartments, it was time to leave the Louvre. What a fantastic day.
If you ever get the opportunity to visit the Louvre, don’t just find the “famous stuff”, but take the time to look around and take in the entire place. Often the most intriguing pieces are the least obvious. There are some pieces you will love and always remember. These were just a few of mine.
Paris has many more museums to visit but I mentioned before, the Louvre would have to be the first on your list.
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