Like a baseball fan going to Cooperstown or Elvis fan going to Graceland, I was beyond excited to go to the Louvre. I started to love the subject when I took AP Art History my junior year of high school and have since taken a “Renaissance to Present” class at Lehigh to start my coursework for my art history minor. I could not wait for the opportunity to see some of the works that I’d studied on PowerPoint slides or in textbooks in person. The Louvre is known for having so many pieces in the canon of art history and I was determined to see them all.
We were visiting as part of our class, so we did two scavenger hunts covering French paintings (since we are in France and studying France and all). We also did a tour of the archeological remains of the Louvre which have stone towers and the remains of a moat (sans water) back in medieval times when it was a fortress then castle.
After lunch, when I had some great food court Chinese food that reminded me of back home, we were free to explore as we pleased. A bunch of our group left, tired of the number of museums that we have been to this week, but I was so excited to explore. I already had my list of must-see works planned out, a charged camera, and great audio guide/partner-in-crime (see below) so I was ready.
While the Louvre is huge, it is easy to navigate if you A) know what floor you are on, B) know what the aerial view looks like and C) don’t mind walking through a lot of galleries to reach your destination.
Plus, I had my handy-dandy audio guide which was a Nintendo 3DS with two to three audio clips for famous works, a 3D view of galleries, listing of most famous works and must-sees, and customized directions from your current location to the work you want to see. I think in high school, this would have gotten the Louvre the nickname of “try-hard”, but it helped me navigate the museum and learn more about my favorite works.
Now onto the works. I’ll start with the Mona Lisa, because well, it’s the Mona Lisa.
I never understood why people would return from visiting Paris and say that the Mona Lisa is a let-down because it is so small. It’s still the Mona Lisa, and has captivated the world for hundreds of years despite us not even knowing exactly who she is. I even argue that it’s even cooler because it’s small, since it has managed to gain worldwide fame. As I would spew all of this onto the innocent person who just made a comment about the size, they would give me a weird look and walk away. Sorry, I get really excited about art.
I stumbled upon it while looking for my friend during the scavenger hunt. I walked past a partition in the room and wondered what on earth the crowds of people now in front of me could be looking at. I looked over my shoulder and there she was, smiling coyly at me.
I then had to enter the mob to try to get the coveted spot directly in front of the painting. I had my hand on my purse (pickpockets are everywhere in Paris and my spidey sense was tingling that this was a pickpocket haven), camera in hand, and headed in. There is a total loss of order in the mob. Elbows fly, people shout in every language and cut in front of you, and you have no personal space. My short stature helped me bob and weave through the crowd and get to the front.
Mona is one of three major ladies in the Louvre, the two others are Winged Victory/Victory of Samothrace and Venus de Milo. You can see my pictures of both in the Louvre gallery.
Jacques Louis David is one of my favorite painters of all time (I have a hard time picking just one) and many of his monumental works are in the Louvre. The Coronation of Napoleon and Oath of the Horatii are works I love because of their neoclassical elements and political undertones. For those who prefer size in their art, David is for you. Both paintings are massive and it was incredible that he could create such powerful works with incredible details on such a large canvas.
I then used my audio guide to find my way to some of the ancient works I wanted to see–the Seated Scribe from Egypt and Code of Hammurabi from ancient Babylon. The Seated Scribe is incredible because his physique is so different than the idealized images of pharaohs from his period. The Code of Hammurabi has the law from Babylon inscribed on it in cuneiform and is the “eye for an eye” law structure.
I was able to see every work on my list besides Liberty Leading the People, which is traveling right now, and the Napoleon apartments, which I was too tired for.
The Louvre was massive, inspiring, and incredible, and I was so happy to be able to see so many world-class art pieces.