A VISIT TO THE LOUVRE, PARIS - AMAZING TRIP!
My husband Ged won a trip to visit Paris after submitting a bid at the annual 'Hopes & Dreams' event held at the York Racecourse to support Macmillan cancer; the Louvre was at the top of my list of places to visit. The building alone is incredibly beautiful and has evolved from so many different uses over the years, initially built as a medieval fortress in the late 12th to 13th century, this magnificent structure was later converted into a palace and in 1546 King Philip II began collecting art for this stunning royal residence.
The Great Glass Pyramid Inside and Outside of The Louvre
As the iconic and world famous glass pyramid is arguably the most recognisable aspect of the building due to its exposure in films and in the media, I honestly didn't know what to expect, I had an open mind as I didn't want to spoil the surprise/s by reading all about it beforehand. Some people feel the need to research everything before they visit a place but I prefer to learn as I go along, soaking up the atmosphere rather than having a strict itinerary. The problem with my approach, however, is that it's possible to miss things but I knew that I would love it so much that I would like to return someday to re-visit the things that I enjoyed and discover the other stuff that I missed this year.
Like me, Ged also has an interest in art and was pleased to visit the Louvre too, although after the 6 hours of walking around the museum he had more than enough and was ready to leave, as was I, as our legs ached from all of the walking and standing! We had a good time slot booked for around 10am so the queues to get in weren't too busy although the same could not be said for the main attraction and we had a good 10 minute wait to get anywhere close to the famous Mona Lisa by Leonardo Da Vinci. As we shuffled ever closer to the great painting, I began to feel a little overcome and felt quite tearful, now I know how Elvis fans must have felt when they saw him in the flesh (although I didn't feel the need to wail or pass out thank goodness).
Visitors queueing up to see the Mona Lisa inside the Louvre
The Mona Lisa understandably stands quite far away from the visitors and has guards keeping her safe from cake throwers and other lunatics who are currently on a mission to de-face some of the world's most precious art. You can see from the above photograph that a curved wooden barrier surrounds the iconic painting which is further protected by a protruding ledge and security guards. The painting itself is quite small but can be seen clearly.
Photo of Mona Lisa painting inside the Louvre (apologies for the poor quality but it was taken from quite a distance with a phone camera)
Ged questioned why this artwork is regarded as more special than others when there are so many other works that are equally if not more impressive? There are many answers, however, the most consistent being that it is widely regarded as an archetypal masterpiece of the Italian Renaissance. Leonardo's exceptional ability to interpret a portrait so realistically with the most beautiful atmospheric illusions is what makes him the most famous artist in the world. The fame of this painting has also been attributed to the stories that it has generated over the years including a theft that took place in 1911 and its subsequent recovery three years later. In December 1962 Jackie Kennedy arranged for this most famous of paintings to be shipped to America, it was initially hung on display at the National Gallery before being transferred to The Metropolitan Museum of Modern art in New York.
I was surprised to see many visitors taking photographs of these great masterpieces as many art museums don't allow it for various reasons. There are thousands of artworks in this place so it would have taken years to record them all; it made sense to just photograph the pictures that evoked some kind of personal reaction, which we both did. So, here are just a few of the paintings that grabbed our attention and a brief explanation why they prompted us to pause and take photos:
Galerie D' Apollon: entrance (left) and ceiling (centre)
Jaques Louis David - The Coronation of Napoleon
Gabrielle d'Estrees and One of Her Sisters - School of Fantainebleau (top)
Domenico d Tomaso Bigordi (Ghirlandaio) - Old Man and a Child (centre left)
Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingress - The Valpincon Bather (centre right)
Antonis Mor - Cardinal Gravelle's Dwarf holding a Large Dog (bottom left)
Paris Bordone - Flora (bottom right)
Hieronymus Bosh - The Ship of Fools
Bernardino Luni - Salome Receiving the Head of St John the Baptist (left)
Andrea Solario - The Head of St John the Baptist on a Charger (right)
Leonardo da Vinci - The Virgin and Child (top left)
Leonardo da Vinci - Portrait of a Young Woman (top right)
Leonardo da Vinci - Bacchus (St John the Baptist) - (bottom left)
Leonarado da Vinci - Saint John the Baptist (bottom right)
Andrea Mantegna - La Vierge de la Victoire
Piero di Lorenzo dit Piero di Cosimo - The Virgin and Child with a Dove (top left)
Domenikos Theotokopoulos - Christ on the Cross Adored by Two Donors (top right)
Hans Memling - The Virgin and Child between St James and St Dominic or The Virgin of Jaques Floreins (bottom left)
Domenico di Tomaso Bigordi (Ghirlandaieo) - The Visitation (with Mary Jacobi and Mary Salome) - (bottom right)
Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn - Portrait of the Artist at his Easel (left)
Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn - Self Portrait with a Cap and Gold Chain (centre)
Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn - Tete Nue (right)
Peter Paul Rubens - Queen Tomyris with the Head of Cyrus (left)
Peter Paul Rubens - Adoration of the Magi (top right)
Peter Paul Rubens - Hercules and Omphale (bottom right)
Raphael - La Belle Jardiniere
Sir Anthony van Dyck - Charles I at the Hunt (left)
Sir Anthony van Dyck - Charles I
Thomas Gainsborough - Conversation in a Park (left)
Thomas Gainsborough - Lady Alston (right)
Jan Fyt - Still Life with Chinese Porcelain
Melchior de Hondecoeter - Aigles Attaquant des Poules
Jan Weenix - Still Life with a Peacock and a Dog or Trophies of the Hunt
A Collection of Still Life Paintings from Holland
Louvre notes: Holland is famous for still-life paintings - representations of inanimate objects. The masterpieces of this genre constitute a lesson in good taste: a sense of equilibrium, a subtle balancing act between instability and graceful fragility, abundance that never crosses over into clutter, the harmony of flowers, etc. This room displays all the wide and wonderful diversity of still-life compositions from the 17th century, known as the Golden Age of Dutch painting.
Louvre Notes: This work is the first animal portrait in Western painting. In typical Mannerist style, the composition is tightly framed. The two highly detailed animals, depicted in a natural setting may have been the artist's won hunting dogs, which are often featured in his own religious paintings. Oil on canvas, 1548.
Some of the paintings were absolutely huge (me far left...just to clarify I'm 5'2" tall and not a 'Borrower'). This is the only photo that I couldn't identify the names of the artist or title of the painting when we returned home so if you do know, please leave a comment below and put me out of my misery. Thank you.
The largest painting in the Louvre at 10 metres wide!
Goya - Portrait de Luis Maria de Cistue y Martinez
Of all the paintings that we have seen, I love this one the most, the expression of innocence on his illuminated face is absolutely gorgeous and it reminds me of my children when they were young. The simplicity of this painting encourages the viewer to hone in on the little boy's bright blue eyes and rosey red cheeks which is so endearing. The 'cuteness overload factor' is further enhanced by the sweet little dog sitting so obediently with the child, something that I can relate to having lived with dogs throughout most of my life.
As you can see, there are so many beautiful paintings, it's quite overwhelming to see them all for the first time, but the one thing that really impressed me above all else, was the technical skills of these incredible artists. To be able to view these paintings so closely, its absolutely mind-blowing to think that human-beings are capable of such magnificent artistry and this is such an inspiration to me and all others who visit the artworks hanging at the incredible Louvre.
What's your favourite? I'd really love to know what you think.
Like you, I'm learning all of the time, and there is so much that we can gain from looking back into the works and minds of our incredible artistic ancestors. In time, I hope to look a little deeper into some of these magnificent artists in terms of their lives, their influences and the thinking behind their masterpieces. In the meantime, it was a fantastic experience to just dip into the most famous art in the world albeit for one day. Thank you so much for sharing this journey with us.