Visiting the Louvre
MANILA, Philippines - Lots of girls (and boys) dream of going to Paris, a city well known for its romantic scenery and art. And when you say art and Paris, one place immediately comes to mind: The Louvre.
This vast museum which receives almost 8 million visitors per year was a fortress turned royal palace and was France's actual seat of power until Louis XIV moved to Versailles.
Remnants of the fortress which was built during the 12th century can still be seen inside at the Lower Ground Levels.
From being a fortress, the Louvre was remodeled and altered through the ages as a monarch residence, a private gallery, and by the French Revolution — as a museum.
It was first opened on August 10, 1793.
Planning your visit
When visiting the Louvre, I suggest you get your tickets beforehand as lines to get inside and at ticket counters can be very long.
There are a number of ways but the easiest would be buying them online at the museum's website, or getting them at Fnac stores (which is what we did as buying them online would still entail picking them up either at Fnac or other accredited stores like Carrefour).
If you plan on going museum hopping (other museums in Paris are also worth a visit such as the Musee d'Orsay), there is also the Paris Museum Pass. It gives you access to about 60 museums and monuments in and around the city. A two-day pass will cost you 39 euros, 59 euros for 4 days, and 69 euros for 6.
The Louvre is huge. And most art pros would say that you'd need about 3 days to see each one in the nearly 35,000-piece collection properly.
So before going, I suggest you list down the pieces you want to see. It will save you a lot of time since most of the key pieces are strategically placed in very-far-from-each-other areas of the 3 wings: Richelieu, Denon, and Sully.
What to see
You can't properly appreciate 35,000 pieces of art in a day. Believe me, I tried and it will physically exhaust you. So here are my must-see pieces from the Louvre.
Aphrodite/Venus de Milo by Praxiteles/Alexandros of Antioch
(Ground floor, almost at the corner of Denon and Sully, from the Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities Collection)
She's stunning. She can leave you standing there transfixed by her beauty and the tragedy of her missing arms. Her mutilation also adds mystery since they were never found, yet art historians are pretty positive that she really had both arms when she was made.
Some would even go as far as saying that one of them held an apple and the other one was positioned in such a way that she was holding the cloth draped over her lower body.
The Code of Hammurabi
(Ground Floor, Richelieu Wing, Near Eastern Antiquities Collection)
Seeing this gave me the creeps, the good kind. This right here is the oldest set of laws known to man, one of the oldest deciphered ancient writings, and it's where one of my favorite lines in history was first mentioned: "An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth."
The Colossal Statue of Ramesses II
(Ground floor, Sully Wing, Egyptian Antiquities Collection)
A sculpture fit for a king. Ramesses II is also known as Ramesses the great. He was prince regent at the age of 14 and assumed the throne in his late teens. The early years of his reign were spent on building cities, temples, and monuments.
I especially wanted to see his statue after reading about his mummy a few years back. During the '70s, Egyptologists noticed that the mummy of Ramesses II was not in a good state and they had to fly him to Paris for examination and treatment.
Before being allowed to leave Egypt, the mummy was issued a passport. His occupation was listed as "King — deceased." On arriving in Paris, he was given full military honors just like any other monarch.
St. Mary Magdalene by Gregor Erhart
(Lower Ground Floor, Room C - Sculptures)
This sculpture is made from limetree wood and I love how Erhart's carvings highlight her grace. They say that she was originally carved with angel figures but they were later on removed after she was taken down from the church where she hung in Augsburg, Germany.
Without the angels, it's much more obvious that Magdalene exudes sensuality and elegance (see how her legs and her hands are positioned). And her hair — it's just plain magnificent. Its dark/mid-golden brown hue also complements her skin's nude tones, giving her a life-like glow.
Psyche Revived by Cupid's Kiss by Antonio Canova
Richeliu Wing, Ground Floor, Sculptures (Room 4)
Mythological lovers Cupid and Psyche come alive with Canova's sculpture, with its fluid curves and intricate detail.
Winged Victory of Samothrace
(Department of Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities: Daru Staircase, 1st Floor)
Nike, not the shoe brand, is the goddess of victory. And in the Daru staircase of the Louvre stands an enormous statue of her which can actually make you feel like a dwarf.
The statue was unearthed in the island of Samothrace in 1863 and is believed to have been made as early as 190 BC. It is believed that this statue is an offering made by the people of Rhodes in commemoration of a naval victory in the early second century BC.
The Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci
(Paintings, Room 6, Denon Wing)
Arguably the Louvre's most popular piece, the Mona Lisa (1503-1517) wasn't so popular back then. Her claim to fame (aside from her enigmatic smile) was when she was stolen on August 21, 1911, by Vicencio Peruggia, an Italian who entered the building during regular hours then hid in a broom closet and walked out with the painting hidden under his coat when the museum closed.
Peruggia believed that since Leonardo is Italian, his painting should be returned to Italy for display in an Italian museum. It took authorities two years to recover the painting.
The Coronation of Napoleon by Jacques Louis-David (1806-1807)
(Denon Wing, First Floor, Paintings, Room 75)
Not only is this painting grand but it also aimed to rewrite history. Napoleon commissioned Jacques Louis-David to paint the ceremony but in the end, so many things were noticeably untrue.
David originally planned to paint Napoleon crowning himself but ended up painting him crowning his wife Josephine who appeared to be a young and beautiful woman in the painting when, in fact, she was supposed to be rather old by the time of this event.
Napoleon's mother Maria Letizia Ramolino, who did not attend the ceremony due to her displeasure with Napoleon's squabble with his siblings, can be seen near the Pope.
The Napoleon III Apartments
(Decorative Arts, Room 83, 1st Floor, Richelieu Wing)
The first President of the French Republic knew how to live in style. Rather understandable as it was Napoleon III who was responsible for the rebuilding of Paris — much of the beautiful architecture you can still see in the streets of the French capital. But as for the interiors, you would have to drop by the Louvre for it.
La Pyramide Inversée (The Inverted Pyramid)
(Carrousel du Louvre shopping mall)
If you're a fan of Robert Langdon and the Da Vinci Code, this is a must-see.
After you see these things and still have energy, I definitely recommend you check out the paintings by Dutch masters such as Jan Vermeer.
If you're familiar with his work, it would be great for you to see "The Lacemaker." It's the smallest (24.5 cm x 21cm) of his paintings and if you look at it closely, you'll see the great brushwork and skill behind it.
For the love of God, get a map from the information counter. It's 60,600 square meters of hallways, staircases, and corners.
True, going on an aimless wander around the museum is fun. I even recommend it after seeing the key pieces because the things you might discover in some corners can really surprise you.
However, it's not fun anymore when you are in dire need to go to the ladies' room and you don't know which corner you should turn to. Or worse, if you want to go and leave already because your feet hurt and you can't find the nearest exit to the Metro.
The Louvre is closed on Tuesdays so don't even think of planning your trip on that day.
Prioritize. At one point, you will be exhausted and your feet will hurt. It will be such a waste if you didn't see the pieces you were planning on viewing.
Wear comfortable shoes.
Look up. The ceilings in the Louvre are as marvelous as the art pieces.
Peak season for the Louvre is from June until August. Lines are long all year round but those months are the worst. If you can stand the cold, go in the early weeks of January as most visitors shy away from the -3 temperature. - Rappler.com
Image of the Code of Hammurabi from Shutterstock