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Monday, October 1, 2012

[Four Representative Architectures in Paris Part III] Musee de Louvre or simply Louvre

I think I should confess that I did not want to visit Louvre with a six-year-old kid who did not appreciate the art (yet).
The other day, my six-year-old baby had said that there was nothing(!!) but paintings at a museum.
(What do you want to see at a museum, son?)
As you might sense here, Pablo is not even close to a patient kid.
On the contrary, his 8-year-old brother, i.e. my older son, loves museum and châteaux.

Ever since that I read a book about Leonardo Da Vinci to kids for bedtime stories early this year,
Remi and Pablo wanted to see Mona Lisa in person.
(OMG, I regretted for five seconds, why did I read that book!)
Confession: I had never dreamed of strolling the grand galleries of Louvre with a six-year-old who didn't like museum at all. Immediately I started to have a headache. That is nothing to do with the dearest Louvre. It is a fantastic museum we all know.
It is "the" most visited museum on the globe, and of course, there are 101 reasons why nearly 8.9 million people visit the Louvre every year.
(Referece: The Art Newspaper)
One of the reasons must be that nearly 35,000 works of art from the ancient world to the 19th century are exhibited in the Louvre palace(Le Palais du Louvre in French) of over 800 years old, which had been used as a royal palace until Louis XIV moved to Versailles palace. The museum opened in 1793, 4 years after the French revolution.
(Source: PlanetWare)
Think about 35,000 objects spread out in the space of 652,300 square feet.
The Louvre is composed of three wings, Sully (east side), Denon (south side), and Richelieu (north side)
There is no way to see all of them in one single day.
You have to allocate at least a full week to give a hurried glance to each of 35,000 art works, only if you are super determined.
Otherwise, you have to prioritize the specialty of the Louvre over so many other things, to save your day and the soul and temper of a six-year-old.
I've traveled France more than a dozen times and I have kept my creed through.
I don't try to cover everything at once. I rather keep a hope to come back to a same city, to see the rest. If I cannot see everything in two visits, I hope for a third chance. It always worked so far. (There are so many great places in France and that is why I will go back to the beautiful country again and again.)

So, I consulted Rick Steves' Paris Guide book, to choose the masterpieces to see in the shortest cut. :)
"A trip to the Louvre with a six-year-old"
would be the theme of this posting. ;)
You may be wondering why the theme was not "a trip with an eight-year-old."
Remi enjoys visiting museums and he can spend hours there. I am not sure if all the eight-year-old kids like museums. I don't think my younger son will like a museum very much in two years.
So, this is basically a "survival diary" at one of the most gigantic museums filled with a massive amount of historic artworks of nearly 4000 years, from 2000 B.C. to 1850s.
Believe me, we skipped many many galleries.
But still, we stayed inside the museum for four and half hours, well including a half-hour lunch.
Okay. Let's start.
Even though there were a few other entrances to enter the museum,
we took the slowest entrance, i.e. Pyramid.
This is the most grand way to enter the Louvre. Don't you agree?
Don't worry. The line still moves at fair speed and you will be at the ticket office.
After or before buying the tickets, you'd better pick up a free map in any language of your choice.
Plan your progression before you start the visit.
On the museum map, the New Louvre north limb, the New Louvre south limb, and the Old Louvre are designated as the "Richelieu Wing", the "Denon Wing" and the "Sully Wing", respectively.
The map of the museum doesn't show you how vast the scale of the exhibits is. Still it is helpful to get a just cursory idea of how much you are to cover in a day.
Well, to make it in a day, you got to make a sharp cut, and go to see only the crème de la crème!
We started at the fameuse Venus de Milo, or
Aphrodite of Milos, in the Denon wing.
Venus of Milo, a.k.a. goddess of love and beauty, is an ancient Greek marble sculpture which was created sometime between 130 and 100 BC.
Standing tall at 6'8", it seemed like a little giantess. My kids kept asking where her arms were. :(
Well, I wish I knew. But, they were already missing when the statue was discovered in the ruins of Milos in1820.
However, it is widely believed that the right arm of the statue was lowered across the torso with the right hand resting on her raised leg and the left arm was held out below the eye level of the statue, above a herm and held an apple.
The goddess was beautiful. I appreciated her more this time.
When I first saw her when I was 18, I thought she was overly full.
Well, she didn't get any smaller. :) I read somewhere that her size was 14. She still is beautiful!

Now move on to the Winged Victory of Samothrace.
It is also called Nike of Samothrace. Let's say it's a Hellenistic version of Venus.
It is believed to be created around 190 B.C.
In April 1863, the Victory was discovered by the French archaeologist Charles Champoiseau on the island of Samothrace(Greek: Samothraki). Champoiseau had it shipped to Paris in the same year. (Why didn't Greek government claim its ownership, I wonder)
The statue is considered one of the great surviving masterpieces of sculpture from the entire GrecoRoman era, in spite of its damage.
Being one of the Louvre's greatest treasures, it has been displayed at the head of the Daru staircase so that it can be admired by every single visitor of the museum.
We encountered many famous figures at the gallery of statues:
There was a historical figure I could immediately recognized was the Emperor Augustus
(September 23, 63 BC – August 19, 14 AD)

By this time,
my not-so-cooperative 6-year-old started complaining that there are too many marble statues.
(Son, it cannot hardly be a reason to complain about!)
Psyche Revived by Cupid's Kiss by Antonio Canova
sculptured 1787-1793
What a romantic scene it is!
It is a representative sculpture of the Neoclassicism which started in 18th century and continued into the early 19th century.
We kept moving.
On the way to the Grand Gallery, there were two Frescoes of Botticelli, so well preserved.
Frescoed walls give you an unfamiliar impression of the painting. They were beautiful, though.
Botticelli is a great Renaissance painter I admire.
For some reason, I can't find the photos I took ;(
Pablo was not much impressed, as expected.

Our main focus was on the Grand Gallery where you can find most masterpieces.
This was the only gallery my not-so-cooperative 6-year-old liked.
Still, I was (pleasantly) suprised that he actually appreciated something in the Louvre.
Usually, what he likes most at a monument is a gift shop :(
La vierge aux Rochers(The Virgin of the Rocks) of Leonardo Da Vinci
painted 1483-1486
Saint Jean Baptiste(John the Baptist) of Leonardo Da Vinci
painted 1513-1516
Then we were finally entering the room, Salle des États, where Mona Lisa was permanently displayed.

This modest sized oil painting was the reason of our visit!

The painting is thought to be a portrait of Lisa Gherardini, the wife of Francesco del Giocondo, and is believed to have been painted between 1503 and 1506.
It was acquired by King François I of France and is now the property of the French Republic.
According to the Independant UK, Mona Lisa is "the best known, the most visited, the most written about, the most sung about, the most parodied work of art in the world."
It is displayed in a purpose-built, climate-controlled enclosure behind bulletproof glass.
About 6 million people view the painting at the Louvre each year! And that is why there is a constant/permanent crowd in front of the painting!
First, it is so hard to have a good look from behind.
I forced my waythrough, to the very front of the crowd before I held Pablo to show him the painting he had longed to see.
Remi squeezed through the crowd and positioned himself well to admire the portrait of La Gioconda(English: Mona Lisa).
I was not that impressed 20 years ago when I had visited the Louvre for the first time. The painting was much smaller than I expected and the bullet-proof glass was reflecting the light.
It was better this time, even though the painting didn't get any bigger. :)
We took time to praise the painting for the worth of the visit, before we moved on to
The Coronation of Napoleon I by Jacques-Louis David
painted 1805-1807
The scale of the painting is humongous.
The dimensions of the painting are 6.21 m × 9.79 m (20 ft 4 in × 32 ft 1 in)
There are names matching to the personages in the painting so that you can see who were present at the coronation.
I am a layman in beaux-arts or fine art.
But, as a history lover,
I knew the details of Napoleon I's reign and all the background.
Here I'm not talking about the art. I explained the reign and fall of Napoleon I. It was easier to remind them of Napoleon I, since they saw his resting place, les Invalides, the day before.

Empress Josephine, the first wife of Napoleon I.
by Pierre Paul Prudhon
La Liberté guidant le peuple (Liberty Leading the People ) commemorating the July Revolution of 1830. Yes, there were many other revolutions than the French Revolution of 1789.
This would be the most famous painting by Eugene DeLacroix
I was happy to see it again in person, but Mr. D who saw it for the first time was, kind of, disappointed. He must have expected something grander I guess.
It actually was grand! Every free man has different impression and feeling, though.
Then, we moved to see the beautiful apartements of Napoleon III.
The apartment has a dignity of an emperor, and the decoration was ultimately spectacular.
What an opulent interior it was.
The ceiling features Charles-Raphaël Maréchal's painting of The Reuniting of the Louvre and the Tuileries by Napoleon III.
The dining room is also deocrated by 18th century Rococo style.
The painted ceiling of a luminous sky traversed by exotic birds is by Eugène Appert.
Apparently, the 6-year-old was awed by the decorative scale of the apartment. I knew it only because he did not complain once in the Napoleon III's apartment. :D
As the Louvre was the main royal residence since 13th century, it has been renovated frequently through Renaissance until Louis XIV, the sun king, moved the royal residence to Versailles palace in 1678.
Louvre was originally built in the 12th century by king Philip II Augustus to defend the banks of the Seine river against invaders from the north. The original fortress are now part of the Medieval Louvre exhibit in the Sully wing of the museum. The photos of the Medieval part of the Louvre will follow the photos of the Napoleon III's apartment.
The throne of Napoleon I, built for the throne room of the Tuileries-Palace for the coronation on December 2, 1804.
A closer look of the Throne.
This time, I discovered or rediscovered more precisely, the beauty of the Louvre palace itself rather than the contents of the museum.
Don't get me wrong. The content has always been rich and replete with astonishing exhibits. But this time, I looked on sky high ceilings and vast wall in open-eyed wonder.
Then our next and last stop was be at Egyptian Antiquities.
We had to go through the part of the Medieval Louvre" in the basement level, to get to the Egyptian Antiquities exhibits.
It's great that the foundation was discovered by the archeolgists and is now viewable, even though the fortress structure was razed in 1546 by King Francis I, to build a larger royal residence.
Ironically, the structure remains looked unbreakably robust.
By this time, it has been already over 3 hours in the museum and the little monster was not only bored, but tired as well :(
Still, he was eager to go to Egyptian Antiquities exhibition since he was expecting to see a mummy. :(
Unfortunately (or Fortunately), there was no mummy!
Can you imagine how much my kids were disappointed?
Nevertheless, the collection was vast!
The collection comprises over 50,000 pieces dated from the Nile civilizations(4,000 B.C.) to the 4th century.
The department of the Egyptian Antiquities was guarded by
the Large Sphinx circa 2000 B.C.
The colossal statue of Ramses II
Ramses II(c. 1303 BC – 1213 BC) must be the most famous Egyptian King, except Cleopatra(Cleopatra VII Philopator)
Statues of Egyptian pharaohs.
The head and feet of Amenophis III (Amenhotep III)
(Reign from June 1386 to 1349 BC)
We had to return the medieval part to come out of the Egyptian exhibitions.
Before we finally wound up our adventurous visit,
we went to see La Pyramide Inversée (The Inverted Pyramid).
If you saw the Da Vinci Code,
you must remember the last scene of the movie.
In the book and the movie, The Inverted Pyramid is perceived as a Chalice, a feminine symbol, whereas the stone pyramid below is interpreted as a Blade, a masculine symbol.
Kids wanted to touch the vertex when they saw people touching it.
Remi touched the point easily,
while his brother needed a help.
It was a lengthy visit for a 6-year-old kid who is not a big fan of museums.
Possibly or rather probably he would not remember much from the Louvre, but he will always remember Mona Lisa and the fact that he saw it in person.
I am sure that my 8-year-old enjoyed the visit and will have a clear memory of it for a long time.

You can see more posts about my trip to France if you click the links below:

1) [Auberge Ravoux] Van Gogh's last residence in Auvers-sur-Oise
2) [Basilique Saint-Denis] French Royal Necropolis - The burial place of the French Kings
3) [2012 Maffliers] Kids grow fast... and we age faster...?
4) [Chateau de Chantilly] Le musée Condé - The generosity of a royal prince
5) [Balade gourmande] Brittany by sail: Unforgettable day on a traditional boat in Cancale
6) [Must eat foods in France] You must try these ten inexpensive food in France
7) [Four Representative Architectures in Paris] The most visited edifices in Europe - Part I
8) [Four Representative Architectures in Paris] Notre Dame de Paris - Part II

The Louvre


  1. This museum looks really wonderful and those sculptures are beautiful!! :)
    I have been in Paris once before but I haven't had a chance to visit there.
    Your family must have had good time there, especially you can speak French as well.

    As you recommended, I and my husband visited all places except for guard change.
    We really liked Ottawa, was very scenic and peaceful. My husband has been there several times so far, this was the best trip to Ottawa he said.
    After Ottawa we've been to Montreal and Quebec, it was great, too.
    Thanks again for your recommendation Colleen, have a nice day!

    1. Hi Chae-young,
      the Louvre is "THE" museum, for sure. You should defintely get a chance to visit it! We had a great time in France. My older son speaks some French too :)
      I'm sure you can still have a wonderful time there without speaking the languague.

      I'm glad you enjoyed Ottawa and my recommendations. It's a nice city, but a bit small to be a capital though.

      Thanks for the comment. Have a nice day!

  2. I love every posting about the vacation you had in France, but this is by far my favorite! Reading it made me reminisce about my trip in july:)

    Visiting Louvre definately was one of the highlights of my trip, even after visiting numerous museums&gallaries in London and Paris. Only problem was that it was just too big.. My friend and I simply didn't know where to begin! So we started with the Mona Lisa, hoping to take a glance of the famous lady before it gets too crowded, which was a pretty good choice, looking back. But my favorite was Grande Odalisque by Ingres. Although it is said the anatomy of the woman in the painting is distorted, but it was so beautiful that I spent almost 20 minutes on the single painting. On 'La Liberté guidant le peuple', I'm surprised/glad(?) to know that I wasn't the only one who were disappointed! It surely was a big painting, but I was expecting it to be more dramatic.. probably because the edited picture of the painting had more constrast when I saw it in books.

    I, too, stayed in the museum for 4.5 hours but had to leave since both my friend and I were feeling seriously hypoglycemic... We did consider having snack at the cafe and coming back to see some more, but we were too tired and the gift shop was hard to resist.. haha. Well, as a result we missed the whole scupture gallery, the apartments and many more, but I'll see them when I revisit the museum.

    I see Pablo and Remi are much like me and my sister, since I wasn't a kid who appreciated art while my sister adored old paintings and artifacts. But even then, I don't think I ever spent more than 3 hours in a museum, so in my opinion Pablo is a patient kid too:) Not many 6 year olds, even 10 year olds can stay in the museum for more than 4 hours, not to mention appreciating art!

    Thanks for another wonderful posting, how you keep such long and detailed postings simply amazes me. I too have a blog, but it takes so much time and energy writing a posting with many pictures and mine is not even close to this!

    Have a nice weekend:)

    1. Hi Julia,
      the Louvre doesn't only awe me, but it also scares me by its scale and extensive collection. It also worries me the well-being of the historic masterpieces.

      Actually, Pablo behaved much better than expected. But, it still was a challenge for us. We did it! even thought the only thing he remembers from the Louvre, for now, is the Mona Lisa. :(

      As I said in my postings, this is my open diary where I can share my recipes & stories with you and record the details for my kids and their kids. The Louvre was a hard one. The write-up took more than a couple of days.

      Thanks for reading.
      Have a nice day.