It has been said that it would take three months to see everything in the Louvre if you only spent four seconds at each object. On the other hand, if you don’t have that kind of time here are the top things to see at the Louvre that you do not want to miss.
Plan Your Visit
Arrive at the museum at least 30 minutes to 1 hour before opening. Once you have entered, go straight to the Mona Lisa. That room fills up fast and you want to get there to enjoy her. Then you can move on to the other rooms.
Tickets and Maps
Location and Hours
The museum is located on the subway line at Palais-Royal Musee du Louvre (lines 1 and 7).
It is open every day (excluding Tuesdays) from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. On Wednesday and Friday, the museum is open until 9:45 p.m.
There is free admission on the first Saturday of each month from 6 p.m. to 9:45 p.m. The Louvre is closed on January 1, May 1, and December 25.
Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci
Location: Denon Wing, First floor, Mona Lisa, Room 6 – make this your first stop upon entering the museum.
The Mona Lisa is by far the most well known and most visited painting in the world. It can be seen on purses, fabrics, even in Beyoncé and Jay-Z’s music video.
However, what do you actually know about this priceless work of art? Well, little is known about her actual identity. Most art professionals believe that this painting depicts the second wife of Francesco del Giocondo, Lisa Gherardini. Francesco was a wealthy silk and wool merchant.
Da Vinci most likely painted this in the early 1500s during his stay in Florence, Italy. It is estimated that the painting is worth around 2.5 billion dollars.
- Da Vinci died never having finished the painting in 1519. He left the portrait and many other unfinished works with his assistant.
- The French emperor, Napoleon Bonaparte, had the painting hanging in his bedroom in the Tuileries Palace for several years. He received it three years after the French Revolution when it was taken from King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette. It has been said that Napoleon developed quite a crush on the woman in the painting. It inspired his love for an Italian woman named Teresa Guadagni, who just happened to be a descendant of Lisa Gherardini.
- Notice that there is something missing on her face? Oh yeah, the eyebrows… well, those are still a matter of discussion among experts. However, in 2007 a detailed digital scan was conducted on Mona that revealed eyebrows and eyelashes painted by da Vinci. It is thought that these details faded over time or were covered by restoration work done on the painting.
- During World War II the Mona Lisa, along with all other valuable artifacts from the Louvre, were hidden in multiple safe houses throughout France. A wonderful documentary about this time period and event is “The Rape of Europa”. The painting was once again hung in her rightful place in the Louvre in October 1947.
The Astronomer by Vermeer
Location: Richelieu wing, Second floor, Holland – second half of the 17th century, Room 837
There are only two works with scientific themes including a lone male figure created by Vermeer. This is one of them. There are only about 35 Vermeer paintings in existence, and they are all highly valued. Vermeer was a well-respected Dutch painter in his time. However, he had trouble making enough money to care for his 15 children. He died at the age of 43 from depression, according to his wife.
- Hitler coveted this painting and once the Nazis took possession of it, a message was sent to Hitler’s aide stating “will I believe bring him great joy”. Hitler wanted it to be the center of his own museum that he wished to build in his hometown.
- The painting was found with more than 8,000 other works of art in a salt mine in Austria after World War II.
Liberty Leading the People by Eugene Delacroix
Location: Denon Wing, First floor, Mollien, Room 77
This painting commemorates the July Revolution of 1830 which ousted King Charles X of France. It is one of Delacroix’s most popular paintings.
At the time it was completed, it was received with mixed reviews. He began the work after watching the open revolt in the streets of Paris following restrictive ordinances that were passed by Charles X on July 26, 1830. Citizens constructed barricades and fought firmly against the king’s army.
When Charles X realized that he could not contain the uprising, he abdicated the throne to Louis-Phillippe, also called the Citizen King. Louis-Phillippe changed the type of government to a constitutional monarchy. The scantly clad female figure leading the charge is not a real person, but instead the personification of Liberty.
- The hat that the leading female is wearing is called a Phrygian. It is usually worn by French laborers and was dubbed the “liberty cap” during the French Revolution.
- The painting was used as the cover art on the 2008 Coldplay album Viva La Vida.
- This is a very large painting measuring 8 ft 6 in by 10 ft 8 inches.
- It was vandalized in 2013 when a woman used a marker to inscribe “AE911” near the bottom of the canvas. This was a cipher associated with a September 11 conspiracy theory. Experts worked on the painting and restored it to its original glory shortly thereafter.
The Raft of the Medusa by Theodore Gericault
Location: Denon Wing, First Floor, Mollien, Room 77
This painting depicts a shipwreck of a French frigate Meduse on a sandbar off the coast of Senegal in 1816. The painting seems to portray the remaining victims’ hope of being rescued. A boat can be seen on the horizon. What is not shown is the actual carnage that ensued after the actual Meduse wreck. Since there was a shortage of lifeboats, those who were not lucky enough to fit onboard had to create a raft. Approximately 150 people squeezed onto a handmade raft. However, upon their rescue thirteen days later, there were only 15 survivors left. Five died a few short days following the rescue. Cannibalism, dehydration, suicide, fighting, and starvation took its toll on the passengers and caused their numbers to decline rapidly.
- Theodore Gericault only lived to be 32 years old, he completed this scene when he was only 27.
- The captain that sailed the fated Medusa had not sailed in over twenty years. This wreck created a massive scandal surrounding his competence to manage a ship. The artist attended the indictment trial of the captain and read everything he could regarding the event.
- The artist interviewed two survivors and sketched others how they actually looked. He began constructing a model of the raft and played with wax figurines to get the correct composition.
- Gericault studied human remains of those that had been dismembered and drowned. He ultimately used these examples in creating two sketches that can also be seen in the Louvre.
- His painting measures 16 ft by 23 ft 6 inches; the actual raft measured 23 ft by 66 ft.
- The painting was completed only three years after the actual event
The Consecration of the Emperor Napoleon and the Coronation of Empress Josephine on December 2, 1804, by Jacques Louis David
Location: Denon Wing, First Floor, Daru, Room 75
This painting depicts the coronation ceremony in May 1804 when Napoleon I was crowned Emperor. The ceremony was held in the Notre Dame Cathedral and the artist himself was in attendance. Instead of allowing the pope to place the crown on his head, Napoleon crowned himself. This was a show of independence from the Catholic church while still standing inside its walls. This was seen as a humiliation of the pope who was forced to travel from Rome to Paris. The tradition held that the blessing of the pope came from inside Rome, not in another city.
- The painting also hung in Versailles until it was moved to the Louvre in 1889.
- Napoleon was married to Josephine, shown in the painting, for a short time. He later divorced her because she did not produce children. He then married Marie Louise Habsburg, the daughter of the Austrian emperor.
- This large painting measures 33 ft by 20 ft
- The artist was involved in politics and was very devoted to Napoleon who knighted him in 1803.
- Napoleon had won much prestige from his military campaigns throughout Italy and Egypt. He became a general at the early age of 24.
Virgin and Child with Saint Anne by Leonardo da Vinci
Location: Denon Wing, First Floor, Grande Galerie, Room 5
This painting’s origins are unknown but it is thought that the picture was commissioned by Louis XII. Louis’s wife, Anne, wanted the portrait to celebrate her only daughter’s, Claude, arrival. However, Leonardo took too long to complete the painting and King Louis XII never received it.
- Anne was also the name of the patron saint of infertile and pregnant women
- Several drawings were made prior to the painting. These are housed in both the Louvre and the National Gallery in London.
- It is rumored that the painting may have been brought into the royal collection by Cardinal Richelieu.
Dying and Rebellious Slaves by Michelangelo
Location: Denon Wing, Ground Floor, Michelangelo Gallery, Room 4
The sculptures were originally intended for the tomb of Pope Julius II; however, upon the pope’s death, the project was ended for a lack of finances. Michelangelo gave the unfinished statues to Roberto Strozzi, an exile from Florence, who transported them to France. The slaves convey different emotions. The dying slave illustrates a person that almost looks like he is sleeping. The rebellious slave seems to fight against his bonds and struggles to get free. Overall, Michelangelo worked on the objects for over forty years. During this time the church continued to change the criteria of what the artist needed to convey. When the slaves first arrived in France they were displayed at the Chateau d’Ecouen. They were later taken by Cardinal Richelieu and relocated to his chateau in Poitou.
- Michelangelo was notorious for abandoning a work if he couldn’t perfect it and achieve his ideal image. This might be why the statues were never completed and tool marks can be seen on the base. He felt that he was liberating the figure imprisoned in the stone and took his work very seriously.
- Even though the slaves were commissioned in 1505 they were not started until 1513.
- Roberto Strozzi was gifted the slaves in exchange for caring for Leonardo while he was sick between 1544 and 1546.
- During his teenage years, Michelangelo tried to learn everything he could about human anatomy. He even gained permission from the Catholic Church to dissect human remains so he could better understand the inner muscle groups.
- The original tomb of Pope Julius was intended to include forty large statues in a large freestanding mausoleum. However, in the end, the pope was buried in San Pietro in Vincoli in a wall slot adorned with Michelangelo’s sculpture of Moses.
- During his work on the slaves, he was pulled from that job to paint a ceiling of a chapel in Rome. Michelangelo was very upset by this disruption. He, nevertheless, traveled to Rome where he worked on, what is now known as, the Sistine Chapel. After the four-year completion of that painting, Michelangelo went back to work on the statues.
Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss by Antonio Canova
Location: Denon Wing, Ground floor, Michelangelo Gallery, Room 403
Psyche was directed by Cupid’s mother, Venus, to travel to the Underworld and bring back a flask. She was under strict instructions not to open the flask, simply to deliver it to Venus. However, Psyche became curious and opened the container. Upon breathing in the fumes, she fell into a deep sleep. Cupid rushed to her and after touching her with his arrow he kissed her. This brought her back from the deathlike sleep she was under.
- Canova created several versions of this same theme with different mediums such as marble, terracotta, and clay.
- The artist made an additional copy of the sculpture that ended up at the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia. Czar Alexander purchased this statue as part of the collection that previously belonged to Napoleon’s wife, Josephine.
- The flask can be found behind the figures. The arrow used to wake up Psyche can be seen to the right of the flask.
- There is a handle near the right foot of Psyche. This was used to turn the sculpture.
- Walk all the way around this beautiful statue, because there are items that can be seen at each angle.
Winged Victory of Samothrace by an Unknown Artist
Location: Salle des Sept-Cheminees at the top of the Daru staircase – You can’t miss this one!!
This exquisite and imposing sculpture was found on the island of Samothrace by French Vice-Consul Charles Champoiseau in 1863. She is known as Nike, or the goddess of Victory, and seems to be standing on the bow of a ship. It is believed that she might have overlooked the theater of the Sanctuary of the Great Gods or a pool near the niche where she was found. There are many theories about what the missing fragments of the sculpture might have looked like. However, nothing has been found to verify any of the theories.
- The right side of the sculpture is less detailed than the left, lending to the idea that the statue was intended to be viewed from the left side.
- The statue might have been a tribute to a Rhodian naval victory.
- The work measures over 18 feet tall and 9 feet wide
- During World War II the statue was lowered, ever so slowly, down the staircase and stored in a crate. If you are interested in more information about this feat watch the documentary “Rape of Europa”.
Venus De Milo by an Unknown Artist
Location: Sully Wing, Ground Floor, Parthenon Gallery, Room 346
The statue was discovered by a farmer digging for marble blocks in 1820 on the island of Milos in Greece. It was given to Louis XVIII who donated it to the Louvre the next year. It is believed that the sculpture wore metal jewelry because of the fixation holes left on her; however, neither the jewelry nor the arms were ever found. The statue has been moved multiple times since its discovery. The first move was during the Paris Commune uprising, during which many buildings were burned. Then, in 1939, it was crated and moved to the French countryside along with Michelangelo’s slaves and the Winged Victory during World War II.
- The French and Italians became involved in a battle over who had the best sculpture… France had to return the Medici’s Venus to the Italians after it had been stolen by Napoleon Bonaparte. At the time, it was regarded as one of the finest classical sculptures in existence. The French began to promote their Venus as a greater treasure than that of the Italians. It worked. Does anyone know what the Italian version looks like? It is held at Le Gallerie Degli Uffizi.
- The sculpture was, at one time, partially used on the seal of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.
- In 2012, a group of French feminist activists known as Femen stood topless in front of Venus to oppose rape. They choose her because she lost her arms and had no way to defend herself symbolizing women’s vulnerability.
Code of Hammurabi
Location: Richelieu Wing, Ground Floor, Mesopotamia, 2nd and 1st Millennia BC, Room 227
This stone is a list of laws from ancient Mesopotamia that dolled out punishments in a graded fashion. For example, the term, “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth” is listed on the stone. The stone was erected by King Hammurabi and was the most important legal publication at the time. It has three parts: a history of King Hammurabi, a list of his legal work, and then almost 300 laws and precedents governing daily life.
- The code was used as a model for literacy in schools for scribes whose job it was to copy it for over one thousand years.
- Punishments listed for crimes include burning, impaling and grisly death penalties. Some of the penalties seem a bit extreme for the crime. For example, if a son hits his father the boy’s hands should be cut off.
- If a crime could not be proven, then the accused was put in a potentially deadly situation as a way of determining his innocence. For example, if the accused jumped into a river and drowned then he would be deemed guilty. However, if he survived then he was seen as innocent and the person who accused him of wrongdoing would be killed.
Location: Richelieu Wing, Ground Floor, Mesopotamia, Assyria, Room 229
This sculpture is carved from a single block and was used to guard the gates to present-day Khorsabad in 713 B.C. He is one of two that was found by Paul Botta in 1843 when he cleared the site and sent some of the works to the Louvre. The British Museum has two Lamassus as well.
- The creature has five legs. This was done so that if seen from the side it would appear like it was walking. If seen from the front, it appears to be standing still.
- Two shipping incidents caused several of the excavation artifacts to go missing. One by a pirate attack and one shipwreck.
Great Sphinx of Tanis by an Unknown Artist
Location: Sully Wing, Lower Ground Floor, Crypt of the Sphinx, Room 338
Outside of Egypt, this is one of the largest sphinxes in the world. It was located among the ruins of Tanis, the capital of Egypt, during the 21st and 22nd dynasties. It shows the close relationship between the sun god, which is represented by the lion’s body, and the king, the human head. This is a living personification of the king and his close relationship with Ra.
- A hieroglyph is sculpted under each paw, however, the original texts were deliberately erased and replaced. Therefore it is impossible to correctly date the statue.
- This statue was also featured in Beyoncé and Jay-Z’s music video.
- The sculpture is carved from black granite and weighs 26 tons. The museum had to cut a hole in the wall and push the sphinx through. It was then set into place and the hole was repaired.
- The translator of the Rosetta Stone, Jean-Francois Champollion, convinced King Charles X to purchase the Sphinx.