The Louvre museum is Paris’ most famous museum. The majestic building is home to hundreds of thousands of historic works of art. With a dazzling 35,000 items on display and some 450,000 in storage, the Louvre is the largest museum in the world. Roughly 8000 years of art history is displayed, from the 6th century B.C. to the 19th century. The huge array of artwork includes sculptures dating from the Hellenistic period to paintings from the Old Masters of the Early Renaissance to the Romantic movement. It’s impossible to see everything in one day. In fact, if you spent eight hours a day at the museum, it would take you about ten weeks to see it all.
The Tuileries Gardens next to the Louvre, were once the playground of a young Louis XIII and Louis XV, and a great place to unwind after your museum jaunt.
Serving as the entrance to the museum, the museum’s glass pyramid is now one of the city’s most iconic landmarks and a piece of art on its own. There are five pyramids. The main pyramid accompanied by three smaller ones can be seen above ground, the fifth one can be seen at a nearby underground shopping mall. Designed by architect I.M. Pei, the pyramid opened in 1989, marking the bicentenary year of the French Revolution.
Napoleon at the Louvre
Napoleon Bonaparte was one of the key figures who formed the museum’s collection, along with King Louis XIV, queen Maria de Medici and cardinal Richelieu. Napoleon’s expeditions were a rich source of material – from Italian Renaissance paintings to ancient Egyptian artworks.
Nymph with scorpion by Lorenzo Bartolini
Bartolini, who was a pupil of David, became a Bonapartist and created many portrait busts of Napoleon and his family. He even followed Napoleon to the island of Elba when the former French Emperor was exiled there. The ‘Nymph with scorpion’ is one of Bartolini’s most famous works. A hint of pain can be seen in the nymph’s expression, after all she was just stung by a scorpion. Now she sits in a beautiful spot at the museum, looking at the Louvre’s glass pyramid.
The coronation of Napoleon
One of the most important days in Napoleon’s life has been captured in an immense painting, ‘The Coronation of Napoleon’. It measures a whopping 10 by 6 meters. The painting was created by Jacques-Louis David, who attended the coronation, and can be seen at the museum’s Red Rooms, home to some of the Louvre’s largest paintings.
The ceremony was held on 2nd December 1804 at the Notre Dame in Paris, led by Pope Pius VII. The pope did not attend voluntarily but gave in to maintain the relationship between the church and the state though he drew the line at placing the crown. Napoleon instead crowned himself as the first Emperor of France.
An almost exact copy of the painting, also created by David, is shown at the Palace of Versailles.
The Louvre was once a palace. The Napoleon III Apartments have been beautifully preserved. You feel as if you’ve stepped back in time when you enter the grand salon with its gold bling, beautifully red draped curtains, paintings and an incredibly large crystal chandelier. It must have made a lasting impression on visitors in the mid 1800’s. During the Second Empire, from 1852 to 1870, it became the residence of Napoleon III’s Minister of State. It was the perfect location for masked balls and grand diners, often attended by Napoleon III.
A rare original find
The museum’s rich collection houses many sculptures, many of which are actually Roman replicas. The Louvre does though have some incredible rare originals such as the Nikè of Samothrace, also known as the Winged Victory of Samothrace. This imposing work of art sits at the top of the grand staircase. At over five meters tall, it was found on the island of Samothrace, north of the Aegean Sea. It shows the bust and body of the Greek goddess Nikè standing on a ship’s bow. It’s a must-see…
Natascha Gordeau is a former tour guide who lives in the Netherlands. She has a passion for travel, photography, story-telling and France, where her ancestors are from. Find her on Twitter at: Tash Travel Pics