The Louvre

15 Oct

Sorry about the lack of a post on Friday, but I have a real doozy to make up for it. Yes indeed, today I bring you terrible photos from the world famous Musée du Louvre!

I went into Paris on Saturday on the rainiest, coldest day I’ve experienced yet in France. I almost felt I was back in Chengdu, the weather was that gross. My only real beef with the Louvre is their line management. I knew enough to go to the Carousel de Louvre (the underground entrance attached to the Palais Royal metro stop) instead of waiting outside by the glass pyramids in the rain, but apparently a thousand other locals and tourists had the exact same idea. I spent a good hour waiting in line and trying to guess where people were from. When I got to the front, I realized the hold up was just a stop to x-ray your bags. You still had to go into the entrance and buy tickets at another kiosk. It was kind of exasperating. 

Inside the museum proper, I headed straight for the antiquities. I hiked all the way over to the Egypt exhibit and I have to say, I was sorely disappointed. Maybe I’ve been spoiled by the Met’s absolutely fantastic display in NYC, but a paltry offering of grave goods wasn’t exactly thrilling. Sure, the papyrus displays were pretty interesting looking, and they had a few exceptional pieces of jewelery, but all in all, not a show-stopper in the lot. I was expecting a hell of a lot more from the nation that did it’s best to steal every obelisk in Cairo. I mean, come on.

A painted funeral mask.

A tiny gold pendant of the goddess Ma’at.

On the other hand, the Greek sculptures on display at the Louvre are absolutely fantastic. Yes, yes, they have the Venus de Milo and Nike Samothrace (more on them later), but the entire collection is quite breathtaking in its’ variety. Since all the placards are in French, I played a little game I like to call “spot the Greek myth”. The ladies are pretty easy to tell apart, even if there isn’t anything left but a bust: if she doesn’t have any clothes on, it’s Aphrodite.

Aphrodite, Goddess of Love.  The one on the right is the famed Venus de Milo.


An exceptionally large statue of Athena, Pallas Velletri on the left, and a rare example of Demeter, the Goddess of the Harvest.

And Artemis, Goddess of the Hunt.

Anyone who’s had to study philosophy should recognize these dudes. From left to right, Plato, Aristotle, and Socrates.

You can tell this is Hercules because of the club and the bear-skin, which are his key identifiers.

Nike Samothrace, the Winged Goddess of Victory.

The statue above is actually my favorite out of the famous Louvre treasures. She’s placed at the top of a huge set of stairs and stands triumphant over all the museum-goers huffing and puffing up to the top. (It’s an unavoidable hurdle one needs to clear if you want to go see the Mona Lisa.) Maybe it’s because the late afternoon sun finally broke through the clouds and set the entire gallery aglow, but it was really quite breath-taking.

I apologize for the quality, but I thought it would be a good way to show you all what I mean.

Of course, no visit to the Louvre is complete without visiting Leonardo da Vinci’s most famous work, the Mona Lisa. The crowds converge into the one room and a hundred people jostle forward for a better camera angle.

Clearly, I was not up for the battle for a front-and-center shot.

It’s almost quite sad how busy the painting is. Maybe it’s the Louvre, or the fame of the artist, or all the memorabilia, but there’s almost no chance for quiet contemplation. I mean, other than the fact that she looks like she kinda has a mustache from my angle. For comparison’s sake, I went to the MoMA this summer with a friend and saw Vincent van Gogh’s Starry Night, another painting that is instantly recognizable and arguably just as famous in modern culture. There were maybe thirty patrons hanging around, but the ebb and flow of the crowd meant that you could conceivably stand directly in front of it without being elbowed by some pushy tourist. I don’t doubt that the Mona Lisa draws a crowd every second the Louvre is open.

I wandered through the various galleries of paintings, but not a whole lot stood out at that point. Call it museum fatigue, but after a couple hours, the “Annunciations”, “Pietas”, and the like start to run together in your mind.*

This one, however, stands out. I think it’s called “The Food of Angels”. According to the placard (which was in French, so any errors are my fault), it shows a fairly obscure legend of a Franciscan friar who was in charge of cooking for the other brothers. The abbot in charge of his monastery was amazed at how delicious the food was, and on a visit to the kitchen, he was shocked to find that angels were assisting the monk in his daily task! Frankly, I was so amused by this photo that I had to sit down on one of the benches and just look at it.

Of course, this was barely a taste of the whole collection. I didn’t even make it to the building with all the Mesopotamian artifacts (they have the Code of Hammurabi! The actual stone tablet!) or the special exhibit on Islamic art or any of the exhibits on Asia, Africa, or the Americas. So clearly, I’ll be going back sometime soon. If there’s a painting or sculpture that you think I should go visit, just let me know and I’ll make a special detour. Anyways, I hope you enjoyed a little taste of the Louvre!

*Years ago on a family trip to Italy, we started to play a game of “spot the Biblical scene” at the museums, joking that there were a whole bunch of versions of only five or so paintings. Dad always went over to read the placards, but us kids got pretty good at picking out the “Visitations of an Archangel to the Virgin Mary” and others from a dozen paces.

2 Responses to “The Louvre”

  1. Cathi October 15, 2012 at 7:34 pm #

    Jane you must get a rick steves guidebook for any travel advice in europe. I have not ever traveled withou him & he would have advised you to buy the museum pass & bypassed the line completely. He is my bible for every adventure in Europe. Thanks for the fun updates @
    & pics

  2. Karen October 15, 2012 at 9:04 pm #

    Hi Jane,
    You have to go to the Egypt Museum in Cairo to see the really good stuff. I would go there again just to see that museum. I envy you, you have a wonderful opportunity to explore all the good places. I’m glad you’re having fun.

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