The Great Museums of Paris The Louvre, May, 2017
This summer Lyn and I decided to go to Paris. For Lyn this was a chance to go back to her old home in Maisons-Laffitte near Paris where she lived during her high school years. For me, the last time I was in Paris was as a young art student traveling through Europe in search of the great masters of painting. I wanted to see those paintings that I had studied in Art History class, and so together we went back in time 40 years to rediscover Paris and Lyn’s child hood.
When I was 20 years old and visiting the Louvre, I wasn’t that mature or self directed, and so there was a lot to see forty years later. The sketch at the top of this post is from my sketch book in 1978. If you compare this view with the same view today, you will see that I drew this a few years before the glass pyramid entrance way was to be built.
Now there are great line ups outside of the glass pyramid entrance to get into the Louvre. The Louvre is the world’s largest museum with over 35,000 objects on display. It really doesn’t matter what day you go to the Louvre to visit, it is always busy except for the evenings. The average daily attendance is about 15,000 visitors per day.
Over our two weeks in Paris we went to the Louvre three times just to break it up a bit. As much as I love art I could only handle three or four hours at a time. When you combine this with speaking french, walking the streets of Paris and all the other stimulus it made for big days.
For me I found that seeing the Louvre in sections allowed me to really savor and think about the artists represented there. It allowed me to put some context around the art movements and where they fit into the bigger history of Paris, Europe and the world. Many people go to the Louvre with just a couple of hours available and so they rush around looking for the big three attractions; The Mona Lisa, The Winged Victory of Samothrace and Venus De Milo. With that done, they are off to see other things.
The history of The Louvre goes back to the late 12th century and is a big part of the history of Paris and is worth reading about if you plan to visit. My favorite little nugget of history about the Louvre was regarding the Nazi occupation of Paris, France in May 1940. In the fall of 1939 the French decided to hide all the great art works from the Louvre. They were secretly dispersed to various locations around France and remained hidden until the liberation of France in 1945.
My favorite moment of discovery at the Louvre was around seeing the Mona Lisa, arguably the most famous painting in the world due in large part to the fact that she was stolen in 1911. After patiently working my way forward in a large room with about 300 people that were all determined to take selfies with Lisa del Giocondo (Mona Lisa), I took a blurred picture of her and left the room. In the hallway in front of me was another masterpiece by Leonardo Da Vinci called The Virgin and Child with Saint Anne painted a few years earlier than the Mona Lisa. Nobody was looking at this incredible painting. Maybe it is just me, but I thought to myself that the figure of Saint Anne looks exactly like Lisa del Giocondo (considered to be the model for the Mona Lisa).