THE LOUVRE, PARIS – was that the one in The Da Vinci Code?

Mona Lisa’s admirers.

Nine million people visit the Louvre Museum each year and a good proportion of them were there with us yesterday.

The Musee d’Orsay and Palais de Versailles were shut. Rain was threatening, so it was ‘Let’s get the Louvre out of the way’ day.

A grey day at the Louvre.

We can’t blame the Louvre for being popular. The largest museum in the world has over 400,000 artworks, and as our guides proudly told us, if we spent thirty seconds in front of each one we’d need to live a few extra years to get around them all.

Only 6% of the collection is on show at any one time, which saves us a bit of time, but naturally everyone wants to see the highlights.

Venus de Milo. An naked amputee is always going to attract attention in a public place.

My Mona Lisa shot. It’s hard to believe she was once stolen when nobody was looking.

Yes, it was incredibly busy, but this was a two-hour guided tour so it was understandable that we were shown the most popular works. On other visits to the Louvre we’ve been able to escape to less crowded areas, where there still is plenty worth seeing.

Nevertheless, the sheer pressure of numbers is likely to increase. By 2020 it’s estimated that there will be another 100 million tourists from China alone, and the Mona Lisa will be on many of their bucket lists.

With this is mind, the Louvre will open a new branch in Lens, near the Belgian border this month. A branch in Abu Dhabi was planned to open later this year, though it now seems that won’t happen until at least 2014.

Meanwhile, despite the crowds, we found plenty of work that we could get close to. And unlike many of the world’s museums, the Louvre permits photography.

Our guide explains the Crowning of Napoleon. Painting it was a team effort which took three years.

And here’s the crown concerned, a replica of that favoured by Charlemagne.

A slave to Leonardo.

What baseball used to be like, before the invention of clothing.

Delacroix’s Liberty leading the People. “Follow me, and don’t lose sight of the flag. I know the way out of here!”

Exit via the gift shops. And the Apple store has free wi-fi.

The writer was the guest of Viking River Cruises.


Filed under Art, France

8 responses to “THE LOUVRE, PARIS – was that the one in The Da Vinci Code?

  1. I’m certain our Russian guide told me only last week that the Hermitage is the largest museum in the World! I suppose it depends what measure you use?

    • And wait till the rest of the Rijksmuseum is open after renovation in 20…?

      These are French people, Andrew. They have no word for ‘understatement’, so we just try to fit in and say ‘oui’.

      • She also told us that St Isaac’s cathedral was the third largest in the World after St Peter’s in Rome and St Paul’s in London but so far through my research I have been unable to verify that! I suppose people everwhere just can’t help exaggerating!

  2. I so loved your lead-in: “Nine million people visit the Louvre Museum each year and a good proportion of them were there with us yesterday.” CLASSIC! Still chuckling…

    I think I’ll give the Louvre a miss if I ever make it to Paris, quite honestly. Jostling crowds are not my thing.

    • Not mine either, Reggie, but the Louvre collection is definitely worth putting up with some jostling for. There are quieter areas also with fabulous, though less famous work.

  3. I love your captions, Richard. Very witty.

  4. I had no idea the Mona Lisa was this packed. I knew there was ‘something of a crowd’ but that doesn’t quite cover it.

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