Our final day in Paris we toured the Louvre the world's largest and most visited museum. It receives 15,000 visitors per day, 70% of whom are foreign tourists.
To get an idea of how big the Louvre is, consider this - it is 652,300 square feet in size or nearly 15 acres.
The Louvre is divided into eight departments: 1. Near Eastern Antiquities, 2. Egyptian Antiquities, 3. Greek, Etruscan and Roman Antiquities, 4. Islamic Art, 5. Sculptures, 6. Decorative Arts, 7. Paintings, 8. Prints and Drawings.
The painting department has about 7,500 paintings - of which 66% are by French artists.
The Louvre has over 380,000 pieces in total in its collection, but not all are on display which is probably a good thing because it's been calculated that for a person to see all of its pieces of art it would take 100 days - and that's allowing only 30 seconds to admire each piece!
The Louvre did not start out as a museum. It was originally a fortress that was built in 1190.
In the 16th century it was turned into a royal palace.
Under Napoleon's reign the museum was renamed the Musee Napoleon and he expanded the collection before more than 5000 works were returned to their original owners after he was defeated.
During WWII the Nazis used the Louvre as a storeroom for stolen art.
The gallery walls and ceilings are as impressive as the works of art they hold.
The Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci is the most valuable painting in the Louvre if not the world. The Louvre no longer bothers to insure the painting because no one can provide an accurate sum. It truly is priceless.
If you're unsure where to find her, just look for the most crowded room! She commands centre stage.
Who needs insurance when the Mona Lisa is protected by bullet proof glass and has her own bodyguards by her side?
I'd read the painting was small, but was surprised that it was larger than I'd expected. (Its dimensions are 21 X 30 inches or 53 X 77 cm.) Getting up close and personal took a little patience and perseverance, but eventually I inched my way to the front. There, I snapped her photograph, paused to admire the lady and her incredible smile for a few seconds, before abandoning the space I'd fought to secure to her next admirer. Speaking of admirers, when Napoleon was in power he removed Mona Lisa from the Louvre and hung her in his bedroom!
Other famous pieces of art we saw and admired include:
|Winged Victory, 190 BC|
|Portrait of Sigismondo Pandolfo Malastesta by Piero della Francesca, 1450-51|
|Portrait of an Old Man and his Grandson by Domenico Ghirlandaio, c.1490|
|Virgin of the Rocks by Leonardo da Vinci, 1483-1486|
|Virgin and Child with the Infant St. John the Baptist by Raphael, 1507|
|Madonna of Victory by Andrea Mantegna, 1496|
|Detail of Madonna of Victory|
|Venus and the Three Graces Presenting Gifts to a Young Woman by Botticelli, 1483-1485|
|The Astronomer by Johannes Vermeer, 1668|
|The Lace Maker by Johannes Vermeer, c.1669-1670|
|Self-Portrait With a Cap and Gold Chain by Rembrandt van Ryn, 1633|
|Jester With a Lute by Frans Hals, c. 1623-1624|
|The Gypsy Girl by Frans Hals, 1626|
|Portrait of Anne Cleves by Hans Holbein the Younger, 1539|
|Portrait of Madame Recamier by Jacques-Louis David, 1800|
|Grande Odalisque by Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres, 1814|
I recognized this next artist, but the subject matter was unknown to me. Hung in a small alcove off the main gallery this is the only work by Pieter Bruegel the Elder in the Louvre.
The story accompanying this painting is interesting. Notice the fox tails that adorn the tunics of the beggars. It is thought they were a sign of opposition to Catholic rule in the Netherlands and in fact during the (successful) Dutch Revolt (1568-1648) Protestants adopted foxtails as a sign of their revolt.
|The Cripples by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, 1568|
This next gallery wall made me smile. Has the painting been stolen? Removed for restoration? What's the story? For what it's worth, I was secretly hoping to stumble upon Pierce Brosnan filming a sequel to the "Thomas Crown Affair"!
The glass pyramid was built in 1989 and is a 21 high metre structure made entirely out of glass and metal. But it is one of four pyramids. The three other smaller ones surround it in the courtyard called Cour Napoleon.
In all we spent five hours in the Louvre and barely scratched the surface. We knew that from the onset and so our hope is to return to Paris and devote multiple visits to the museum to do both this incredible building and its amazing collection justice.
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