NEW: A second Mona Lisa?!
Since an amateur of art found a painting showing the alleged upper part of the body of the model painted by Courbet for his famous (scandalous according to some) "L'Origine du Monde" (ref my tip Scandalous Nudes at Orsay ) a foundation pretending that there is an earlier version of Leonardo da Vinci’s most celebrated painting "Mona Lisa" reached the media.
About this Henri Loyrette director of Le Louvre said (Le Figaro 15/02/2013): «il n'y a qu'une et unique Joconde, celle du Louvre, dont l'historique est parfait puisqu'il vient directement de Léonard de Vinci dans les collections royales françaises.» "There is only one Joconde-Mona Lisa, the one of the Louvre, whose history is perfect since it comes directly from Leonardo da Vinci in the French royal collection".
At the beginning of the sixties I visited for the first time Le Louvre.
There was no pyramid; the facades of the Louvre were of a dirty grey colour as most of the buildings of Paris. No queue at the entrance of the museum. We were only four visitors in front of Mona Lisa. I returned in the nineties; the pyramid was standing there as well as the queues. We were more than forty to admire Mona Lisa.
In the spring of 2005, I was again in the Louvre where the Joconde had just been installed in a new bigger room (Wing Denon, 1st floor, room 6). By curiosity I went to this new room to find inside and around a crowd of about 400 persons.
In 40 years there had been a hundredfold increase of visitors to Mona Lisa!
I abandoned and went to the Richelieu wing with on the 2nd floor the collections of the Dutch and Flemish painters. I was almost alone and could admire in all quietness (room 38) two Vermeer "The Lace maker" and "The Astronomer" and one painting of Pieter de Hooch.
Shall I add that there are only few museums in the world which have two Vermeer's.
On the first floor I paid a visit to the tapestries of Brussels with the famous "Hunting's of Maximilien".
A bit before the closing time I returned to the room of La Joconde which I could finally approach.
I was amazed at the Mona Lisa's bad look; she showed a greenish complexion; or is it the effect from the thick glass panel which protects her?
I read that the Joconde would need a restoration; the wooden panel bends. But who in France will dare to make the decision to remove Mona Lisa from the Louvre for a restoration?
By her attraction on the world tourism, Mona Lisa represents an important part of the GNP of France! There were 8,8 million paying visitors in 2011 at Le Louvre.
No mystery anymore.
Experts of the University library of Heidelberg have found a book belonging to Agostino Vespucci, an acquaintance of Da Vinci. A note in this book indicates that Mona Lisa was Lisa del Giocondo wife of Francesco del Giocondo a rich merchant of Florence. That's why in French we say La Joconde and not Mona Lisa.
If you came to Paris only to see La Joconde -Mona Lisa there is a shortcut in the Louvre avoiding the procession of tourists moving slowly from the Pyramid entrance to La Joconde.
See my tip "A shortcut to La Joconde - Mona Lisa" .
Monday, Thursday, Saturday, Sunday: from 9 to 18 h.
Wednesday, Friday: from 9 to 22 h.
Closed on Tuesday.
Entrances to the museum:
- Pyramid and Galerie du Carrousel entrances: from 9 to 22 h.
- Passage Richelieu entrance: from 9 to 18 h.
- Porte des Lions entrance: from 9 to 17.30 h ?, EXCEPT WEDNESDAY AND FRIDAY.
Price tickets for the Permanent Collections €12 (2013) full-day access to the Louvre, except for temporary exhibitions in the Hall Napoléon (13 €) also valid in combination with the Musée Eugène Delacroix (16 €).
Free less than 18 yr. Free 18 - 25 yr from the EU.
At wing Denon one will find the most crowded part of Le Louvre with the Joconde room on the First floor but also the least visited part of the Museum with the Arts of Africa, Asia, Oceania and the Americas on the Ground floor at the entry of the Porte des Lions (ref my tip on this entry "A shortcut to Mona Lisa" ).
There are 7 rooms in this department and here the visitor can stand alone in front of some remarkable often surprising works of art.
I must admit I have a weakness for African art which I discovered when I was a kid by visiting the Museum for Central Africa near Brussels.
Le Louvre is showing some excellent sculptures which are coming from the Musée du Quai Branly and the Musée de l'Homme. The advantage over the Quai Branly is that Le Louvre allows taking photos prohibited at Branly. (Did you ever read the 6 pages - 4,2 Mb visitor rules of the quai Branly museum? Surrealistic; only in French).
My first photo shows an overall view. You can see that this is the place if you want to be alone at Le Louvre.
The second pic shows a sculpture of the civilisation of Ifè (Nigeria 13th c.) Photo n°3 is a woman of the Benin kingdom around 1600.
Changing of continent I much liked this frightening "Korwar" sculpture (photo 4) from Indonesia (18th c.). The head of the figure is a skull container.
My wife showed a real enthusiasm for this sculpture (17th c., photo 5) of the Easter Island; the resemblance with me is striking she said!
Here's the official Louvre web site with the photo instructions. You can take photos of the Permanent Collection, not special exhibits. The last time we were there, you couldn't photograph the Mona Lisa but perhaps this has changed.
Check the web site for prices, exhibits, a map of the Louvre, the entrances and fun looking through the online gallery.
Official Web Site of the Louvre
Museum photography policy
The museum's board of directors has recently adopted a new Regulation regarding photography in the museum:
"Still and video photography is permitted for private, noncommercial use only in the galleries housing the permanent collection.
The use of flash or other means of artificial lighting is prohibited.
Photography and filming are not permitted in the temporary exhibition galleries. The same restrictions apply to the photographing or filming of technical installations and equipment.
Special permits can be obtained for educational or research projects; requests should be made in writing.
Last visit June 2013
Although my favorite art museum in Paris (and perhaps the world) is the Musee d'Orsay, a visit to the Louvre, even for a short bit, is a must see in Paris. The Louvre is a very, very large place and it is quite useful to sit down with the map and figure out where you are going. The massive building now housing the art collection was a palace from the time of Francois I, it ceased being a palace during the French Revolution. Napoleon took it back from the people and restored it to being a palace, he married his 2nd wife Marie-Louise here. Be sure to find David's Coronation of Napoleon should you have an interest in French history.
If your time is short or you have an uninterested non art lover with you, you can make a quick visit to see the must see's, DaVinci's Mona Lisa (good luck getting near to it if it's busy), Venus de Milo, Winged Victory and Michelangelo's Slaves. If your interests are more varied, you'll find Egyptian, Greek, Oriental, Etruscan and Roman antiquities, Italian renaissance paintings, European and French paintings. If impressionist art is your passion, that collection is at the Orsay. If you have several days in Paris and you have a Museum Pass, you might consider making several smaller visits to avoid museum overload.
The Louvre is included on the museum pass, the pass says that there is a special entrance in the Richlieu passageway for card holders, however, the last two times that I've visited, there has been a separate line for pass holders that cuts the queue going through I.M. Pei's glass pyramid. Both times was on a late night, from the website it looks like the Passage Richelieu entrance is only open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Check the website below for current information on opening times, etc. Currently the Louvre is open late on Wednesday and Friday until 9:45pm, closed on Tuesday and free on the 1st Sunday of the month and July 14th (Bastille Day).
When they were building the Pyramid at the Louvre in the 1980s, they also built a large underground exposition space called the Hall Napoléon, which is now used for temporary exhibitions. The exhibition I saw there in May 2013 was called De l’Allemagne (= About Germany), 1800-1939, from Friedrich to Beckmann.
To avoid queuing at the entrance, I bought an advance ticket the day before at the fnac store at 136 Rue de Rennes in Montparnasse. The ticket (fourth photo) cost twelve Euros plus a commission of 1.60 that I gladly paid. For three more Euros I could have bought a combination ticket for the exhibition and the rest of the Louvre, but I had read that there were over two hundred pictures in the exhibition alone, which I figured would be enough for one day. When I bought the ticket I had to tell them the day and time I wanted to come. The ticket was only valid for admittance in the half hour after the allotted time, but after that I could stay as long as I wanted to.
On my ticket it said I should enter by the Priority Entrance of the Pyramid, which meant that I could walk right past a long line of people and didn’t even have to put my backpack through the scanning machine. I just had to open my backpack and let a young lady glance inside. All she saw was my bicycle helmet, but that evidently convinced her I was a trustworthy person, so she waved me through.
The intention of this exhibition was to place the two hundred German artworks “in the intellectual context of their time”, and confront them “with the writings of great thinkers, chief among whom is Goethe.”
This was an ambitious and certainly well-intentioned project, developed jointly by French and German curators. But as VT member brueghel has pointed out in his tip Polemics about an exhibition, some German reviewers were outraged and claimed the exhibition was warming up old clichés and prejudices about Germany. They said it was trying to show that all of German thought and art led directly to Hitler’s dictatorship. Other German reviewers disagreed with this, as did French reviewers and the director of the Louvre.
So I wanted to see for myself what all the fuss was about. Since I am neither French nor German I consider myself a neutral observer in this case, but I should point out that unlike brueghel I am by no means an art expert. He is an amateur in the French sense of the word, meaning he is well-informed and competent in artistic matters, whereas I am an amateur in the English sense of the word, which means roughly the opposite.
Be that as it may, my opinion after seeing the exhibition De l’Allemagne is that it was rather spotty (no wonder, since it tried to cover a period of 139 years) but certainly not anti-German. The fuss in the German press merely shows how touchy some German critics are, but has little to do with the exhibition itself.
My main criticism of the exhibition is that one rather unimportant artist was over-represented, namely Caspar David Friedrich (1774 - 1840). Dozens of his paintings were on display (more than by any other single artist), including several large romanticized alpine landscapes that looked to me like a Disneyland vision of the Bavarian Alps, stretched vertically as some photo editing programs tend to do if you click the wrong option.
The posters advertising the exhibition (my first and third photos) showed part of a mountain landscape by a different German artist, Carl Gustav Carus (1789-1869).
I did learn something interesting about Caspar David Friedrich from the exhibition, however. It seems that Goethe, who always had a lively interest in the Natural Sciences, once suggested to Friedrich that he paint a series of pictures showing different kinds of clouds (cumulus, stratus, cirrus, etc.), following a system of classification that had recently been developed in England. Friedrich declined, saying that Nature for him was a matter of subjective impressions, not systematic observation.
So much for Goethe’s (lack of) influence on nineteenth century German painting.
The first painting in the exhibition, by the way, was a very famous one called Goethe in the Roman Compagna by Johann Tischbein (1751-1829) – on loan from the Städel Museum in Frankfurt am Main.
Most of the other paintings in the exhibition were also on loan from various German museums, along with a few from Vienna and Saint Petersburg. Most of these paintings had never been shown in France before.
What I liked best about the exhibition was the section at the end where they showed a selection of paintings by Max Beckmann (1884-1950). For the Nazis, Beckmann was a prime example of what they considered degenerate art. In April 1933, as soon as the Nazis were in power, Beckmann was fired from his position as a professor at the Städel School in Frankfurt, and his paintings were systematically removed from German museums over the next few years.
Somehow the critics of the Louvre exhibition seem not to have noticed that the anti-Nazi Beckmann was so prominently represented.
35,000 works of art
Rubens and Marie de' Medici in the Louvre
Ladies of the Louvre
The medieval Louvre
Egyptian antiquities at the Louvre
Egyptian gods and temples in the Louvre
The royal tomb
The Seated Scribe
Musée Charles X
Carrousel du Louvre
Next review from May 2013: Guided walking tour of Montparnasse
Why the French king Henri IV felt obliged to marry Marie de' Medici, of all people, is something I have never quite understood, even though I once had a phase in which I read several books about Henri IV, including Heinrich Mann's two-volume novel about his life.
They had six children in eight years, including the future king Louis XIII, but the marriage was an extremely stormy and unhappy one. Nonetheless, on the 13th of May 1610 Henri officially conferred the Regency of France on his wife before going off to fight a war in Germany. The next day he was assassinated -- could this have been just a coincidence? -- and Marie assumed power as Queen of France on behalf of her eight and a half year old son.
Over a decade later, after she had been banished and then reprieved by her son Louis XIII, Marie de' Medici commissioned the Flemish artist Peter Paul Rubens (1577–1640) to paint a series of monumental allegorical pictures giving her version of her life and hard times.
Twenty-four of these paintings are on display in the Richelieu wing of the Louvre, in room 18 on the second floor.
Rubens was a diplomat as well as an artist, and in these paintings he managed to depict some very controversial scenes without seriously offending any of the people involved (at least no one who was still alive at that point).
Also he managed to include dozens of his favorite kind of models, namely chubby nude women, by declaring them to be the Fates or Goddesses or Nereids or other allegorical figures.
Second photo: Here is Marie's explanation of why Henri married her -- it was love! In this painting Cupid is giving Henri a portrait of Marie. Immediately he "lets himself be disarmed by love" according to the title of the painting.
Third photo: This was the fateful day when Henri conferred the Regency on Marie, with their son the future Louis XIII gazing up at her (not at him!) in admiration. See also my tip Louis XIII at the Place des Vosges.
I have written a bit more about Henri IV (and Heinrich Mann) in my review of the Square du Vert-Galant on the Île de la Cité, just a short distance upstream from the Louvre.
Charles X reigned as King of France from 1824 to 1830. To celebrate his coronation at the cathedral of Reims, the great Italian composer Gioacchino Rossini (1792-1868) was commissioned to write an opera for the occasion. What he came up with was a light-hearted, irreverent (but not unfriendly) comic opera called Il viaggio a Reims (The Journey to Reims), which I have described in one of my Frankfurt tips as The world’s first tourist opera.
Legend has it that the new king fell asleep during the festive premiere of the new opera, but everyone else seems to have liked it, and it is still quite popular today whenever it is performed.
Since he enjoyed commissioning things (and didn’t mind spending money), Charles X later commissioned some of the leading architects and painters of his day to redesign and redecorate a suite of nine rooms in the Louvre, to display parts of the Egyptian, Greek, Roman, medieval and Renaissance collections. The decorations turned out to be very lavish and impressive, and the rooms were proudly inaugurated by Charles X in 1827.
Since then the exhibits have been rearranged several times, but today the first four rooms of the Musée Charles X are still (or again) used to display part of the collection of Egyptian antiquities. Under the current arrangement, the first four rooms of the Musée Charles X are the last four rooms of the Egyptian department, dealing with the later periods of ancient Egypt.
Second photo: In room 28, the second room of the Musée Charles X, the exhibits are about Egyptian Princes and courtiers in the period from 1295–1069 BC, but the ceiling painting by Horace Vernet (1789-1863) shows something completely different, namely the Pope Julius II ordering Bramante, Michelangelo, and Raphael to build the Vatican and Saint Peter's in Rome.
Third photo: In Room 29 the exhibits are about the Third Middle Period of ancient Egypt, from about 1069–404 BC. Here the ceiling painting also has to do with Egypt. It is L'Egypte sauvée par Joseph (Egypt saved by Joseph) by Alexandre-Denis Abel de Pujol (1785-1861).
Fourth photo: The southeast corner of the Louvre. The Musée Charles X is located here, in nine of the inner rooms on the first floor (not the ground floor, but one flight up).
Next review from January 2012: Carrousel du Louvre
Probably the most famous statue in the Egyptian collection of the Louvre is this one of The Seated Scribe, in room 22 on the first floor.
The audio guide explained that the scribes at that time were very important and influential officials, sometimes even relatives of the pharaoh. This scribe has an unusually realistic looking face, especially the eyes. In his right hand he was holding a brush which has since been lost. He has a well-fed appearance, which was a sign of wealth and power.
Second photo: For comparison, here is another – much less realistic and expressive – scribe from a thematic exhibition on writing techniques in ancient Egypt. This is in room 6 on the ground floor.
Third photo: These two are in room 24. They are identified as Sény or Sénynéfer, Bureau Chief of the King, and his wife.
Fourth photo: The pharaoh Thoutmosis IV, who ruled from around 1401 to 1391 BC. (In room 24.)
Next review from January 2012: Musée Charles X
After twelve densely packed rooms of the thematic tour of ancient Egypt, a long staircase (or an elevator for people with restricted mobility) leads down to room 13, where a huge royal tomb is on display. It is the red granite tomb of pharaoh Ramses III, who ruled from 1186–1155 BC. The room is also identified as the crypt of the god Osiris.
Like the Sphinx in room 1, the royal tomb is in the basement because of its weight. The museum curators prefer to have the extremely heavy objects resting directly on the ground, rather than on a higher floor where their weight might endanger the building. Another reason is that at ground level over these rooms there are pedestrian entrances to the courtyard.
Second photo: Drawings and hieroglyphics on the tomb. The top row of drawings shows some violent scenes. In the bottom row at the left it might be a man plowing a field.
Third photo: The colonnade on the east wall of the Louvre. The archway in the center is open (usually) and leads to the inner courtyard. Underneath in the basement is room 13, with the royal tomb. All the rooms behind and below the colonnade on the ground floor and the first floor are devoted to Egyptian antiquities.
Fourth photo: The colonnade at night.
Next review from January 2012: The Seated Scribe
Room 12 on the ground floor (first photo) is a large room divided into four sections, showing the remains of sanctuaries from various sites and all epochs of ancient Egyptian history, to give an idea of the structure and function of a temple and the ceremonies that took place there.
Further on, in rooms 18 and 19, there is an alphabetical guide to the ancient Egyptian gods, including their appearance, their attributes, their roles, all illustrated with authentic figurines made of metal, ceramics or stone.
There is also an exhibit of mummified animals. The audio guide said there were various reasons for having animals mummified and placed in the tombs. First, they were the beloved pets of the person who had passed away. Second, they were intended as emergency rations, to be eaten by the dead person in case there was a famine in the afterlife. Third, the animals might be needed in the afterlife as sacrifices to the gods. Or the animals themselves might be worshiped as gods. In some eras, numerous animals seem to have been raised for the express purpose of being mummified.
Second photo: This statue of the god Horus, in the shape of a man with the head of a falcon, is on display in room 7 and is part of the thematic circuit about religious and funerary beliefs. Originally Horus seems to have been holding a vase in his hands, with ritual water to purify the king in ceremonies.
Third photo: Room 11 contains a row of six of the sphinxes which were set up along the allée leading to the temple Sérapéum de Saqqara in Egypt in the 4th or 3rd century BC. (These were found and dug out of the sand by workers under the direction of Auguste Mariette in 1851. Later, in 1869, Mariette was asked to suggest a plot for an opera about ancient Egypt, and his idea was accepted as the basis for the opera Aida by Giuseppe Verdi.)
Next review from January 2012: The royal tomb
Jean-François Champollion (1790–1832) was the French scholar who founded the study of Egyptology by being the first to decipher ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs. He published his translation and analysis of the Rosetta Stone hieroglyphs in 1822 and 1824, and shortly thereafter he took on the task of establishing a new department of Egyptian antiquities in four rooms of the Louvre.
This department now fills thirty large rooms at the east end of the Louvre, in what is now called the Sully Wing. The seventeen rooms on the ground floor, plus two in the basement for particularly heavy exhibits, are organized into a “thematic circuit”, using authentic relics and artworks to illustrate and explain the topics of agriculture, hunting, fishing, animal husbandry, writing, arts and crafts, domestic life, temples, funeral rites and gods in ancient Egypt. Then up on the first floor there is a “chronological circuit” showing outstanding examples of Egyptian art from the earliest to the latest periods of ancient Egypt.
The Sphinx, in the first photo, is in room 1 and is at the beginning of the thematic circuit. From here a staircase (or an elevator) leads to the many thematic exhibits on the ground floor. You can easily spend a full day (as we did in January 2012) going through the thirty exhibition rooms with the help of the audio guide and the many text panels.
I was a bit disappointed with the audio guide at first, because it didn’t have much to say about the first few rooms. But soon more and more audio guide numbers started turning up on the displays, and finally I had to pick and choose because there wasn’t enough time in just one day to hear them all in full.
After several hours, somewhere up on the first floor, my audio guide suddenly stopped talking in the middle of a sentence. To trade it in for a new one I had to retrace my steps (there weren’t any shortcuts) to get back to the entrance to the Sully Wing, and in doing this I came to realize once again that the Louvre is a HUGE place, even if you are spending the day only in one department at one end of the museum. (They were very nice about giving me a new one, of course.)
Second and third photos: These models, in room 3, show people rowing on the Nile or poling through shallow water. The models were found in graves, perhaps intended to provide transportation in the afterlife for the person who had died.
Fourth photo: This lovely swimming girl is holding a covered spoon in the shape of a duck. The duck’s wings are the cover of the spoon. Lots of these have been found, mostly from the New Empire (1400-1200 BC), but none of them have any trace of any contents so it is not clear what they were used for. One theory is that these might have been women’s make-up boxes. This particular one is on display in room 9, display case 3. (By the way, there is a similar covered spoon upstairs in room 24, also with a swimming girl and a duck, but the upstairs girl is not nearly as lovely as this one and neither is the duck.)
Fifth photo: Above the swimming girl holding the duck, in room 9, display case 3, there is a figurine labeled “Spoon in the form of a young girl carrying a vase”. The poor girl is tiny compared to the huge vase she has to carry, and in her right hand she is also holding a bag. She seems to be standing on a barrel of some sort. To her right and left are other fancy spoons or small bowls, some in the shape of ducks.
Next review from January 2012: Gods and temples
The original Louvre was a fortress, built starting in 1190 at the behest of King Philippe Auguste (1165-1223).
The fortress was at one end of Philippe Auguste's wall, a system of city fortifications that he ordered built because he didn't want the city to be left undefended while he went off to fight in the Crusades.
Remains of the medieval Louvre fortress and moat have been excavated and preserved, and can be seen today on the underground level of the Sully Wing of the Louvre, on the way to the department of Egyptian antiquities.
Next review from January 2012: Egyptian antiquities at the Louvre
Many amateurs of art estimate that wing Richelieu is the best part of Le Louvre.
I do agree. It starts on the Ground Floor with the French Sculptures in Cour Puget (photo 2) and Cour Marly, the amazing sculptures of Mesopotamia in Cour Khorsabad.
On the First Floor are the Decorative Arts from the Middle Ages, Renaissance (ref. my tip on the tapestries The hunts of Maximilan ) 17th c. furniture with Charles Boulle (photo 3), 18th and 19th c.
The visit of the Napoleon III apartments (photo 1) and the Restoration and July Monarchy is a must.
On the Second Floor is on display a very good collection of Dutch paintings, with two Vermeer, Flemish (Van Eyck - photo 4) and German painters mainly from the 15th to the 17th c. I will come back on this collection of paintings.
"The Louvre Pyramid (Pyramide du Louvre)" is a large glass and metal pyramid surrounded by three smaller pyramids in the main courtyard of the Louvre Palace (Palais du Louvre) in Paris.
The large pyramid serves as the main entrance to the Louvre Museum. Completed in 1989 and has become a landmark of the city of Paris.
In 1983 French President Francois Mitterrand proposed as one of the Grands Projets of Francois Mitterrand the Grand Louvre plan to renovate the building and relocate the Finance Ministry, allowing displays throughout the building. Architect I. M. Pei was awarded the project and proposed a glass pyramid to stand over a new entrance in the main court, the Cour Napoléon.
The pyramid and its underground lobby were inaugurated on 15 October 1988. The second phase of the Grand Louvre plan, La Pyramide Inversée (The Inverted Pyramid), was completed in 1993. As of 2002, attendance had doubled since completion.
Just want to remind u that in several hours u can make a quick tour just to see around, but in order to see the most and all, u gonna need a whole day or two ... The authorities allow u to shoot photos inside, but not the flash, in order not to harm the art collection, for ur info ... :)
Recently started a temporary exhibition from March 28 to June 24, 2013 in the Hall Napoléon, under the Pyramid:
"De l’Allemagne, 1800-1939 - German Thought and Painting, from Friedrich to Beckmann."
According to Le Louvre:
"This exhibition, comprising over two hundred works, offers a reflection on the main themes that structured German thinking from 1800 to 1939. It places artworks and their artists—including Caspar David Friedrich, Paul Klee, Philipp Otto Runge and Otto Dix—in the intellectual context of their time, and confronts them with the writings of great thinkers, chief among whom is Goethe."
This exhibition created a lot of polemics between German media and Le Louvre.
There were strong critics in Die Zeit of 4/04 accusing Le Louvre to accredit "the thesis of an isolated path of German art which would have led directly to National Socialism."
Die Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung followed with two publications on 7/04 and 9/04/2013.
If you read French or German you can follow this polemic in the major newspapers.
If you came only for Mona Lisa, don't mind, La Joconde is not involved in that Franco-German fight.
P.S. About German painters I would like to make my own advertising about my recent comment "Alte Nationalgalerie-To discover"in Berlin.