Unquestionably the most famous name in the world of art museums, The Louvre largely deserves its renown. Enormous and filled with irreplaceable treasures from around the world, this premier series of exhibits offers something for everyone.
The building itself is something of an historical and art adventure. The construction of the original structures began as long ago as the 13th century, though the present museum has its origins in efforts of three hundred years later. The existing Château du Louvre, which forms a large portion of the floor space, was begun in 1546.
The subject of sporadic expansion efforts for the next three hundred years, the only major alteration in recent times was the addition of a grotesquely inappropriate glass pyramid completed in 1989. The Crystal Pyramid forms the current entrance.
The change had one advantage in opening up the museum to large numbers of visitors more comfortably. Through the entrance and down an escalator the visitor enters a world of 6,000 years of every style and type of art known to man.
Within the museum walls are Egyptian sarcophagi, Persian and Greek artifacts, medieval and Renaissance paintings, 19th century classical and Romantic sculptures and a smattering of the latest forms. Some estimates run as high as 100,000 pieces, but in truth no one could know with certainty.
The museum itself is an eclectic collection of styles, the consequence of its many additions and changes over the centuries. Much too large to see in one day, the visitor is well-advised to pick a few favorite periods or countries and focus on them. Naturally, the best strategy is to opt for several visits but that may not be practical for most.
There are the pieces known even to those with little interest in art – the da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, the marble Winged Victory (Nike) of Samothrace, the armless Venus de Milo. But there are works well-known to those with at least a passing acquaintance with painting – Delacroix’s Liberty Guiding the People, Vermeer’s Geographer or Lacemaker, Ingres’ The Bather, David’s Marat Mort.
Along with the more recognizable pieces there are literally thousands on display known only to experts or the most regular visitors. Most of the collection is in storage at any given time. Many of the walls are covered from floor to very high ceiling with paintings ranging from miniatures to 10m by 3m (33 feet by 10 ft) canvases.
And there are a lot of those walls. The floor space covers several thousand square meters and there are a dozen different major buildings including the Château and the Tulieres that have been joined by passageways over the centuries. The various parts are also on several different levels, many connected only by steps. Be prepared for an extensive walk.
Fortunately, there are benches scattered about and the steps in many places are lightly used, providing several places to rest. To take a breather and enjoy a sandwich before continuing, the exterior too provides several places to sit. Here you can enjoy the passing parade of people or the stationary Jardins des Tuileries. (Jardins is French for garden)
Lines can be long for tickets. Best to buy a ticket in advance or purchase one of the many available multiple-tourist-site passes. The museum is easy to reach via the metro (subway). Exit at the Palais Royal or Louvre Rivoli stations.