The Musee du Louvre is the most well known museum throughout the world and although it is often thought of as just the museum in Paris that holds the Mona Lisa painting, there is so much more to be discovered.
Yet, even a few hours at this incredible museum is nowhere near enough time to experience the collections on offer, not forgetting the rich architecture with the history of the Louvre from fortress through to palace and its grandeur that is portrayed everywhere you turn.
The Musee du Louvre Museum has an impressive collection that covers Western art from the medieval era through to around the middle of the 1800s along with formative works from the civilisations of the ancient world and works of Islamic art.
However, even the history of the Musee du Louvre from when it started back in the 1700s is just as fascinating and there is so much to learn, with exhibitions that detail the history of the Louvre, the original Tuileries Palace and the Tuileries Gardens, some of which were designed by Andre Le Notre.
Changing faces of The Louvre video
If you have the time, you could wander around the Tuileries Gardens, maybe stop for a snack or coffee at one of the Cafes in Paris within the gardens like at the Cafe Renard before enjoying the Louvre museum and perhaps even have a meal at one of the Louvre restaurants or cafes inside with such a magnificent setting, just like at the Cafe Mollien or Cafe Grand Louvre restaurants.
Now when you start to contemplate what you would like to discover at the Louvre museum, you will find everything displayed in different sections, so that you can just visit specific categories if you wish to, which makes life easier, especially if you are on a tight schedule whilst on holiday in Paris.
In fact, the whole collection is grouped into eight different departments and each one has been enriched over the years through collectors and donors, so to follow, is a short guide to what you may find at the Musee du Louvre.
The Department of Paintings
The collection of paintings that are now held within the Louvre dates back to the reign of King Francis I, as he wanted to create an art gallery within the Chateau Fontainebleu where he resided, and he wanted to outdo the impressive Italian Palaces.
Therefore King Francis I started acquiring paintings by famous artists such as Michelangelo and Raphael, plus he invited other sculptors and artists to his court and one of these by the name of Leonardo da Vinci was among them.
Today, the painting collection at The Louvre ranges from the 13th century up until 1848 and other paintings that were dated after this were transferred to another spectacular museum in Paris, called the Musee d’Orsay, which is why you will often hear people say that the Musee d’Orsay starts where The Louvre finishes.
You will be able to discover the Italian and Spanish paintings that occupy the complete first floor of the Denon wing of the Louvre, and incredibly the entire second floor of the Cour Carree and the Richelieu wing is full of French and Northern paintings galleries.
However, you can also observe the many different styles of decoration that cover the Louvre Palace like the Romanelli ceilings in the apartments of Anne of Austria, and some of the highlights you could see, include the Bathsheba at her bath by Rembrandt, Crucifixion by Giovanni, Liberty leading the people by Eugene Delacroix and of course the famous Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci.
The Egyptian Antiquities Section
When you look at the history of the Musee du Louvre, Vivant Denon, an archaeologist as well as artist, was influential within the Louvre and with the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel, yet it was Jean-Francois Champollion, who really made a major difference to this section. He had a fascination with Egypt, was the founder of scientific Egyptology and was the first person to decipher hieroglyphics, and after setting up a museum in Italy, he became the new curator for this section at the Louvre when he convinced King Charles X to purchase three different collections of Egyptian antiquities.
Over the years there were numerous different donations, plus items that were acquired through archaeological excavations of different tombs and so, this rich collection of Egyptian antiquities now dates from around 4000 BC through to around the 4th century AD. And spread over two floors, there are many heavy items such as statues and columns that cannot be positioned anywhere except within ground floor exhibition rooms, yet the second floor holds numerous different artefacts such as vases, jewellery, shrouds and many other small objects that are arranged in chronological order for ease of the visitor.
There are also funerary items, sarcophagus items, scribes and so much more that this is a fascinating section, which really depicts much about the pharaohs and early civilisations plus their culture.
The Department of Decorative Arts
The Department of Decorative Arts is another fascinating part of the Musee du Louvre and is steeped in history with items that were already there when the museum first opened and incorporates a very varied selection of different items from the early Middle Ages through to the first half of the 19th Century, with many of these being acquired from the Tuileries Palace before it burned down, the Saint Denis Basilica and other French chateaux. In addition to this, there were numerous donations and collections that were bequeathed to this fabulous collection that included 18th century porcelain to medieval and Renaissance objects.
So here within the Richelieu wing of the Louvre museum you can admire ceramics and glassware, silverware, ivories and bronzes, furniture such as a chest that belonged to Anne of Austria, the bed chamber of Napoleon Bonaparte I and numerous larger items like wardrobes, cupboards, chairs, commodes and even beds from different chateaus and castles in France. There is jewellery such as the diamond known as Regent, which is reportedly one of the finest diamonds on the world, along with coronation crowns, chess sets, vases, a coronation sword of the kings of France, stained glass, rugs and much, much more.
The Department of Prints and Drawings
Also at the Louvre museum in Paris you will find a very extensive collection of pastels, miniatures, prints, lithographic stones, drawings, copperplates, manuscripts, books and much more. However, due to the fact that many of these are so old and fragile, they are not on permanent display and are only taken out of store rooms for short exhibitions in very strict controlled situations that maintain certain temperatures, light and humidity.
But don’t worry there are over 150,000 different items, so even though they will have a rest period of at least three years after being on display, there are always plenty of different items that go on show at the Louvre at different times each year, each with its own theme.
The Department of Near Eastern Antiquities
The historical and geographical context of the collection on near Eastern antiquities spans a period of around 9000 years from prehistory to the early Islamic Period and encompasses archaeological finds from North Africa to the Indus Valley and Central Asia and from the Black Sea to as far as the Indian Ocean.
Put into chronological order and divided up into different areas of the Louvre according to the area and the era, Sumerian artworks, for instance, are in rooms within the Richelieu wing, whereas Cyprus and Levant from prehistory to the Phoenician period are located in the west wing of the Cour Carree.
An iron age section is in the north wing of Cour Carree, plus there is a section devoted to pre Islamic Arabia from around 7000 BC to the 3rd century AD, and so on, but in addition to these, another section on Roman objects from the eastern Mediterranean is due to open towards the end of 2012. So you could get to see challaces, cups, jewellery, busts, a sarcophagus, figurines, friezes, an obelisk, plaques, models, reliefs and much more in this new section at the Louvre.
Sculptures at the Louvre Museum
The sculptures at the Musee du Louvre have gradually increased over the years and you can get to see many 18th and 19th century sculptures, although all the newer sculptures at the Louvre from the mid 19th century onwards have been transferred to the Musee d’Orsay.
There are actually two different collections on display and the French sculptures are located on the ground floor of the Richelieu wing plus within the covered courtyards called the Pugat and Marly, whereas the Denon wing on the ground floor and on the mezzanine holds the foreign collections.
Department of Islamic Art
The section of Islamic Art was the most recent department created at the Musee du Louvre, even though there was originally a Muslim art section that dated back to 1893, however a bequest in 1912 from a Baroness enriched the collection greatly and then in 1932 the Asian arts department was created to house the Islamic arts section and the collection was greatly improved in the 1990s, but is on the move again to a different location at the Louvre museum, and by the end of 2012 the Islamic Art exhibition will open again and cover an area of around 3000m squared between the restored facades of the Cour Visconti.
It is here that you will be able to see approximately 3000 exhibits, which span around 1,300 years from three continents from Spain to Southeast Asia, and also includes some original works that date way back to the 14th century or even the 11th century that came from past French Kings such as King Louis XIV and even from the Saint Denis Abbey.
The Greek, Etruscan and Roman Antiquities Section
The Department of Greek, Etruscan and Roman Antiquities is a fabulous collection of different artworks that represents the Greek, Etruscan, and Roman civilizations from Neolithic times of the 4th Millennium BC to the 6th century AD.
This section illustrates the artworks of a vast area which encompasses Greece, Italy, and the whole of the Mediterranean basin and you can get to see numerous different articles such as ornamental headbands known as diadems, vases, cups, chalices, fragments of different architecture like a relief or alter, funerary items, old mirrors, busts and much more.
There are also many different sculptures and marble statues and the collection is located within two galleries that occupy ten rooms in the former royal apartments and the Venus de Milo sculpture is on the ground floor of the Pavillon du Roi. Plus the Salle des Cariatides has a chronological display of ancient Greek art.
Other Exhibitions at the Louvre
There are rooms at this museum in Paris, which are dedicated to the history of the Louvre from fortress to palace and also the history of the Louvre Museum.
Plus there are always different temporary exhibitions held at different times of the year, and these are themed exhibitions on specific subjects. And just some of the exhibitions that have taken place in the past include contemporary art, the Louvre during World War II, the La Caze collection, which was the most fabulous bequest in the entire history of the Louvre Museum, and many others.
So as you can no doubt tell, this is a fabulous French museum with its rich collections that are always improving, and it is no wonder that this is the most visited museum in the world and definitely the most famous of all museums in Paris.
And with easy access to the Musee du Louvre, with different entrances, tours, guides and much more that is available, it makes your experience of this museum even more memorable and something you will never forget. Yet you will probably end up wanting to go back to this museum in Paris to discover even more.
Address and contact details
Musee du Louvre, Rue de Rivoli, 75001 Paris, France GPS: 48.861012, 2.335855
Information Tel: +33 (0) 1 40 20 53 17 Switchboard Tel: +33 (0) 1 40 20 50 50 Those with disabilities Tel: +33 (0) 40 20 59 90