The greatest strengths of the Louvre are its unrivalled collection of French paintings and sculpture; many critical works from the high Italian Renaissance; and a superb holding of ancient oriental, Egyptian and classical art. Here is a selection of unmissable things to see in Paris's famous museum.
Carved in limestone, and painted with immense subtlety, this sculpture of an unknown official – rich, paunchy, and arrogant – is almost certainly a rare portrait of a member of the royal family.
First Floor, Sully, Room 22
A wonderful example of the carvings of ships, hippo hunts, fishermen, bird-catchers and other details of contemporary life found in the tombs at Saqqara, near Cairo.
Ground Floor, Sully, Room 4
A startlingly effective sculpture of a bright-eyed crouching lion, which used to guard the inner sanctuary of a temple in the ancient city of Mari on the Euphrates.
Ground Floor, Richelieu, Room 3
These monumental, smiling sculptures with the head of a man, body of a bull and long, feathered wings of a bird were installed to guard the palace of Saargon II at Khorsabad (near Mosul in Iraq).
Ground Floor, Richelieu, Room 3/Room 4
The famous goddess with swirling robes and feathered wings might mark a naval victory by the Island of Rhodes around 190 BC. It was set on a hill-top sanctuary on the Island of Samothrace.
First Floor, Denon, Landing Near Room 1
One of the most famous of all classical sculptures – but is she Aphrodite, Venus, Artemis or Diana and how exactly was she holding her (now missing) arms?
Ground Floor, Sully, Room 16
Bought by Napoleon for one million francs and probably a warrior not a gladiator, but the vigour of the pose and the drama of the moment makes an instant impression, even from the distant gallery entrance.
Ground Floor, Denon, Room B
A stunning haul of Roman silverwork – jugs, ladles, drinking cups, annulets, trays and a hand mirror – in almost perfect order from a site near Pompeii.
First Floor, Sully, Room 33
Fabulous detail and matchless composition – Van Eyck was a pioneer in the use of oil paint, which allowed him to depict the minutiae of his images with incredible precision.
Second Floor, Richelieu, Room 5
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Is there anything more to be said? Surely the fame of this painting far outstrips its artistic significance. Decide for yourself – if you can get close enough.
First Floor, Denon, Room 6
Just as compelling, just as beautiful and mysterious as the Mona Lisa, but virtually ignored by the crowds.
First Floor, Denon, Room 5
The slaves – one dying, one struggling – they were originally commissioned for the tomb of Pope Julius II, but the symbolism is unclear.
Ground Floor, Denon, Room 4
Not painted from life, but still a seminal image of the king, who brought Leonardo, the Mona Lisa, and many of the greatest antique sculptures from Italy to France.
First Floor, Denon, Room 6
Vermeer’s Lacemaker (on the wall opposite) attracts much more attention but this rare portrait of a male figure is the more intriguing composition.
Second Floor, Richelieu, Room 38
A wonderful conceit – each of the four paintings represents a different time of day, season of the year, age of life and a subject from the Old Testament.
Second Floor, Richelieu, Room 16
Gilded and stuccoed second empire interiors at their most lavish.
First Floor, Richelieu, rooms 83-89
As you tour the collection, look out for the surviving interiors from the old palaces. Some of the best are the 16th and 17th Century wood-panelled rooms on the first floor of Sully (25-26) and the Salle des Caryatides (Sully, Ground Floor, room 17, Greek Antiquities), where Moliere acted before Louis 14th in 1658. You can also see parts of the old fortifications on the Lower Ground Floor of Sully.
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