One of the must-see attractions in Paris is the Musée du Louvre, noted for its huge collection and iconic glass pyramids. Several people recognise the pyramids from the 2006 film ‘The Da Vinci Code’. based on the book by Dan Brown. Apparently, the film company paid the Louvre $2.5million for the privilege of filming in its galleries!
I’m not convinced anyone can see the entire museum collection in one day, but if you organise yourself well you can see the ‘greatest hits’ in no time at all. When my sister came to visit, this is what we had to do. She’s not the greatest fan of museums so I had to put away my wishes for an entire day wandering through the wonders of the past, and head straight for the more well-known exhibits.
The Louvre is the biggest museum in the world. Fact. It houses over 380,000 objects, and regularly displays 35,000 works of art over eight distinct departments ranging from Prehistoric to the 21st century. It was originally built in the 12th century, by Philip II, during which time it was used as a fortress to defend from Viking attacks. Some of the medieval building work is still visible below ground within the museum.
One of my favourite collections is Egyptian Antiquities. Ever since I can remember, I have been fascinated with Ancient Egypt, an interest which grew after visiting Egypt on a family holiday. The Egyptian artefacts held by the Louvre are fabulous, but are not, by far, the most well-known pieces in the collection as a whole.
The jewel in the Louvre’s crown is the most valuable painting in the world. The Mona Lisa, La Gioconda, La Joconde, or whatever you want to call it, is arguably the world’s most famous painting, and by far one of the hardest to get a decent photo of!
Tucked away behind a hoard of sweaty tourists, and a box of bulletproof glass sits Leonardo’s most famous work. In 1962, its insurance value was $100million. In 2015, it was valued at $782million, which is absolutely ridiculous! It’s quite a small painting for what it’s worth. I’ve done a few sums, and I’ve learned that each square centimetre of the Mona Lisa is worth $191,620… Bonkers.
It’s had its fair share of ups and downs over the years. It was stolen on 21st August 1911, which led to the Louvre shutting down for a week in order to investigate. As it turns out, the heist wasn’t particularly showy. Vincenzo Peruggia, an Italian Louvre employee, entered the museum during normal opening hours, hid in a broom closet, and then left during the night with the painting hidden under his coat. It could be said that if he hadn’t stolen this particular Da Vinci work, it wouldn’t be as famous as it is now. Queues apparently formed outside the Louvre, full of visitors who only came to view the empty space left by the theft.
The museum holds so much more history than that contained in its artworks. Although its origins were as a stronghold against the Vikings, in the 14th century, Charles V developed the castle into a royal residence. Later, Francis I completely renovated and reconstructed this residence into a Renaissance palace, beginning work on the southwestern part of the Cour Carrée. It was during this time that Francis I acquired the Mona Lisa, originally housing it in Fontainebleau. Work on the Palais was continued by successive kings after the death of Francis I, but it wasn’t completely finished until the French Revolution.
The Renaissance influences are still very apparent in some of the galleries. The ornate, golden, frescoed halls have the power to transport a person back to the 16th and 17th centuries, but one look outside at the glass pyramids brings you back to the present in a heartbeat.
Given the chance, I would have spent the entire day in this one place. Given the amount of time I was in Paris, I have no excuse to not have done so, but as it was I had a plethora of other places to be! I have managed to see the vast majority of what the Louvre has to offer, and I’m sure I’ll be back at some point to take a look at the latest exhibitions and additions to the collection.