I don’t know a person who haven’t heard about Louvre. This huge museum of Paris is not only famous for it’s collections but also for the beautiful Louvre Pyramid and the Jardin du Tuileries next to it. This place is an obligatory spot on list of every tourist visiting the capital of France. Famous for its Mona Lisa and other Da Vinci paintings as well as for ancient Greece and Egyptian collections, this museum has over 380 000 objects and is being visited by over 10 millions people each year.
Louvre is so huge that it’s difficult to visit. If you want to spend 30 seconds on each object display unit, you would need 100 days to see all pieces of art! Despite it has been divided into 3 parts, still each part is much bigger than most of museums. On 73 000 square meters you can find objects from prehistory to the 21st century.
The Louvre Museum was built in 1190 to be served as a defensive fortress. After two centuries, it was transformed into a royal residence for 20 rulers of France. In the 17th century, the royal court was moved to Versailles and it was decided that Louvre would be handed over to the artists. Finally, in 1793, a museum was opened. The initial collections were royal objects and confiscated church property.
“The collection was increased under Napoleon and the museum was renamed Musée Napoléon, but after Napoleon’s abdication many works seized by his armies were returned to their original owners. The collection was further increased during the reigns of Louis XVIII and Charles X, and during the Second French Empire the museum gained 20,000 pieces. Holdings have grown steadily through donations and bequests since the Third Republic.”
In 1983 the French president, François Mitterrand, proposed a plan to renovate the museum. Architect I. M. Pei designed a project of a glass pyramid to stand over a new entrance in the main court, the Cour Napoléon. The pyramid and its underground lobby were inaugurated on 15 October 1988 but the Louvre Pyramid was exposed in 1989. The second phase of the Grand Louvre plan, The Inverted Pyramid, was completed in 1993.
There is always a huge line to enter the museum so be prepared for at least 40 minutes waiting before entering the lobby where you can buy tickets. You can also get the tickets online for 2 € more but this will allow you to save a lot of time – there is different (much shorter) queue for people who already have tickets and the Louvre website assures less than 30 minutes waiting time for people with this ticket. Once you are inside, under the glass pyramid, you will find information, ticket counters, cafes, souvenir boutiques and entrances to three pavilions, which are:
- Richelieu, the northern wing of the palace at Rivoli Street, dedicated to Armand Jean Richelieu (1585-1642) – in the ground floor there is located the exhibition of French sculpture. The eastern spaces are occupied by the Department of Ancient Near East Art (Mesopotamia and the Levant). The first floor is filled by French and European works from the Middle Ages to the 19th century. On the second floor there is a painting departement with French and German arts from the 14th-16th century, the objects from the Netherlands of 15th-16th centuries, 17th century Flemish and Dutch paintings, and also other European paintings of the 19th century.
- Denon, the southern wing of the palace located by the Seine. Dedicated to Dominique Vivant, Baron Denon (1747-1825) -it houses Egyptian collections from the Roman period and pre-classical Greek art, and the European sculpture of the 11th-16th centuries. On the ground floor, European sculpture of the 17th-19th centuries, collection of Etruscan and Roman art. In the western part, an exhibition of works from Asia, Africa, Oceania and the Americas. On the first floor Apollo Gallery with Bourbon coronation insignia, next to the staircase with Nike from Samothrace. The rest of Denon is occupied by galleries of Italian, Spanish and French paintings (large format works). The second floor of Denon does not contain any permanent exhibitions.
- Sully, which includes the oldest preserved buildings of the palace centered around the Cour Caree – the inner courtyard. This part is dedicated to Maximilien de Béthune de Sully (1560-1641) with an exhibition about history of the Louvre, remains of the medieval castle of Charles V and a passage to the exhibition of Egyptian art that is located on the ground floor. Also on the ground floor you can find exhibitions of the Ancient Middle Eastern Art Departments (Art of Iran and the Levant) and Ancient Rome and Greek Art, as well as Etruria. On the first floor, there is a continuation of the Egyptian and Greek collections. On the second floor there is a part of the Painting Department – a collection of French paintings from the 17th to the 19th century.
The collection is divided among eight curatorial departments:
- Egyptian Antiquities – The department comprising over 50,000 pieces, includes artifacts from the Nile civilizations from 4,000 BC to the 4th century AD. Holdings include art, mummies, tools, clothing, jewelry, papyrus scrolls, games, musical instruments, and weapons. Among the collection you can find Rosetta Stone, Large Sphinx, The Seated Scribe, and the Head of King Djedefre.
- Near Eastern Antiquities – presents an overview of early Near Eastern civilization and “first settlements”, before the arrival of Islam. The department is divided into three geographic areas: the Levant, Mesopotamia (Iraq), and Persia (Iran). The collection includes monuments like Prince of Lagash’s Stele, the 2.25-metre Code of Hammurabi (displays Babylonian Laws prominently, so that no man could plead their ignorance), the 18th-century BC mural of the Investiture of Zimrilim, Funerary Head and the Persian Archers of Darius.
- Greek, Etruscan and Roman Antiquities – this department displays pieces from the Mediterranean Basin dating from the Neolithic to the 6th century. It’s there where you can find Venus from Milo, Apollo Belvedere, Lady of Auxerre, Hera of Samos.
- Islamic Art – These exhibits, comprising ceramics, glass, metalware, wood, ivory, carpet, textiles, and miniatures, include more than 5,000 works and 1,000 shards.
- Sculpture – sculptures till end of XIX century like Michelangelo’s Dying Slave and Rebellious Slave, Daniel in the Lions’ Den, Virgin of Auvergne, Resurrection of Christ, Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss.
Check out also collection of my photos from the sculpture departement:
- Decorative arts– objects from the Middle Ages to the mid-19th century. The initial collection was based on royal property and the transfer of work from the Basilique Saint-Denis. The famous appartements of Napoleon III are there as well as Nessus and Deianira and the tapestry Maximillian’s Hunt, Madame de Pompadour’s Sèvres vase.
- Paintings – This collection has more than 7,500 works from the 13th century to 1848, nearly two-thirds are by French artists, and more than 1,200 are Northern European. “The High Renaissance collection includes Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, Virgin and Child with St. Anne, St. John the Baptist, and Madonna of the Rocks. Caravaggio is represented by The Fortune Teller and Death of the Virgin. From 16th century Venice, the Louvre displays Titian’s Le Concert Champetre, The Entombment and The Crowning with Thorns“.
- Prints and Drawings – includes works on paper, the origins of the collection were the 8,600 works in the Royal Collection. The holdings are displayed in the Pavillon de Flore; due to the fragility of the paper medium, only a portion are displayed at one time.
There is a reason why Louvre is the most famous museum in the world – it is full of amazing art pieces where everyone can find something for himself. However, if you don’t have enough time to visit it, just going around Louvre and taking pictures with the great buildings and the Pyramid of Louvre, it’s already an amazing experience.
How to get there:
- metro line 1 station Palais Royal – Musée du Louvre
- metro line 1 station Louvre Rivoli
Rue de Rivoli, 75001 Paris
- adult ticket 15€
- online ticket 17€ (they guarantee entrance in less than 30 min)
- free entrance for all people below 18 years-old and till 25 years-old for residents of the European Economic Area
- Monday, Thursday, Saturday, Sunday 9 a.m.–6 p.m
- Wednesday, Friday 9 a.m.–9:45 p.m
- Tuesday – closed
For more information check the official website.