Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Paris Museum Roundup - the Louvre

We couldn't leave Paris without a visit to its (and probably the world's) most famous museum, the Louvre. After postponing our visit until Friday night, when entrance is free to those under 26, we entered the iconic glass pyramid and descended into the museum's entrance hall. 

The famous glass pyramid and Tuileries Garden

The Louvre...well, half of it anyways.

One of the more spectacular buildings we've laid eyes on this trip, which is really saying something, the Louvre is both elegant and a bit intimidating. With over sixty thousand square feet to explore, and thirty five thousand items on display, it's nearly impossible to see everything in just one visit; however, we were determined to give it a shot for as long as our feet could handle. 
The glorious, golden Apollo Gallery

Upon entering the impressive lobby under the great glass pyramid, we were surprised to find no lines...seriously, none at all - and after waiting for hours at the Vatican, Uffizi, Prado, and others this was simply amazing.. After taking a minute to warm up (it was freezing outside) we simply walked to one of the collection entrances and presented our passports for our free entry. With map in hand we decided on a rudimentary plan of action and set off. 
Looking out through the glass pyramid

After wandering through the museum's extensive collections of Egyptian, Greek, Roman, and Etruscan antiquities and 13th to 19th century paintings, we found our way to the sculpture collection. Easily our favorite space in the museum, the sculptures are displayed in a large, multi-level space with thirty foot ceilings and lots of glass that is immediately calming. It was also a great spot to hang out on a bench and rest our aching feet. Oh, and the sculptures were amazing - some of the best we've seen in any museum on our trip. 
The amazing salon of French sculptures

In addition to the museum's stunning architecture and displays, we really loved the way our visit to the Louvre brought together many of the parts of our trip. We were able to see Islamic carvings from Cordoba and Granada, pieces of the Parthenon marbles from the Acropolis in Athens, "halves" and "pieces" of sculptures that we'd seen "the rest of" somewhere else, and many others. This, and the British Museum (stay tuned), has really allowed us to put the historical part of our trip into perspective.

The Codex of Hammurabi (via)

Perhaps the Louvre's most famous resident, the Mona Lisa receives the majority of the acclaim. However, despite the fact that a good number of visitors skip the rest of the museum and only see it, it is a fairly underwhelming piece of art, especially compared to Leonardo Da Vinci's many other paintings and sketches. Nonetheless, this doesn't stop the crowds from forming, and it is one of the few places in the museum where you notice the crowds (amazing considering 15,000 people visit every day). 

The Mona Lisa  by da Vinci (via)

We ended up using almost every minute of our time at the museum and were able to see a good amount of the things we wanted. Here are some more of our highlights:

Psyche revived by the kiss of Cupid (via)

Winged victory of Samothrace

Assyrian relief sculpture (via)

The Seated Scribe, over 4000 years old (via)

If you are planning on visiting the Louvre, there are many excellent articles out there to make your visit a more efficient and rewarding one. We would suggest at least looking at the map online if you are going to be pressed for time. You can visit the website of the Louvre here, and if you are interested in seeing some of the best and most interesting objects, the collection catalogue can be found here. There is free entry for everyone on the first Sunday of the month, and for under-26's on Friday evenings from 6:00-9:45.

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Calli and Travis returned from a four month trip through Europe more excited than ever to hit the open road. Who knows where they'll end up next...

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