Okay. Deep breath in. Time to talk about the Louvre. It’s taken me days to sort through both the photos and my thoughts to figure out how to tackle this in the post. But writing a post about the Louvre is no different than the Louvre itself – it’s a huge topic that I will never cover fully or do justice. But I’m going to try and share a little of my experience in a hopes to give you a glimpse of what we saw and what we loved (and what we found a little humerous.)
We took the advice of many online forums, and arrived early and underground. The first set of lines into the Louvre are security. We didn’t need to enter above ground through the pyramid (though that is what tourists love to do – hence the huge line!) but instead below ground in the Carrousel du Louvre – a mini-underground mall connected to the metro. We arrived 30 minutes early, already a huge line having formed, and waited to enter. When we made it through security, we skipped the ticket lines (thank you museum pass) and followed the hour long Rick Steves Walking Tour to the museum highlights – before the tourist hordes caught up. This worked well for the first half, but by 10:30 the number of tourists was just insane.
We started by working through the Greek and Roman Sculptures. Ray loved this section, as did I. Venus de Milo is one of the museum highlights and it is easy to see why. It was nice to be able to appreciate this piece without elbowing other tourists or waiting for them to finish having their pictures taken with her. With a large subsection of the tourist crowd, they are spending less time looking at, reading about or enjoying the art, and more time getting their picture taken in front of the art. And not just in front of one piece. In front of EVERY piece. As someone who was trying to appreciate, observe and photograph the art, my patience was quickly wearing thin. Where was I? That’s right – Greeks! I learned a lot about symmetry from Venus. Many things I can take back into my photography in fact. Some things remain true about the symmetry of the human body – even after 2000 years.
Then we wandered through a whole bunch of rooms that had to do with the history of the museum as a palace. Before Louis XIV built Versailles, the building that is now the Louvre was the road palace (minus the pyramids of course). Each wing was slowly added, piece of by piece, by each King leading up to Louis XIV, making it a complete rectangle with a large inner court (the location of the pyramids) until one of the wars where one wing was destroyed – giving it the U-shape it currently has. The royal jewels and many ornate rooms with royal paintings and gold trim fill the museum. We walked through a main staircase past Nike of Samothrace, or Winged Victory (~190 BC). This was one of my FAVOURITE pieces in the whole museum (so much so I went back 3 more times). The first time we stopped to see this piece, the area was relatively empty – that is only 15-20 people there besides us. Fortunately she is pretty high up – making it easy to observe her unobstructed! There is something incredibly graceful, confident and strong about her. I racked my brain to try and imagine what her head and facial expression would be to match the rest of her, but I can’t put anything with it. Her posture is so expressive, anything I could imagine only detracted from what I was seeing. I doubt they will find her head after 2000 years, so I won’t ever have the answer (or need it). The other 2 pieces that I loved here Psyche revived by Cupid’s Kiss and Cupid & Psyche. I didn’t think it was possible for marble to express such emotion. That is what struck me about these 2 pieces – there was SO much emotion there. I could have spent all day there making up my own stories to go with these pieces (and couldn’t really care about the stories that brought them to life in the first place). Still thinking about it. Reminded me of being in elementary school. My favourite book was the Chronicles of Harris Burdick – a book of black and white drawings with a title. The teacher would give us one page (picture and title) and leave us to write a story from there. I wanted to write the story of Cupid and Psyche. Maybe I will one day.
Time to talk about Mona. Ahhhh….Mona. Mysterious Mona. I found myself more impressed than I expected, but I can’t say I had long to think about it. I mean, that is why everyone else was there….for Mona. So I ended up taking more photos and even video of the crowd pushing and shoving to get their picture with Mona. It was so funny to watch that at the end, we stood off to the side and did the same. I can’t say I understand why the Mona Lisa is the painting to end all paintings, but it sure draws in a crowd!
Ray likes Egypt. He argued that the Egyptians invented the nested set (or nested mummy set as he noticed). Also shown, hieroglyphics and of course the tomb or Osiris. Ray was a little (or lot) more riveted with the Egyptian nuances than I was.
Okay – now not everything in the museum is super serious. We ran into a few things that just made us smile and laugh. For example, random mirrors for tourist photos in the grand hall (unsure why), the baby angel (that, for those Doctor Who fans, is rather frightening), the man prepared for battle (did men really battle naked? Seems dangerous. I think if men had to run around with sharp swords and no armour, wars would resolve quickly), the marble statue of a man with a fez (even the Louvre knows fezzes are cool!) and of course lets not forget the painting of laser Jesus (suppose to be Jesus imparting the stigmata….but looks like he is shooting lasers).
And of course, at the end of the day, leaving the museum for good (we did leave for lunch, walk through the Tuileries, go to the Museé de l’Orangerie, and then eventually return to the Louvre) we came across the rainbows that the pyramid makes underground. And who doesn’t love a good rainbow? (Physics teachers LOVE rainbows!)
So there it is. A “quick” Becker guide to the Louvre experience. I wish I could give good advice for avoiding the rushes. If I was going to, I’d say go on a Wednesday, when it’s open until 9:45pm. Enter underground around 3:30-4:00 (when there is no line). Guided tours leave by now, but new night groups don’t start until later, so there is a window where things mellow out. And go in middle of February or some obscure time when things may be (if you’re lucky) less insane. Don’t expect to see it all. Wear good shoes. And be prepared to battle the crowds. It was summer, and it was 35 degrees out. Nothing we could do about it. And in all fairness, the Louvre does have a pretty outstanding collection of beautiful things – and seems everyone else knows about it (though not sure everyone was there to appreciate beautiful things as much as document that they were once in a room with things that other people have called beautiful). Don’t be that person. And don’t be afraid to leave the camera at home (I’ll be working on this one next time).