Museé du Louvre… and that painting, of that woman

Museé du Louvre

So on Saturday morning, I got up and dressed early and made my way to the grandest and arguably one of the best museums in the world, The Louvre!

Everybody who is anybody who has even the slightest appreciation for classical art, knows about this museum. I have heard people speak about it, tell me of their visits and describe the beauty within the walls of this museum. I was hoping my expectations were not too high. Let me just stop there and say: One’s expectations of the Louvre can never be too high! It will serve to meet and exceed them, every single time.

Michelangelo's Dying Slave c1513
Michelangelo’s Dying Slave c1513

I was in absolutely no way disappointed. I have a leaning towards sculpture and the Greek, Etruscan & Roman department was my favourite. It’s very rare for works of Michelangelo to be housed outside of Italy, however the two slaves (Rebellious and Dying) were in his workshop when he died, a project commissioned by Pope Julius II, and they were unfinished. Perhaps part of the reason Italy was content to give them over to France.

Venus de Milo
Venus de Milo

My other favourite and probably one of the most famous anonymous works ever, is the Venus de Milo. It is thought to be a depiction of Aphrodite, Greek goddess of love and beauty. She was first accredited to the master Greek sculptor, Praxiteles however, from an inscription that was on its plinth, it is thought to be the work of Alexandros of Antioch; which is why it is said to be ‘anonymous’ because it’s not certain. She is probably the world’s most famous sculpture, or arguably, second only to Michelangelo’s David, and there she was, a metre in front of me! I just about wept – but we all know by now that I’m a massive softie and I’m easily moved by things such as these. Something that I learned about her, is that she was sculpted with the intention of having her back up against a wall because the anterior façade is unfinished and you can see the seam of the two blocks of marble used. Utterly magnificent and pretty much made my whole day!

Of course one cannot speak of The Louvre and not mention the most famous abductee in history; Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa. She was probably a type of muse to Da Vinci, or she represented for him an ideal beauty because she influenced facial features of other works of his, most notably St John the Baptist who bears a striking resemblance to the Mona Lisa.

Gone are the days when you could stand a metre from her and gaze at her without glass. Aside from protecting her from the affects of humidity and age, the glass case is there to protect her from the ever present lunatics among us who have, in the past, thrown acid, paint and rocks at her. January is the best time to visit The Louvre and if you get there early there are very few people in the museum and you have close to unrestricted access to the Mona Lisa. The summer months are when tourists flock to Paris and it’s virtually impossible to get a good look at her due to the seemingly endless throngs of people trying to do exactly the same thing.  I was able to stand and stare at her for almost 15 minutes without hassle.

Jacques-Louis David's 'The Coronation of Napoleon'
Jacques-Louis David’s ‘The Coronation of Napoleon’

While there were very many things that I appreciated about the art in the museum, the last item I will speak about on this post, and one of the Louvre’s most prized possessions, is Jacques-Louis David’s painting of The Coronation of Napoleon, which took place at Notre Dame. Jacques-Louis David was Napoleon’s official painter and there is a wealth of his work on display at The Louvre and some at the Palace of Versailles. You can sit in front of this painting for hours and not see everything. I must have stared at this masterpiece for at least three quarters of an hour and I want to go back. There are two versions of this painting, one at The Louvre and one at The Palace at Versailles. Not a copy of the original, but two versions. The only difference between the paintings is the colour of the dress of Napoleon’s favourite sister, which in the second version, is pink. This is the only detail that differs in the second version, despite being painted by David, from memory! It is important to note that Napoleon’s mother was not at the coronation, she was in Italy, however you can see her in the gallery or stands, a place of more importance than the pope.

Like Sacre-Coeur, a visit to Paris without stopping in at The Louvre, would be a mistake. I did not go into The Louvre on my first whirlwind tour of Paris because of who I was with and it was one of my biggest regrets. Well, this time around, bucket list item – check, no regrets!

Next time I’ll tell you about my visit to The Palace at Versailles, which is grandiose on another level.

Until then, thank you for reading!

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