- Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa
- The Coronation of Napoleon by Jacques-Louis David
- The Raft of the Medusa by Géricault
- Liberty Leading the People by Eugène Delacroix
- The Wedding at Cana
- François I of France by Jean Clouet
- Grande Odalisque
- The Card Sharp with the Ace of Diamonds by La Tour
- The History of Alexander (several pieces) by Charles Le Brun
The Louvre is by far the biggest museum in Paris as well as the most visited museum in France. Whether it’s the permanents collections or temporary exhibitions, the Louvre is home to thousands of works of art including magnificent examples of painting, sculpture, Egyptian antiquities, and Islamic art.
Each masterpiece within the museum, from the Winged Victory of Samothrace to the Venus de Milo, is definitely worth a look. There are few museums in the world with such an impressive collection.
You can find the Louvre in Paris’ 1st Arrondissement, by the Tuileries Garden and the Tuileries Palace. It’s the most popular cultural site in France and is even visited more than the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame.
Superprof recommends that if you find yourself looking at pieces in one of the world's most famous galleries, the Louvre Museum in Paris, you check out these works of art!
Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa
There’s no other museum in the world that has a piece as famous as the Mona Lisa by the Italian artist Leonardo da Vinci.
The jewel of Renaissance art is essential if you find yourself visiting the Louvre. The painting was acquired by Francis I of France following the artist’s death since the king was his patron.
This piece has been a source of inspiration for those who came after da Vinci. The technique used, the smile, the look, the background, have all intrigued viewers for centuries.
The Coronation of Napoleon by Jacques-Louis David
The Coronation of Napoleon is a piece produced by Jacques-Louis David, a French neo-classical painter, between 1805 and 1807.
The piece shows Napoleon I, the Emperor of France, being crowned at the Notre-Dame de Paris. This coronation symbolises the rule of Napoleon which lasted from 1804 to 1814. You can see Napoleon crowning Empress Josephine having just been crowned himself by Pope Puis VII.
This isn’t the only time a French emperor appears in a piece in the Louvre; there’s a portrait of Napoleon III painted by Winterhalter from 1853.
The Raft of the Medusa by Géricault
"The Raft of the Medusa" by Géricault, like many other pieces in the Louvre, shows an imposing scene. The painting features the shipwreck of the frigate Medusa, a French colonial vessel which sank in 1816 near Mauritania.
Of the 147 aboard, only 10 survived the incident. This piece depicts the hopelessness in the ensuing starvation, dehydration, madness, and cannibalism.
This piece helped inspire other artists including:
- William Turner
- Eugène Delacroix
- Gustave Courbet
- Édouard Manet
The piece was purchased by the Louvre in 1824 shortly after the artists' death.
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Liberty Leading the People by Eugène Delacroix
Created in 1830, this piece depicts the French civil war and Revolution (the July Revolution) with armed citizens marching behind a woman, the allegory of liberty. The bodies on the ground show the violence in the conflict and the importance of the uprising.
The idea of Liberty is an important part of 19th-century history and achieving it through armed combat often seemed the most effective way.
“We only have one freedom: the freedom to fight for freedom.” - Henri Jeanson
It wasn’t until 1874 that the piece was transferred to the Louvre where it became one of the most visited pieces. It’s often thought of as a symbol of the French revolution and the French democracy.
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The Wedding at Cana
The Wedding Feast at Cana is a painting by the Venetian painter Paolo Veronese from 1563 depicting the biblical story from the New Testament in which Jesus transforms water into wine. The piece includes biblical characters and Venetian contemporaries from the 16th century.
This is considered one of the artist’s most important works and was commissioned by a Venetian monastery. However, it isn’t the only piece to depict this story. Giotto, Gérard David, and Giuseppe Maria Crespi have also painted it.
The piece can now be found in the Louvre, just opposite the Mona Lisa. Make sure you don’t miss it!
François I of France by Jean Clouet
King François I of France is represented in this painting by Jean Clouet in 1530 and was one of the biggest patrons of the arts in the modern era. He played an important part in the Louvre’s history having acquired pieces such as the Mona Lisa. He would fund artists to affirm his power and display his appreciation for the arts.
There are also other French monarchs in the Louvre including Louis XIII, Louis XIV, and Louis XVIII. You’ll see a lot of famous faces when visiting the Louvre.
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Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres is probably one of the most famous French painters of the 19th century. His piece La Grande Odalisque from 1814 is an example of the quality of his work.
The piece was commissioned by Caroline Murat, the sister of Napoleon I and the queen consort of Naples. However, with the fall of the Empire, the commission was never paid for by the queen.
The artist also created several other famous pieces:
- Bonaparte, First Consul (1803-1804)
- Napoleon I on His Imperial Throne (1806)
- Jupiter and Thetis (1811)
- Roger Freeing Angelica (1819)
- Oedipus Explaining the Enigma of the Sphinx (1827)
- Louise de Broglie, Countess d’Haussonville (1845)
- The Princesse de Broglie (1853)
- Joan of Arc at the Coronation of Charles VII (1854)
- The Turkish Bath (1859-1863)
Ingres employed a neo-classical style which made his pieces veritable works of art and is now carefully cared for in the Louvre!
New York's MET museum also has great exhibitions!
The Card Sharp with the Ace of Diamonds by La Tour
The Card Sharp with the Ace of Diamonds is a painting by the French painter Georges de la Tour from 1636-1638 which is kept at the Louvre. As one of the French artist’s most famous masterpieces, it’s an unmissable part of the museum.
The painting depicts 3 people playing cards and a servant. It’s clear that one of them is planning on cheating since they’re hiding the ace of diamonds behind their back. However, the servant could easily reveal their secret.
De La Tour was inspired by Caravaggio's themes, including that of the cheater as well people seen from this particular angle.
If you find yourself in Madrid, check out the great art in the Prado.
The History of Alexander (several pieces) by Charles Le Brun
The History of Alexander is a series of works by Charles Le Brun depicting the epic of Alexander the Great including his war against Darius and the Persians.
This monumental work is made of several distinct pieces:
- Battle of the Granicus (1665)
- Entry of Alexander into Babylon (1665)
- The Battle of Arbela (1669)
- Alexander and Porus (1665-1673)
However, Le Brun didn’t just paint the Antiquity, he also painted religious themes, mythology, military and historical themes, as well as producing a large number of drawings.
Find out more about the great piece in the Musée d'Orsay.
David and Goliath
This painting on slate by Daniele Ricciarelle, also known as Daniele da Volterra, is an interesting piece as you can enjoy both sides of it.
The artist wanted to show the power of painting by freeing it from the two dimensions of the canvas. At the same time, you can see the story from the Old Testament whereby the Hebrew David defeats the Philistine Goliath.
This piece shows us how David killed Goliath, putting an end to the war between the two peoples. An unmissable piece!
After this quick virtual trip around the Louvre, you’ll probably want to see these masterpieces with your own eyes as well as objects from Mesopotamia, the famous Carrousel du Louvre, and the glass pyramid that also acts as the museum's entrance.
Entry is free the first Saturday of each month so it might be worthwhile planning a trip to Paris then as you can enjoy the decorative arts on a budget.
If you can't make it to the Musée du Louvre to enjoy its many exhibits, you can also learn more about art history from one of the many talented private tutors on Superprof.
There are three main types of tutorials available: face-to-face tutorials, online tutorials, and group tutorials.
Face-to-face tutorials have just you and the tutor and are arguably the most cost-effective.
Online tutorials are similar, but rather than the tutor being there in the room with you, they're teaching you via webcam using software such as Skype.
Group tutorials are more like your traditional art classes with the exception that you and a group of friends could share the cost of a tutor while enjoying private tuition from them.
All you have to do is find the right tutor and the right type of tutorials and you're ready to go!