The Louvre – A few tips on how to visit the museum

Louvre Pyramid

It’s Bastille Day in France and the entrance to the Louvre is exceptionally free to celebrate. Today also marks the reopening of the Islamic Art gallery after this spring’s floods. The Louvre is the subject of popular posts on my blog: the Napoleon III rooms and the Ancient Egypt mummies still figure among my most-read posts years after I wrote them. So I thought I’d round up a few pieces of advice for your next visit.

Louvre Victoire de Samothrace

Is the Louvre the right museum for you? Make sure the kind of art you want to see can indeed be viewed at the Louvre. Its collections cover art until 1848. If your thing is Impressionism, head to Musée d’Orsay (which I much prefer, by the way). Likewise, if you like Modern art only, you will need to explore other options.

Watch out for free entrance days. If you can, visit on one of the 1st Sundays of the month when the entrance is free (October to March). Otherwise, tickets are at 15€.

Arrive early in the morning. I waited about 30 minutes before entering, which is reasonable. When I glimpsed outside later in the day, I saw the lines had extended far beyond what I had expected.

Louvre Baigneuse Valpincon IngresLouvre Lady in BlueLouvre Girl in pink

Prepare your itinerary and target only a few galleries to visit. The Louvre is HUGE and you won’t be able to see it all within 1 day. (You probably gathered from the pictures above that I am a 19th-century fangirl.)

Wear comfortable shoes. See above: the Louvre is huge and you will be walking for hours.

Louvre Joconde Mona Lisa

Be prepared to fight your way to see Mona Lisa. Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa is no doubt a masterpiece, but do not expect a life-changing experience when viewing it. The painting is kept under a glass case. Visitors are kept at a distance with a cord. Dozens of people try to catch a decent glimpse, picture or selfie while security guards loudly chat about what they did the night before. In short, there is no way you can truly appreciate the painting in these conditions.

 

Louvre AngelinaLouvre Angelina cakes

Lunch! I enjoyed lunch at Angelina. Their restaurant is within the museum, a short walk from Napoléon III’s apartments. Yes, it is a bit pricey but it has a view on the Pyramid. And if your entrance to the Louvre was free, well, I believe that you can treat yourself to balance things out. Otherwise, there are lunch options underneath the Pyramid but they were less attractive. The choice was limited to a windowless cafeteria or a Paul with very few seats.

View from Louvre on Pyramid

Look out for stunning views of Paris. Don’t just look at the art.

Louvre Objets d'art 1Louvre Objets d'art 2

If you do not have the time to visit Versailles, visit the Department of Decorative Arts. The rooms hold collections similar to what you would see in the palace outside Paris. While beautiful, it does not have the same emotional dimension as if you where really in Versailles though.

Louvre Pavillon de l'Horloge

Check out the history of the Louvre. While you may not choose to visit the newly-organized Pavillon de l’Horloge, where you can learn all about the history of the palace, it would be a shame not to look it up. The Louvre was the home of the Kings of France up until Louis XIV lived in Versailles. You can still see the medieval part of the building, which is quite impressive.

Louvre Flamands

Enjoy your visit! If you have other advice on how to best visit the Louvre, I would love to hear about it.

Ancient Egyptian treasures at the Louvre

After the party and dinner in the Napoleon III apartments at the Louvre, let’s move on to another department, another continent and another time period! My final stop in this fabulous museum was inspired by Ava, a loyal reader of Ritournelle who runs the blog Hits and Fits with her friend. Originally from California, Ava grew up in Paris and insisted that her parents take her on monthly visits to see the mummies at the Louvre. When I read about this childhood memory in her email, I knew I had to see these treasures from Ancient Egypt for myself.

When entering the Department of Egyptian Antiquities, you are greeted by a large relief covered with mysterious hieroglyphs. What could they possibly mean?

Maybe we’d better ask the scribe.

Or even better, the Egyptian deity Thoth, scribe to the gods, depicted here as a friendly baboon.

Let’s now focus on the Ancient Egyptian burial customs. It is fascinating how the Egyptians could erect monuments like the Pyramids with their relatively basic tools. Much smaller pieces like this sarcophagus are impressive already by their engravings and mass. Stone sarcophagi were commonly used to bury wealthy Egyptians.

However Egyptians ran out of materials to build these sarcophagi and relied on wood instead. The drawings depict the activities that the deceased would enjoy in the afterlife.

Time has not erased the emotions of the deceased expressed on the inner coffins: resigned, worried about an uncertain fate, confident facing the unknown or amused by our stares.

 

 

 

 Waiting in line

Isn’t this pattern beautiful?

And finally, the star of the Louvre Department of Egyptian Antiquities: the mummy and its mask.

Canopic jars were used to store the viscera of the deceased for the afterlife. The one with a hawk head preserved the intestines and the one with a jackal head contained the stomach.

Scarab charms played an essential role in Egyptian burial rituals. Placed on the chest, it was supposed to prevent the heart from testifying against the deceased during the judgment of the soul by Osiris.

Admiring these treasures at the Louvre is an incredible experience, but I wish I could have seen them in their original environment in Egypt!

As I exited the museum, these two intriguing pieces caught my eye. I found out they were actually antique sarcophagi from Lebanon. It is interesting to see how they were caught between two cultural influences: Egypt for their shape and Greece for the sculptures of the faces.

Ava was fascinated by Ancient Egypt in her childhood. And you, did you have a favorite time period?

Après avoir visité les appartements Napoléon III du Louvre, place à un autre département, un autre continent et une autre époque ! La deuxième partie de mon tour dans ce fabuleux musée m’a été inspirée par Ava, une lectrice fidèle de Ritournelle qui tient le blog Hits and Fits avec une amie. Ava la Californienne a grandi en France et suppliait régulièrement ses parents de l’emmener voir les momies au Louvre. Quand elle m’a raconté ça par mail, j’ai eu envie de voir ces chefs-d’œuvre de l’Antiquité de mes propres yeux.

L’introduction au département des Antiquités Egyptiennes se fait par les mystérieux hiéroglyphes. Devinez leur signification ? Peut-être vaut-il mieux demander l’avis du scribe. Ou encore mieux, consulter Thot, le dieu des scribes ici représenté sous la forme d’un babouin bien sympathique.

Venons-en maintenant aux rites funéraires. Les Pyramides nous fascinent en partie par l’ingéniosité des Egyptiens qui ne disposaient pas d’outils sophistiqués pour leur construction. Mais je trouve qu’on peut déjà admirer ce sarcophage entièrement gravé qui doit peser un poids considérable. La pierre était un matériel destiné aux Egyptiens fortunés. Cependant, les matériaux sont venus à manquer pour la construction des sarcophages et les Egyptiens ont alors utilisé principalement le bois. Les dessins représentent les activités qu’exercerait le défunt après sa mort.

Au-delà de la beauté des cercueils admirablement bien conservés, les expressions des morts nous touchent encore à travers les millénaires : résignés à passer dans l’autre monde, inquiets de leur sort, sereins face à l’inconnu ou amusés à la vue de notre regard inquisiteur.

Et enfin, la pièce-clé des antiquités égyptiennes du Louvre : la momie et son masque funéraire. Pour être honnête, je n’ai pas tellement envie de voir ce qu’il y a sous les bandelettes… (Recherchez « mummy remains » sur Google Images et vous verrez ce que je veux dire.)

Les vases canopes étaient destinés à recueillir les viscères embaumés des défunts. Celui à tête de faucon contenait les intestins et celui à tête de chacal l’estomac.

Les scarabées étaient d’une importance essentielle dans les cultes funéraires. Déposés sur le buste, ils assuraient que le cœur ne témoignerait pas contre les défunts lors du jugement de l’âme par le dieu Osiris.

Voir ces chefs-d’œuvre de l’histoire à Paris est une grande chance, mais je regrette de ne pas pouvoir les admirer dans leur environnement initial !

En me dirigeant vers la sortie, j’ai aperçu ces pièces intrigantes. Il s’agit de sarcophages antiques du Liban. On peut y voir le croisement des influences égyptiennes pour leur forme et grecques pour la sculpture du visage.

Ava était fascinée par l’Egypte Antique quand elle enfant. Et vous, y avait-il une époque de l’histoire que vous préfériez ?