The Art Newspaper’s recent poll found that the Louvre was the most visited art museum last year, topping this annual survey since it began in 2007. Its big draw is of course the Mona Lisa — but what else does the Louvre have to justify its retention of the top spot — and how best to avoid the queues and crowds?
Let’s see, as well as a ‘Top 10’ including Gericault’s Raft of the Medusa and the Marly Horses, the Louvre collections cover Western art from medieval times up to 1848 and includes Italian and Dutch art, French art and sculpture, Islamic art and Egyptian and Greek antiquities. Add to this the ceramics and jewellery collections (including the French crown jewels) and the tree-lined statuary courtyards, it’s easy to see why all the guide books suggest that you plan your visit with a degree of precision if you have must-sees on your list.
The Mona Lisa behind its bullet proof glass counts as one of the ‘three great ladies’ of the Louvre; the other two are the statues of the Venus de Milo and the Victory of Samothrace, (deemed an icon of Western art) and all classified as masterpieces.
There’s also a comprehensive programme of temporary exhibitions, film, live music, lectures and bookstores — oh and the building is pretty impressive too — so the Louvre can prove to be a major consumer of your time in Paris and many visitors leave feeling frustrated and short-changed because of the sheer scale and variety of what’s on offer.
It’s been said that it would take nine months to see everything here and a little forward planning (if possible) is an excellent idea to see the works of art that you’re most interested in. Another tactic is or pick a particular period or section and stick to that, or take the 90-minute introductory tour (if it’s your first visit) which is available in English.
Entry through the underground shopping mall (entrance on the rue de Rivoli) can be a faster option and if there is a queue, they tend to be shorter than the lines at the glass pyramid entrance. Even better is buying tickets in advance with all the info you need here.
Another point worth remembering is that although museum entry is free on the first Sunday of each month, the admission lines can be horrendous, so unless you want to spend an inordinate length of time gazing at the admittedly rather splendid glass pyramid, this idea is best forgotten.
The photo used above is courtesy Rita Crane Photography, under Flickr Creative Commons.