Louvre

We’ve either walked or driven past the Louvre museum every day that we’ve stayed in Paris, and over that time the anticipation for what we might see has grown. I’d pre-booked tickets for today, with a 9am entry time, so we decided not to have breakfast this morning so we could walk to the Louvre in good time. We joined a relatively short queue at the Pyramid about 20 minutes before opening time. By 9am, the length of the queue had grown considerably.

As soon as we entered the Louvre, Marg and I headed straight up to Floor 1 of the Denon wing in the direction of the Mona Lisa, as we wanted to see it before the crowds built up. We had to move through a few galleries of beautiful Renaissance works without even pausing to look at them in order to get to where we wanted to go, but even then other eager patrons were pushing past us in their haste to see La Gioconda.

We entered a large room and immediately joined a queue. At the far end, the viewing public was being funnelled into a roped-off path way that allowed everyone to stop for a moment to view the world’s most famous painting. Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece was the only work of art in the entire room. As people paused for a moment before the painting, their phones or cameras came up to take a snapshot, or more often a selfie. Museum staff hurried on those who lingered too long. Marg and I found ourselves standing right before the Mona Lisa for just a moment and then it was over as we were moved on quickly and out of the room. I can imagine that later in the day the viewing queue would lengthen and it could be a long wait standing in line for that brief glimpse of the woman with the mysterious smile.

The Italian, French and Spanish galleries were sensational. Gericault’s Raft of the Medusa was there, as was Delacroix’s Liberty Leading the People. Works by Titian, Raphael, Caravaggio and El Greco were also there – the painters I had studied at school. In the English gallery I was pleased to discover a Turner and a Constable.

A sudden rush of bodies came swarming through the museum in the opposite direction to which we were walking. It seems that a few tour groups had arrived. You’re best to get out of their way when they’re in the vicinity because they’re not shy and they’ll often just barge their way through a room to get to what they want to see. I had to laugh when I entered the room where the Venus de Milo was on display. Gathered around her was a swarm of tour group visitors, all thrusting their phones in the air for a photo. I took a photo of them taking photos of her. Please read on after the next set of photos.

In the Richelieu wing, we made our way to the paintings of France and Northern Europe. We were both looking forward to seeing the Dutch painters, especially Rembrandt and Vermeer. Rembrandt didn’t disappoint. There were quite a number of his works, including a couple of superb self portraits. We knew that the Louvre held two Vermeers in its collection, but The Lacemaker’s place on the wall was just an empty space, and a small note underneath indicated that the painting we so much wanted to see was currently on loan to an exhibition in Abu Dhabi. Thankfully we were able to see The Astronomer, which was just magnificent.

The hours were passing and we’d only covered a fraction of what the museum had on display, so we made a choice to skip some sections and move through others quickly. It was the paintings that we’d been most keen to see. Nevertheless, when we came across many sculptures we had little choice but to stop and look, as some of them literally took our breath away. We really liked the large tapestries and embroideries galleries, which housed exquisite textile works from as much as 600 years ago. More text follows the next set of photos.

From the Richelieu wing we entered the Sully wing. There were some magnificent artefacts and art works here from Sumerian, Persian and Egyptian civilisations, including a number of very large works which filled entire walls of the galleries. The ancient Egyptian antiquities were my favourites, particularly the painted coffins and the mummified body. If we couldn’t go to Egypt, visiting these galleries in the Louvre was quite a good alternative.

After six hours we figured we’d satisfied our quest to explore (some of) the Louvre. By this stage there were still very long entry queues at the pyramid and inside the building. I don’t think I’d like to be starting my Louvre explorations at 3pm, given how much there is to see. The sun was shining and the skies were blue, and we stopped for a quick snack when we found a man selling crepes alongside the Seine before eventually returning to our hotel.

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