Tuesday, June 12, 2012

A Day at the Louvre

This and other posts are part of the "Paris Tour" party on Anita's blog, "Castles, Crowns and Cottages." The links are at the bottom of her lovely post HERE.) 

Let me begin this post by saying I really love art.
So, when I tell you I really did NOT love the Louvre, you need to know:
It it has nothing to do with the art!
 Our first "visit" to the Louvre was its exterior, with its controversial pyramid against the classic architecture, once a palace for kings and emperors. Originally built in 1190 as a fortress to protect Paris from Viking raids, it was later replaced with a Renaissance-style building that was enlarged over four centuries of kings.
As we walked to our tube stop, we noticed that life never stops at the Louvre. Upkeep of this massive museum is never ending.
We returned the next day, geared up for seeing great art. This is what we first saw.
Lines. Everywhere lines. (We should have taken Rick Steves' advice about going in the evening.) But it's worth it.After passing through security, we did get to enjoy some art -- stunning sculpture was first on the list.
We wandered about, overwhelmed by the beauty of the art, its preservation, the lighting, and the massive scope of things. I won't bore you with every bit we saw that we loved, but there were plenty. And then we discovered this...
Napoleon's apartments.
These are the apartments of Napoleon III ??? They were lavish in every detail.
This was the back wall of the Salon de Petit Dejunner, or Breakfast room.
But it couldn't hold a candle in size to the dining room!
We were both in awe, stopping to really savor all the details.
The tapestry gallery was stunning as well -- oh, how I'd love to have one of those in my house (despite the fact that none of the walls are big enough!)
Although I loved the decorative arts, I really wanted to see the paintings, and the Louvre doesn't disappoint with gallery after gallery of art by the great masters. We saw signs toward the Mona Lisa. When we arrived at the gallery where she was located, this is what we saw!
And, this is about as close as we got -- no point in battling the crowds to see the wee but lovely Leonardo da Vinci piece when there was so much other amazing art around.
 This Leonardo, a quiet portrait, is a fine substitute.
 As was this portrait from Ecole de Leonard da Vinci.Do you think the students had the technique of the master?
 This Ingres I remembered from my art history classes is a great example.
 The famous portrait of Mme. Recamier was always a favorite of mine, too.
 The massive David painting of the coronation of the Empress Josephine was a crowd pleaser and with good reason.
It was beautifully done, with many fine details.
 Students found the galleries a place to study and sketch.
 I wonder if this guy gets nervous when people are watching him draw?!
 There are amazing galleries -- gold that can't quit. One feels very small in these massive rooms.
 This one celebrated Louis XIV.
 I loved the detailed panels that clearly led to a salon that wasn't open to the public, at least that day.
 Every now and then I would glance out the window -- and was glad I was inside. This photo reminded me of a Monet that might be at the Musee d'Orsay across the street!
We were eager to find the paintings of the Dutch, Flemish and those from the North. I was fond of this Holbein portrait of "Anne of Cleves," having recently discovered "The Tudors" on BBC America.
I think I took a photo of every guitar or lute painting we saw for Rick!
One of our favorite rooms was nearly empty -- it featured these tall panels by Rubens -- about 24 of them and all exquisite. I couldn't help but think that the people struggling to get a photo of Mona might never discover this real gem.
I was pleased to discover our first Vermeer of the trip -- we'll learn more about him in future posts when we get to Holland.
It was a long day. Earlier on, we'd see people walking by with glassy stares. They were done, they'd hit the wall. I hit a point where my stare was not unlike theirs and the look on my face? Something like this!
There are techniques to visit the Louvre and have a more satisfying experience. I would recommend one of Rick Steves' excellent guide book on tips to less crowded entrances and least crowded visiting times. But if you love art, I think you will find many familiar friends at the Louvre and truly be amazed by the skill and talent of the remarkable artists included.

Lessons Learned:

Bring your lunch. There are spots to eat at the Louvre. Some are expensive, all are crowded. The last thing you want to do is (as we did) spend close to an hour in line for a piece of pizza and a small salad at about $13 (10 euros). (There are also restaurants in the shopping area attached and you can re-enter the museum. We didn't think of this until later.)

Take advantage of the benches when you see them. All that slow movement on hard floors is tough on the lower back.

If you are going during the day, go early! And check guide books for the best possible times to visit.

Next time, we'll meet a blog friend and have a terrific tour of Montmartre!

Don't Forget -- Comments on these and other posts in this current series about Paris (or Gypsy) are entered into my drawing celebrating 800 posts!


Mae Travels said...

Even before they doubled the floor area, the Louvre was overwhelming. I couldn't believe how they expanded it so much that it's just impossible. Sounds as if the lines are worse than ever, too.

Marilyn said...

I am impressed by how much of the museum you covered in one visit. It is overwhelming, but worth a visit once in a lifetime. I think it has taken a couple visits for me to see all of what you saw. Whew!

Joanne Huffman said...

Long, long ago (in 1966) when I went to the Louvre (before the pyramid), I saw the Mona Lisa and was amazed at how small it is. I also got lost in the Egyptology section.

Jeanie said...

Just your title was enough to make me drool....A Day at the Louvre-Wow!
You photos are stunning and I hope I get a chance to take advantage of you tips one day soon.

Arti said...


You know I love all your Paris posts. And like you, I have mixed feelings about The Louvre. It's not the art, nor the building, which is magnificent, but ... maybe what tourism, or popularity has done to art. The last time I was in Paris was two years ago. As you mention and recorded here, visiting the Louvre meant I had to fight the crowd. And, I couldn't help but be totally amused by what I saw. This time around, I had a very different view about my experience at The Louvre. If you're interested, here's what I thought.

Bella Rum said...

It sounds like you saw some wonderful pieces in spite of the crowds. Your tips at the end were perfect. How many times do we attend an event and think... I should have brought something to drink or an umbrella or a folding seat. Thinking ahead can change the entire experience.

As always, so glad you shared. And what did you think of that controversial pyramid.

Lisa from Lisa's Yarns said...

I was totally overwhelmed by the Louvre. It was just too much for me. I was there for maybe an hour so I really did not see much... which I was ok with. That's why I like the Paris Museum Post - I don't feel bad when I just popped in and out of places! It wasn't too crowded when I was there, but the size of the place was just enormous. I am more of an Orsay or Orangerie type of girl! ;)

Toriz said...

I'm sorry you didn't have a very enjoyable experience, though it's understandable with all the lines.

The Artful Diva said...

I've been to the Louvre several times - loved every minute of it. Don't you just love, love, love France?!

Retired English Teacher said...

We almost skipped the Louvre because we had been warned of the line. Instead we jumped on the bus and headed out - quite unlike us actually. We walked right in. No lines were in sight.

We got totally lost and saw things that we never would have seen if we hadn't gotten lost. We saw Napoleon's apartments. Aren't they amazing?

When we got to Mona Lisa, we saw the huge crowds. One of my favorite memories is of my ex-football player husband, using all of his junior high social skills to shove me to the front. (I decided not to be embarrassed by his determination for me to have a good view.) He held me squarely by the shoulders until I got the photo I wanted and then we retreated.

We also saw that fabulous room of Rubens. Wasn't it truly a treasure? I wonder why others sort of ignore it.

I know what you mean about the glazing over. We left when we got tired because just how much can you take in for one day?

anno said...

Your pictures brought back wonderful memories. The crowds you found would have made the experience much more ambivalent for me as well; still, the Louvre will always be one of my favorite places... a lifetime of beauty to explore.

~*~Patty S said...

ooo I Love art too AND your post...how nice they allow photos in the Louvre!

Peter Olson said...

Many just run there for a photo of Mona Lisa ... but you did it differently and discovered the other da Vinci paintings, Vermeer... and the Napoleon III appartments! Good!

When you live in Paris, as I do, it's worthwhile to take an annual "Louvre friends" subscription. Unlimited number of visits and special entrances without waiting lines. ... and I think the best is to go there late evenings (Wednesday and Friday).

I'm somehow surprised that they still allow you to take photos at the Louvre. For how long? (Not possible at the Orsay museum anymore.)

Tracy said...

Ah, the Louvre... dream come true is so many ways... This was wonderful to see, Jeanie! But that is the "problem," isn't it... these GIANT museums are almost too much in one go. There massive museums on the one hand are good ideas, but when people are shuffling around like cattle and not really taking it all in, then I wonder... Still art is art, and we go to see it. And so glad you shared this with us! :o) ((HUGS))

Relyn said...

I had to grin when I read this post. Of course art museums are my favorite places. But, I really grinned when I saw you taking pictures of people and their sketchbooks. I do that in every museum I visit.

joyce said...

I especially like the well known Anne of Cleves...would love to see the original, and the last portrait of that sad looking girl. I have been to Kleve in Germany, where Anne of Cleves is from, just a short bike ride from my dad's hometown in Holland.

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