Louvre is the largest art museum in the world in terms of area (72,735 sq. mt.) and second largest in terms of art collection (largest art collection is in Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg, Russia),
It has over 35,000 works of art, which are displayed in about 16 kilometers of galleries. We were told that even if we spent three seconds looking at each work of art, it would take us three months to see everything in the museum.
We had put aside a full day for Louvre. But the hardest thing was to get inside. Lines through the front, that is through the glass prism in the compound of Louvre were miles long. We managed to que at the shopping centre entrance where the line was much shorter. It still took us an hour to get through the security and then another to buy the tickets. By the time we got in, it was one pm. Inside we spent about seven hours. Lucky for us it was Friday and on Fridays the museum was open till ten pm.
As usual I was more impressed with the history and architect of the building itself than the thousands of art work it was housing. The museum has one whole section devoted to the history and architecture of Louvre. It also has preserved some of the old castle walls.
Louvre was originally built as a fortress in the 12th century to protect Paris. It was reconstructed in the 16th century to serve as a royal palace. Like many buildings, it was built and rebuilt over the years; nearly every monarch expanded it.
In 1682, Louis XIV moved the royal residence to Versailles, and the Louvre became home to various art academies, offering regular exhibitions of its members’ works.
In 1793, after the French Revolution, the National Assembly opened Louvre as museum with a collection of 537 paintings. But it had to be closed in 1796 due to structural problems with the building. Napoleon Bonaparte opened the museum in 1801 and expanded the collection.
It was Napoleon Bonaparte who created the foundations for the world famous museum it is today. He enlarged its collection by bringing art from his military campaigns, private donations and commissions he made.
In 1815, when Napoleon abdicated with the Treaty of Fontainebleau, almost 5,000 artworks were returned to their countries of origin. France was allowed to keep only a few hundred works.
Since then the collection had been enhanced many folds. We started with the Egyptian , Greek and Roman antiquities and the Islamic Art.
What I found frustrating was the audio-guide which didn’t work in a logical way. On top of that there was very little description on the plaques to fully enjoy the artefacts.
By the time we got to paintings we were pretty tired, but passing through the majestic galleries with massive painting by old masters rejuvenated us and we got in the line to see Mona Lisa.
Without question, the Louvre’s most famous work is Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa. It has a whole room to itself. The barricades were keeping the crowds at least two meters away from the painting. At least five security guards were managing the crowds.
The painting itself is small – only 21 by 30 inches and is covered with bullet-proof glass. It got stolen in 1911 but was recovered in 1913. What I found that the most of the people were not interested in the painting but to take their photo with it.
To me it seemed faded and lusterless. The famous enigmatic smile was in fact non-existent. There were many more much impressive paintings in the gallery which we just walked through. I particularly liked four paintings of Hercules which were in the large gallery just outside Mona Lisa room.
What I liked very much was the statue of Venus de Milo, one of the most famous ancient Greek sculpture. It was said to be discovered by a peasant named Yorgos Kentrotas in 1820, inside a buried niche within the ancient city ruins of Milos. Created sometime between 130 and 100 BC, the statue is believed to depict Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love and beauty. It is a marble sculpture, slightly larger than life size at 203 cm (6 ft 8 in) high. Its arms has been missing since its discovery.
The last area we visited was the two exhibition spaces that houses 18th and 19th century sculpture collections. These galleries are under the prism and receive a lot of daylight. They were built as part of the Grand Louvre project and were inaugurated in 1993 and 1994.
Hope you enjoyed my account of Louvre. Next post is about another equally impressive museum (nee palace).