Big City Tales

Lose Yourself in the Loveliness of the Louvre

May 17, 2018
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Whether it’s the mysterious Mona Lisa, the colossal Coronation of Napoleon, the passionate Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss, the wondrous Winged Victory of Samothrace, or any of its other monumental masterpieces, there are countless ways to lose yourself in the loveliness of the Louvre.

Classical Meets Contemporary

For me, the love fest with the world’s largest and most-visited museum actually starts with the building’s expansive grounds that border the Right Bank of the Seine River and run along the charming Avenue des Champs-Elysees.

From the glorious Tuileries Gardens to the grand Carrousel Triumphal Arch that lead into the museum’s main courtyard, Cour Napoleon, classical architecture and sculptures abound and are then strikingly juxtaposed against I.M. Pei’s contemporary glass and metal pyramids that mark the central entrance into all wings of the Louvre.

While there are numerous sculptures carved into the Louvre’s facade, there is only one statue that stands in the Cour Napoleon and it is Bernini’s brilliant equestrian statue of Louis XIV (The Sun King), which is a lead cast of the original Carrara marble version. Bernini was a sculptural genius and this statue showcases his talents in being able to manipulate stone and create a sense of flowing garments and natural movement.

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Grand Louvre Pyramids

Although highly controversial due to their sleek, modern looks, the Louvre Pyramid (exterior) and The Inverted Pyramid (interior) are undoubtedly two of the Louvre’s star attractions and certainly succeed in creating a sense of intrigue (or repulsion) for visitors depending on their artistic preferences.

Despite the initial outcry of purists who felt the pyramid designs were inconsistent with the classical French Renaissance style of the original buildings, there has been no negligible impact to attendance figures. On any given day, crowds continue to throng to the Louvre to take in its many marvels.

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Four Fabulous Levels of Loveliness

With 38,000 objects on display at any given time, the Louvre collection spreads over four levels starting from the basement entrance and continuing up for three floors.

Basement

The galleries in the basement include works of Islamic art; French, Italian, Spanish and Northern European sculpture; Egyptian, Greek, Etruscan and Roman antiquities; and  sections dedicated to the history of the Louvre and remnants of medieval vaults dating back to King Louis IX.

One of the highlights from the Egyptian gallery is The Crypt of the Sphinx, which is a half man (pharaoh’s head) and half animal (lion’s body) rose-coloured granite sculpture.

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First Floor

Venus de Milo is on full display in her resplendent glory in the Greek antiquities gallery on the first floor. Other galleries on this level include Oriental, Egyptian, Etruscan and Roman antiquities; French, Italian, Spanish and Northern European sculpture; and African, Asian, Oceanic and Native American art.

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Second Floor

Decorative arts such as floor to ceiling tapestries, table-top statuettes and ceramic vases take up half of the second floor; the other half is divided between Egyptian, Greek, Etruscan and Roman antiquities; French, Italian and Spanish painting; and Italian drawings.

The Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci is located on the second floor, as well as the museum’s largest painting, The Wedding Feast at Cana by Paolo Veronese, which famously depicts the Biblical story when Jesus turns water into wine. (Note: Expect to feel like a crammed in sardine when viewing the Mona Lisa and hold your camera steady as there will be plenty of jostling about and jockeying for position to get a picture of da Vinci’s famous lady.)

Eugene Delacroix’s Liberty Leading the People is an outstanding historical piece on display in the French Painting gallery. Many works by Jacques-Louis David are also found in this gallery, including The Coronation of Napoleon, Oath of the Horatii, and The Intervention of the Sabine Women.

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Third Floor

Drawings and paintings from French, German, Flemish and Dutch artists are featured on the third floor.

Some of the works from early German and Dutch masters include Erasmus of Rotterdam by Hans Holbein the Younger, Self-Portrait with Thistle by Albrecht Durer, and The Virgin of Chancellor Rolin by Jan van Eyck.

Flemish and Dutch Baroque paintings from the likes of Peter Paul Rubens, Rembrandt van Rijn, Anthony van Dyck, and Jan Vermeer also adorn the third floor gallery walls. Among their well-known works are The Medicis Cycle by Rubens, Charles I at the Hunt by van Dyck, and The Lacemaker by Vermeer.

Planning and Pace Pays Off

Just like Rome wasn’t built in a day, seeing all of the Louvre is going to take more than one visit. The key to conquering the Louvre is to have a strategy in place. With a little bit of pre-planning and commitment to sticking to a steady pace once inside the museum’s hallowed hallows, your efforts will be rewarded in seeing a dizzying array of some of the world’s best art.

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Voila la ville de Paris…C’etait tres magnifique!

December 27, 2011
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The Louvre Museum attracts crowds from morning `til night--on the inside and the outside!

As I was lying on the floor of the Louvre Museum just outside of the Mona Lisa viewing room it occurred to me that being attended to by an ultra-friendly and very helpful American doctor who was trying to get my blood pressure under control was not in the least how I envisioned this tour going!

The famous Venus de Milo statue is just as beloved as the Mona Lisa painting in the Louvre Museum.

With hundreds of museum visitor eyes staring down at me and frantic museum staff trying to push aside said American doctor and ascertain for themselves what was wrong, I felt like I had become the latest work of art on display, but I wasn`t really interested in being viewed.  In an attempt to maintain some semblance of dignity, I tried to ignore the gathering crowd and instead focus my energy on listening to the kind doctor`s words of instruction so that I could quickly regain my feet and rejoin my tour group.  Mortified as I was, my sense of humour did not leave me and I managed to quip that the Mona Lisa simply took my breath away and at least all of this fuss would make for an interesting story after the fact, and it has!

For those inquiring minds who want to know why I had a dizzy spell in the middle of the Louvre, it was due to a few factors that included being jostled about in the mob mayhem trying to get a picture of Madame Mona Lisa in a tightly packed and very warm room, having to stay in this steam-cooker environment to listen to explanations of other Italian masterpiece paintings as part of the tour, and just the mere fact of my immune system adjusting to being on foreign soil.  The whole incident was over just as quickly as it started for which I was grateful as there was so much more to see in this massive museum, and I had yet to explore the exterior gardens and the other gems of Paris that awaited along the Champs-Elysees.

Youthful, lithe and enticing, The Sun King, Louis XIV, graces the exterior of the Louvre Museum.

While the hysteria and antics at the Louvre have provided some of my Paris story fodder, there were other noteworthy occurrences to speak of such as the two faces of Paris that were revealed on a gloomy morning of wind and rain that turned into a glorious afternoon and evening of hot summer sun.

The contemporary and controversial glass pyramid outside the Louvre Museum.

The Eiffel Tower was first-up on the morning agenda so it didn`t make for great picture-taking from the loftiest height in Paris, but nonetheless the great beauty and sheer expanse of the city was evident in walking the perimeter of the tower`s viewing balconies.

Some of the famous bridges of Paris as seen from the Eiffel Tower looking to the west.

La Grande Roue (Ferris Wheel), Paris.

The Louvre Museum tour followed and, although it was starting to clear by the time the tour ended, the sky was still gray as we exited into the Tuileries Gardens and began the march toward the Champs-Elysees passing the Luxor Obelisk, the Pont Alexandre III, and the National Assembly toward the Arc de Triomphe.

L`Arc de Triomphe.

Close-up of carved relief on the Arc de Triomphe.

It was after a light bistro lunch that the sun finally revealed its warmth and the true colours of Paris were revealed.   There is nothing like a vivid blue, cloudless backdrop of sky to bring stark and stoic buildings to life and provide plenty of photographic inspiration.  My feet may have already been aching after making the trek from the Louvre to the Arc de Triomphe, but Notre Dame Cathedral was beckoning and, feeling well-fueled and no longer light-headed, how could I not return to the sites of the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower to capture these Paris lovelies now bathed in sunlight, so off I went back down the Champs-Elysees.  I admit to hopping a cab between Notre Dame and the Louvre because it was now early evening at this point and the sun was starting to descend in the sky; other than that it was all hoofing it on foot and, yes, I paid the price the next day, but it was oh so worth it to see gay Paris in all its glittering and magnificent glory!

The Eiffel Tower.

Steel detail from the Eiffel Tower.

Notre Dame Cathedral.

Stained-glass window interior shot of Notre Dame Cathedral.

Roof-top detail of the Louvre Museum.

The Coronation of Josephine, David`s masterpiece on display at the Louvre Museum.