La Joconde is an old acquaintance of mine. We met in 1962 when I visited for the first time Le Louvre.
In those years no queue at the entrance of the museum. There was no pyramid; the facades of the Louvre were of a dirty grey color as most of the buildings of Paris. We were only a few visitors in front of Mona Lisa!
Since then I have been several times to the Louvre passing by Mona Lisa -La Joconde.
From an academic point there is no doubt for me that this portrait is excellent. The enigmatic-ironic smile of the model certainly contributed to its glory.
But … if on my first visit in 1962 I felt curiosity "so that's Mona Lisa", I never felt on my many visits that emotion, attraction, complicity which I often felt with other portraits and I have seen many portraits of women painted in the 15th and 16th century when lived Leonardo da Vinci.
For example these ladies I met at the Gemäldegalerie, Berlin, "Gemäldegalerie - Extraordinary paintings.". I had a real "coup de coeur" for these women painted by Van de Weyden, Petrus Christus and Botticelli in the 15th c.
A paradoxical example of portraits for which I felt more interest than Mona Lisa was from da Vinci himself "The Lady with an Ermine" (Krakow museum)!
Although I don't visit Le Louvre every time I'm in Paris, it is one of my favourite places there, for all the memories it evokes & for its place among the world's great museums. In the nineties, I mostly loved to wander in Le Louvre des Antiquaires, at Place du Palais Royal in front of the Museum. A huge mall filled with antique galleries, where I could afford to buy an old postcard & sometimes, a Roman fibula or a rare coin engraved "Louis XVI, King of the French", dated 1791 (before that, Louis XVI was King of France.) Today, the Louvre des Antiquaires is slowly closing down. :-(
Here, I wish to write (as briefly as I can...) about the origin of the name "Le Louvre" -- I hope you'll find it interesting.
I recently read an interesting (& amusing) book about the history of France based on the names of Metro stations in Paris. Called « Métronome », by Lorànt Deutsch, actor & amateur of Paris. Much of his book is challenged by historians but that won’t stop me from putting forward his explanation about the origin of the word « Louvre ».
First, imagine the slow, gradual end of the Roman world in France & the beginning of the rule of the Franks. The Romans had come to Lutèce (later Paris) from the South & colonised the south part (Left Bank.) At the end of the 5th century, the Franks came from the North & slowly developed the northern axis (Right Bank.)
The Frankish king Childéric, Merovingian by his father Mérovée, is bent on imposing Merovingian rule in Gaul. He lays siege to Paris. His Frankish name, Hilde-Rik (powerful in battle) terrorises Parisians.
Childéric builds a mightly watch tower across from the Ile de la Cité, on the Right Bank. This fortress is called « loewer » in Frankish language.
To keep things in perspective, remember that to the « left », the Western Empire is defenseless in front of the Wisigoths, who pillaged Rome in 410. To the « right », the Eastern Empire is still strong but far away…
Anyway, Parisians are packing their bags & getting ready to flee. But a young woman called Geneviève (Frank by her mother, Roman by her father) speaks in Frankish with Childéric & persuades him not to enter Paris, thus avoiding open war with another powerful chief (Syagrus), who controls the Somme & the Loire.
Childéric agrees to simply carry on his blocus of Paris, watching the city from his "loewer" tower. This goes on for ten years & leads nowhere.
In 481, Childéric dies, bitter & disappointed, leaving the siege to his son Clovis.
Fondest memory: From the loewer fortress on the Right Bank, Clovis (16 years old then) is determined to erase Gallo-Roman influence & to make Paris a Frankish city. He goes to Soissons, fights against Syagrus & wins.
The realm of the Franks is thus installed over the whole of Northern Gaul.
Eventually, the Château replaces the fortress, the Palace replaces the Château, and the Museum replaces the Palace.
I’m glad that during his reign, François 1er declared that the language spoken by then in his lands was French & should be known as such -- i.e., "le français". Otherwise, today, we could be visiting the Musée du Loewer!
(Note : this might be part history, part tale. Reader beware.)
Geneviève became Sainte Geneviève and is the patron saint of Paris.
My thanks to VT member breughel for the photo of the Louvre today. Childéric probably turned in his grave when his loewer was replaced by a pyramide!
As I have seen Le Louvre in the early sixties well before the pyramid which dates from 1989 but also well before the huge renovation works outside and inside undergone by the Palais du Louvre I have been asked if I like the Pyramid or not.
For me the Pyramid is only a small part of the titanesque project called Grand Louvre which officially started in 1983 and aimed at transforming all the Palais du Louvre and the Tuileries in a grandiose museum increasing its surface from 57000 to 161000 m2. I'll just remember that till 1989 the Aile Richelieu was occupied by the Ministry of Finances!
My favorite is this huge renovation work of the Palais du Louvre of which the Pyramid from Ming Pei was the only controversial part. For me it is a detail compared to what is on display inside the museum.
Presently I'm used to it standing in the main courtyard called Cour Napoléon. If I want to see what it looked before I go and look at the Cour Carrée in the back.
The problem with the Pyramid, now 20 years old, is that it can not handle the enormous number of visitors. It was conceived for 4 millions visitors/year and there were 8.5 million in 2010.
That’s why "in things to do" I recommend the other entries.
There is now a "Projet Pyramide" aiming, after modifications, to increase the capacity at 10 million visitors.
very nice pictures Olivier, trés belles photos, et bienvenu à VT.
welcome to VT.
yes interesting observation the building is shape like an U, because in 1883 the city of Paris decided to raze the former Palais des Tuileries there burned down by the communard rebellion in 1871. I am with a group who is trying to rebuilt it to its original form, palais des tuileries done by Catherine des Medici in 1579, thereafter many historical events in France and Europe happenned there. See the work in progress webpage here
ps I have an artist reproduction photo in my Paris page here at VT.
Fondest memory: reviving old glories of France with the Palais des Tuileries
well photos are always lovely in Paris ::) for the day come early as you can; not only the front on rue de rivoli but along the quais crossing into the other side of the street is nice, and the admiral coligny on the sides towards hotel de ville ,and of course facing the jardin des tuileries. then go into the courts and pavillon mansans next to rue de rivoli.
the night well not an expert photographer but it is best to take the picture with telephoto from a distance, it looks impressive the fortress/museum.
any day is fine, crowds are unpredictable especially around the Louvre. Just be there early as possible for the daytimes and late at night .all I can tell you
Fondest memory: walking around the Louvre ::)
Many tourists travel to Paris to see the Tour Eiffel, Notre Dame, Le Moulin Rouge, Le Quartier Latin.
The first monument I visited in Paris in 1960 was Le Louvre and is the one I most returned to visit again and again in Paris.
That might sound odd as most of what you can see inside the museum is not French but originates from Egypt, Greece, Near Eastern, Italy, Belgium, Netherland and many other countries and even continents.
But aside the multiplicity and richness of the collections there is the architectural beauty outside and inside of the Palais du Louvre.
Le Louvre is a unique combination of excellence of architecture and content and that makes it my best favorite museum in the world.
Under "things to do" I wrote more than a dozen reviews about Le Louvre and what made me feel so enthusiast about works of art in the various departments. That's the difficulty with this museum; there are so many departments, so many works of great historical or artistic value on display that the task of the visitor is difficult. One can see the Tour Eiffel in half an hour, not Le Louvre.
That’s probably why I felt in love with Le Louvre, it's a challenge for life.
Le Louvre is for me the best European museum of Antiquities.
Under Antiquities I mean here Roman, Greek, Egyptian and Near Eastern artefacts.
My preferred museums in Europe are the following:
Le Louvre, Paris.
British Museum, London.
Museumsinsel Berlin (Museum Island) with various museums like the Altes Museum, the Pergamon Museum and the Egyptian Museum
Greek and Roman antiquities:
Capitoline Museum and the two Museo Nazionale Romano (Palazzo Altemps and Palazzo Massimo), Rome.
National Archaeological Museum and Acropolis Museum, Athens.
Vatican Museum, Rome.
Museo Egizio (Egyptian museum), Turin.
And Egyptian departments of Le Louvre, British Museum and Berlin Island museum (one of the best in Europe).
Of course there are others like Vienna's KHM, Olympia, Leiden, Brussels, etc., etc. but if you have time to visit my favoured ones you will already feel a happy cultured traveller.
I think this is the better place for individual pictures, so from now on this is where Louvre and Musee d' Orsay commentary on art will be.
These 2 pictures done by Noel Coypel represent Apollo being crowned on the left by Victory and on the right by Minerva done in 1667-1668. I couldn't really find out exactly why Apollo was being crowned, but as usual found some interesting facts about Apollo that I will share here.
Apollo has been recognized as a god of many dominions among them: a god of light and the sun; truth and prophecy; archery; medicine and healing; music, poetry, and the arts. He was also seen as a god who could bring ill-health and deadly plague as well as one who had the ability to cure. So maybe he was receiving the victory laurels for just being able to multi-task.
Apollo is the son of Zeus and Leto, and has a twin sister, Artemis. Ah, there's my connection with Apollo, my wife and I have boy, girl twins.
One of Apollo's more important daily tasks was to harness his chariot with four horses and drive the Sun across the sky. And I thought I had a long commute.
One story about Apollo and the Laurel Wreath of Victory goes like this. "Apollo slew the python, competed musically with another god, Pan, and insulted still another god, the god of love (Eros/Amor/Cupid). As a result of the last, Apollo was fated to a disastrous and unrequited love. The object of his love metamorphosed into a laurel tree to avoid him. Leaves from the laurel tree were thereafter used to crown victors at the Pythian games." Wow, modern day psychiatrist would have a field day with that.
You can directly buy the Louvre museum ticket from a tabacco store called "La Civette du Carrousel", which is situated in the Louvre Galery. First, take the metro line 1 or line 7, then get off at "Palais Royal Musée du Louvre". Once you get off the metro line 1, you take the underground exit that takes you directly to the galary. If you take line 7, you will have to follow the direction to line 1 first, then once you are on the line 1 metro platform, you can then take the galary exit. When you reach the galary, you turn right and walk to the end of the hallway, you will be at the tabacco store.
They offer one day admission tickets to the Louvre, Versailles Palace, and Musée d'Orsay. The date is open on the ticket. The price is the same as you would buy it at the entrance of the museum/monument. That means you can buy them in advance without standing in line at any of these monuments. They also sell museum passes for 2, 4 or 6 days (32€, 48€ and 64€) . It is true that you can get tickets in advance from other places, like Fnac, Virgin Megastore etc, but they usually charge you extra!!!!
Once you buy the louvre ticket, you can enter the musuem through "Passage Richelieu" on the Rivoli street, which is about a 3-min walk from the tabacco store. It is a special entrance for visitors with tickets.
This is a list of some of the art in the Louvre I would consider a "must see."
1st of all, my favorite piece would have to be The Winged Victory of Samothrace. It is located on the 1st Floor, near the Apollo Gallery. It is in the Greek, Etruscan and Roman Antiques section. Nearby is the Mona Lisa, in section 7 of the paintings.
On the ground floor, there are many famous sculptures. In Greek Antiquities, section 7 is Aphrodite (Venus de Milo). The Dying Slave by Michelangelo can be found nearby in the 16th-19th c. Italian sculptures, section 4.
Lastly, on the 2nd floor is The Turkish Bath. This is located in 19th c. French paintings, section 60.
There is so much more to see at the Louvre, since this is only a very small sample of the great art.
One of my fondest memories of Paris is the vanilla ice cream. I have never had better Vanilla ice cream anywhere than in Paris. It is nothing like the pale white colored thing we have here in the United States that we call vanilla ice cream. It is a rich light brownish color and full of flavor. Don't even try comparing the French Vanilla Ice Cream we have here with the real thing either. I had a dish on my first night in Paris for my dessert. After that I had one with each meal I ate in Paris. There were lots of other treats to try. Buy this was my favorite.
I wrote the vanilla ice cream rant above after my first trip to Paris. It was one of my first VT tips that I wrote. I had no idea what VT was really all about and no idea of what to write about. Now looking back the tip looks a little lame and little silly. But I am leaving it posted. Why? Because I still love the ice cream in Paris. On my second trip to Paris I found it just as delicious so I will leave the ice cream rant as origianlly posted. But now I have a photo to attach. So the tip is improved a little.
There are nine sections in the Louvre. This is typical of giant museums. You can pick items to visit or sections to fasten on. Most visitors combine both more or less unwittingly. Most of the sections would take an hour or more to explore well. One should have a list or a guide to prompt you, plus a layout of the Louvre (we have recommended Rick Steves' "Mona Winks" as a good primer. (I have a cousin who said he did the entire Louvre-10 most famous works- in 45 minutes after entry when he was 30 years old.). Elsewhere in VT be sure to find how to get in immediately or you will regret it! The locations of the sections and objects have not changed since 2002, but finding a place for Mona still may be a problem. (See Separate Tip). The nine sections are as follows: 1) Southern European Paintings (Italian and Spanish; most popular), 2) French Paintings (up to about 1850; most extensive), 3) Northern European Paintings (Dutch, Flemish and German), 4)Egyptian, 5)Oriental (near East, does not take long, a must)(See our General Tip), 6) Greek, Etruscan and Roman, 7) Modern Sculpture (1200-1850), 8)Objets d'Art (from ceramics to crown jewels), 9)Prints and Drawings. Remember that the Louvre is an ex-palace and a manifestation of the work of great architects and interior designers and artists, so it is itself a work of art.
Fondest memory: It is difficult for any other museum to claim to be better or more extensive than the Louvre
Favorite thing: This is a unique collection that should not be missed especially if you are with children. The world can debate whether these artifacts should be returned to their remote places of origin to deteriorate uncared for and almost unseen but we appreciate them better here. This exhibit is almost as extensive as those in the Pergamon Museum in Berlin and having struggled through the original site in Turkey, we enjoyed their Berlin home all the more. Children may not be ready for "fine art" but they will be impressed by the antiquity and the giant elements from the Palace of Darius I (ca.510 BC) and Sargon II (710 BC) in Babylon and Iraq. They may even know of the Code of Hammurabi (1750BC) from Babylon before the Hebrew captivity or of Lagash (Prince Gudea 2100BC). But our favorite character is the studious Superintendent of Mari (from the Temple of Ishtar in Syria 2400BC). To find this section of the Louvre, you enter through the Richelieu escalator from the lobby to the ground floor and you are there. The 25 galleries extend along the North side of the Cour Carree into the Sully area.
It's here that building a page on trips done decades ago becomes weird...
Not that many memories of monuments... I sure had visited Sacré Coeur, Arc de Triomphe, Tour Eiffel and very probably Panthéon, but memories are rather blurry. Well, learning about French history, for a kid of 10, who is not even French, was not that easy...
Tour Eiffel, I remembered that seeing it from outside didn't impress me. It was huge yes but I didn't know its history. Plus, because my Mum was once given a mini- Tour Eiffel as a gift and that used to have it in her studyroom for years, it was not new to me. I loved strolling on Trocadero instead, watching skaters. In the contrary, the ride to the top of Tour Eiffel was something too... Would talk about that later.
Fondest memory: Museums interested me instead, statues in parks and gardens as well. Musée Grévin, Musée du Louvre and Jardins des Tuileries.
I discovered them when my aunt took me with her then bf for a day. They brought me to see museums.
Musée Grévin.. funny for kids of 10.
My memory of Louvre? I heard for the first time in my life the word "philtre" as in "philtre d'amour" (love potion). My aunt brought me to an exhibition. Seems like I learnt something. My then-to-be-uncle was very patient, explaining me lots of things. Then, there was this word I read on a plaque: "...philtre d'amour...". I thought it was an error or a typo. I knew "filtre" (: filter) but it didn't have anything to do with "amour" at all. LoL Again, I carefully read the text, imagining tons of meanings but couldn't seize the right one. Then, I asked my uncle about the "philtre d'amour"... I learnt by then that women had used to use love potions to "trap" guys. From then, my vision of love was altered a bit... In fact, I became aware of the lost innocence in adult conception of love. How could one trap the person one uses to love ? That was weird for me... Also, the notion of "capturing", "possessing", "having a grip on someone" was instilled. Yes, we always learn... lol
Ooh! I didn't even know then about the witchery behind the use and the making of love potions. The lost innocence was enough to intringue and upset the little girl in me.
Unless you really, really don't like art, the huge Louvre museum is a must see. Don't worry about seeing it all - it is virtually impossible, unless you have several days to spare. Just try to do justice to the bits that interest you most. Of course you'll probably want to catch the Mona Lisa if you haven't before - but brace yourself for the crowds.
In my case it's the sculpture and French painting that are my personal highlights (of course my next visit might see a change of mind on that).
In summer it's worth buying a Museum pass just to bypass the long queues. For lots more information, check out the Louvre's comprehensive website.
The Louvre is closed on Tuesdays, but there's late opening (until 9.45) on Wednesdays and Fridays at present. Adult admission is 9 Euros - on the 1st Sunday of the month it's free.