The Louvre is a museum that is visited by around eight million people annually, and is surely one of the most important landmarks of the City of Lights. It is a sin to visit Paris without visiting this museum. The construction of the block of buildings that would make up the Louvre started in the 12th century during the Reign of King Philip II. The construction process was expanded several times, slowly forming the Louvre Palace that was, at the time, used as a royal residency. During the reign of King Louis XIV in the 16th century, the residency was moved to Versailles, while the Louvre began to be used as a place to display the royal family’s art collection. In addition to this, the Louvre became the seat of the Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture.
During the reign of Napoleon, the collections inside the Louvre were significantly expanded, partly thanks to the fact that Napoleon’s army had conquered Italy, thus acquiring artwork by Italian masters such as Leonardo da Vinci, whose works are still displayed inside the museum. The collection was also significantly enriched during the reign of King Louis XVII, after which its main contributions came from private purchases and donations.
During the French Revolution, the newly-formed government decided that the Louvre should display French artwork, and that the complex should be converted into a museum. In 1971, the Louvre opened its doors for the public for the first time. At the time, the museum displayed more than 500 art pieces, mostly previously belonging to the royal family or the church (the art pieces mentioned were confiscated by the state and placed into the Louvre).
The large glass and metal pyramid is the main entrance to the Louvre. The pyramid, inspired by the pyramids of Egypt, was constructed in 1989, and the main architect was, surprisingly, not French, but Chinese. Ieoh Ming Pei, the man behind the pyramid, managed to apply the decidedly modern style of architecture to the classical French surrounding, which made the pyramid even more magnificent to onlookers.
Today, the Louvre boasts a collection of 380 thousand art pieces, 35 thousand of which date back to between the prehistoric times and the 19th century. The Egyptian collection is particularly large, and includes the sarcophagus of Ramesses I and II. In addition to this, the artwork dating back to ancient Greece, Rome and Middle East also complete this rich collection. Walking through the eight sections of the museum, you will be able to witness Islamic artwork, decorative art, sculpture, paintings, graphic sketches, as well as sketches in general.
Visitors should bear in mind that the museum is very large. A complete visit to the whole museum can last up to five days, so picking up a map at the ticket booth is highly recommended in order for you to be able to plan out your priorities, as well as to find the particular spots where the specific artwork you would like to see is located.
The most famous painting within the walls of the Louvre is, at the same time, the most famous painting in the whole world. It was painted by Leonardo da Vinci, and its name is The Mona Lisa. It is a portrait of a Florentine lady named Lisa del Giocondo. The painting was completed in the early 16th century. It was displayed in the Versailles for a long time, but after the French Revolution, it was moved to the Louvre along with many more paintings once belonging to the royal family. There are also rumors that Napoleon himself took it from the Louvre to keep him company in his residency, but that the painting was returned to the Louvre after Napoleon was exiled to St. Helena.
If visitors wish to see the Mona Lisa up close, they will have to be very patient. Namely, groups lead by guides enter and exit the room all the time, so it is hard to even catch a glimpse of the painting or to approach it at all. The painting is protected from moisture by a glass case of sorts. To fully understand the significance of this painting, we recommend that you take a deep look at it if you get the chance.
The sculpture that attracts the most attention is surely the Venus de Milo. This ancient Greek sculpture was dated to around the year 150 BC, and it depicts the Greek goddesses Aphrodite, as well as the goddess of victory, Nike (Nike of Samothrace – the so-called Winged Victory). The one that follows it is the famous slab of the law of Hammurabi, which is truly breathtaking. Also interesting is the Babylonian Lion, in part due to the fact that we have very few opportunities to see any Babylonian art in any museum in Europe. In addition to this, many paintings by masters such as Caravaggio, Leonardo, Van Eyck, Rubens, sculptures by Canova, Rembrandt and many more.
The Raft of the Medusa, perhaps the most famous work by Théodore Géricault, remains one of the most important examples of the artwork of Romanticism, as well as of art as a whole. The artist took 8 months to complete this masterpiece (the canvas is 7-meters long) depicting the disturbing scene of a crew of the ship Medusa who were left to their own devices on a small raft for 17 days after their ship had sunk. Scenes of gruesome violence and cannibalism are depicted, and of the 150 original crew members of the ship, only 15 survived completely by chance, thanks to the Argus sailing close to them. The image depicts the crew of the sunken ship in the moment when they first saw the ship sailing towards them.
Another masterpiece which we would like to mention is Paolo Veronese’s Wedding at Cana. The wedding in question is most notable for the fact that it was the event where Jesus Christ turned water into wine.
We could go on forever about the individual art pieces displayed within the Louvre, but instead of that we recommend that you visit the museum. It is worth the visit and you will surely enjoy your time there.
In 1940, Adolf Hitler entered the city along with his army. He was very impressed by French cultural heritage, but when the Germans entered the Louvre, they found nothing. The then-manager of the Louvre, knowing the fate of the Prada during the Spanish Civil War, moved over 4000 art pieces to safety. This prevented the Germans from stealing any of the art pieces that the Louvre boasts.
In 1911, the Mona Lisa was allegedly stolen by three Italian men. After trying to sell it to a collector, he swiftly reported them to the police, and the painting was subsequently returned to the museum.
Ticket price for the Louvre Museum
Regular ticket price: 17 €
Free entrance - for young people up to 18 years, for young people from 18 to 25 years of age who are residents of the EU.
Admission to the Louvre is free every first Saturday of the month.
Opening hours of the Louvre Museum
Every day from 9:00am to 6:00pm
The Louvre is closed on Tuesdays