June 28, 2014
Like all great museums, nobody can cover the Louvre in one go. In fact, with some 35,000 pieces of art and artifacts from prehistory to modern time on display, very few souls in this world can claim to have seen them all. Most visitors only make a beeline to the first floor of the Denon wing to see the Mona Lisa and other Renaissance masterpieces, onward to the nearby Greek exhibition where the Winged Victory of Samothrace is located then call it a day. That’s totally understandable – not only is the Louvre packed with treasures, it is also the world’s most visited museum with more than 9.7 million visitors in 2012. Sorting through both the massive amount of exhibits and people requires a great deal of stamina.
But for those who have the energy and time, here are three sections of the Louvre that demand a look as much as, if not more than, the Mona Lisa, which is actually not all that interesting.
When you think of the Louvre, you think of the palace, the glass pyramid, its classical sculptures and Renaissance paintings. But do you know it also has the world’s fifth largest collection Ancient Egyptian artifacts?
Located on the lower ground floor of the Denon wing and three floors of Sully, the Louvre’s collection is divided into two routes. The Thematic Circuit presents artifacts that project the daily routine of living along the Nile in Ancient Egypt, including themes like fishing, agriculture, hunting, religion and death.
Want to see how the pharaohs lived? Follow the Pharoah Circuit, chronologically laid out from the Ancient Empire and its stone figures, via the painted figures of the Middle Empire, to the New Empire, with its animal-headed statues of gods and goddesses, hieroglyphic tablets and papyrus scrolls.
The Egyptian collection requires around two hours to cover. Those in a pinch should at least try to see the Seated Scribe, a 4th Dynasty painted limestone sculpture found in Saqqara (Sully, 1st floor) and the Dendera zodiac, a bas-relief from the ceiling of a chapel dedicated to Osiris the god of afterlife, in the Temple of Hathor in Dendera (Sully, ground floor).
Napoléon III Apartments
We have all heard of Napoleon, but besides history junkie who knows anything about his nephew Napoleon III? Turned out he had quite a life himself. Initially elected by a popular vote to become the first president of the French Second Republic, he took the throne and named himself emperor when he was banned to run for a second term by the constitution. Just like his uncle, he was forced into exile when he was captured by Otto Von Bismarck following the disastrous Franco-Prussian War.
Although not everyone has heard of his name, Napoleon III’s legacy looms large over every visitor to Paris. When you are admiring at the exceptional layout and appearance of the French capital’s historic center, you are in fact looking at the innovative renovation program commissioned by the emperor and directed by Georges-Eugène Haussmann.
For a more intimate look of the emperor’s life, head to his former apartments at the Louvre on the first floor of the Richelieu wing. Although these apartments, functioned as guest rooms for visiting heads of state, were never Napoleon III’s residence as he lived in the nearby Tuileries Palace, you can see his taste towards the flamboyant similar to Louis IV. These rooms are covered in red cloth and gold paint and light up by giant chandeliers.
If you do not have time for Versailles, the Napoléon III Apartments are as good a replica as any in Paris.
A underrated aspect of the Louvre is its diversity. The Egyptian Museum might have the largest Ancient Egyptian collection of artifacts, Uffizi with the most Renaissance paintings and the most celebrated collection of Dutch art at the Rijksmuseum, the Louvre counters by having a bit of everything.
When you feel the crowd is getting under your skin, head to the second floor of Richelieu. Barely anyone comes here, where you can have a moment of silence and leisurely take in paintings by Bosch, Rembrandt, Van Dyck and Vermeer.