A visit to louvre museum, Paris The Mona Lisa


France has 1,218 museums while Paris is home to a whopping 140 museums. Opposite the Musée du Louvre stands the Musée d’Orsay, known for its Impressionist treasures. Further along the Seine is the Petit Palais, the Muséed’ArtModerne de la Ville de Paris, the Palais de Tokyo etc. The other museum visited by people include Rodin museum, Salvador Dali museum. ,National Museum of Natural History ,Louis Vuitton Foundation museum, Picasso Museum ,Guimet museum ,Center Pompidou and many more . From small local galleries to large national museums, there’s something for everyone. If you appreciate art, culture, and creativity, then Paris has much to offer. France’s first museum – the Louvre – is also the world’s largest and most visited museum.
The Louvre
The Louvre has the distinction of being perhaps the most famous museum in the world. The museum is a landmark monument and contains the world’s biggest collection of art, with perhaps the most famous painting of all-time hanging in its halls: da Vinci’s Mona Lisa. The 782,000-square-foot museum is the most visited in the world with more than 10 million guests each year. The building that houses the Louvre today was built in the late 12th century and remains of the Louvre Castle fortress can still be seen in the museum’s basement today. The building was extended many times to form the present Louvre Palace. In 1682, Louis XIV chose the Palace of Versailles as his house, leaving the Louvre as a place to display the royal collection. In 1692, the building was occupied by the Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres and the Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture. The Académie remained at the Louvre for 100 years. During the French Revolution, the National Assembly decreed that the Louvre should be used as a museum, to display the masterpieces of the nation. The museum opened 10 August 1793 with an exhibition of 537 paintings. Due to structural problems of the building, the museum was closed in 1796 until 1801.
The museum collection increased under Napoleon, it was renamed the Napoleon museum. After the defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo, many works seized by his armies were returned to their original owners. The collection was further increased during the reigns of Louis XVIII and Charles X. During the Second French Empire the museum gained 20,000 pieces.
Located on the right bank of the Seine river in the heart of Paris city, Louvre is the world’s biggest museum that houses about 300000 collections of art from Europe, Asia, the Islamic world, Egypt, Greece, Rome, France and many other places. It is spread over a huge complex inside an erstwhile palace with three levels. This collection includes treasures in sculptures paintings, fabrics, furniture, jewellery, crockery and innumerable artefacts housed in three separate wings known as Richelieu Wing, Denon Wing and Sully Wing. Each wing has different levels and each level has different rooms. It is not possible to see even a single wing in one day. Accordingly, one needs to do good homework to know what he plans to see and where it is located. I wasted time and money on my earlier visit without proper homework. On 25th May 2023, my visit was satisfying as adequate homework had been done about what to see and where it lay inside the three separate wings including room numbers in specific.
There are some major treasures housed inside the museum that need not be missed. Some of the most famous artworks inside the Louvre include the Mona Lisa, the winged Victory of Samothrace, the Venus de Milo, the Squatting Scribe, the Code Hammurabi, the Vermeer’s Lacemaker, the Coronation of Napoleon, the Raft of the Medusa. the Sleeping Hermaphrodite, the Venus de Milo and many more.
Louvre has three entrances but the main entrance is through the Glass Pyramid. It is better to enter through the main entrance as you have separate lines for those who need on-the-spot tickets and those who have already booked their time slot online. Better buy online as your entry is assured, smooth and hassle-free in about 20 to 30 minutes even if you see a huge crowd. Buying tickets across the counter on the day of the visit may take more than one hour and sometimes the tickets are already sold out. Roughly, 30,000 people visit Louvre every day. My suggestion would be to book 9am slot online. The entry gates get crowded after 11am. A ticket without a guide may cost 17 Euros. And remember that you need to walk about two to three km inside the Museum to go to various wings. You also need to use the staircase and escalators. All this is also going to give some discomfort to those who have knee problems or osteoarthritis. It is advisable to wear comfortable shoes, carry your water bottle and some snacks and take some rest in between visiting various wings. I purchased water @1 Euro from a Punjabi boy ( fromHoshiarpur ) outside the Glass Pyramid.
As you enter, you find people rushing to Denon Wing Level 1 (room no711). Mona Lisa is housed in this wing. As you go up the staircases, you confront ‘The Winged Victory of Samothrace’ another artistic wonder in sculpture from ancient Greece. Turn right and you are in multiple lobbies housing paintings. Go right and you are in room 711 which has many great paintings including Mona Lisa. On the wall facing Mona Lisa, you can find Paolo Veronese’s ( 1528-1588) massive painting known in the world of art as The Wedding Feast at Cana’. At over 6 metres high and almost 10 metres wide, ‘The Wedding Feast at Cana’ is the biggest painting in the Louvre. It depicts an extraordinary banquet with a crowd of some 130 different characters in a blaze of light and colour. On account of its size and the Mona Lisa crowd in the room, it was difficult for me to clearly capture this painting with the camera. Veronese painted the scene for a monastery’s refectory on the island of San Giorgio Maggiore in Venice. In 1798, Napoleon’s troops confiscated the painting and had it shipped to Paris. Besides Mona Lisa, you will find two other brilliant paintings, Jacques-Louis David’s ‘The Coronation of Napoleon’ and Delacroix’s ‘Liberty Leading the People’ on the first floor, Denon Wing.
Many visitors expect the Mona Lisa painting in Louvre Museum to be a massive painting, but it is a tiny masterpiece. It is just 77 cm by 53 cm. The painting is placed in a temperature-controlled room and it is encased in bullet-proof glass. The glass cover has been a safety precaution since the early 1950s when a visitor poured acid on it. The visitors are kept 5 feet away from the painting by a specially erected barricade.I stayed for about one hour in room 711 and the crowd was always unbelievably thick. Everyone wanted to take a selfie with her in the background. Could that be possible?
If Monalisa is going to be sold today, its price would be around $850 million. It is the world’s most expensive painting with the highest insurance value. This year it was insured for 830 million US dollars for comprehensive risks including damage and theft. It is pertinent to mention that there is a French heritage law that prohibits the painting from being bought or sold.
Painted by Leonardo Da Vinci in Florence, Italy sometime around 1503, it is believed to be the portrait of Lisa Gherardini, wife of a Florentine cloth merchant named Francesco delGiocondo, which is why the Mona Lisa painting is also called La Gioconda. After Leonardo finished the portrait, he didn’t give it to the cloth merchant or his wife. Instead, he brought it to France with him. Leonardo held the painting close to him for more than 15 years, and only at his death in 1519 did his friend and patron, French King Francois I bring the painting to his Palace. In 1804, after the French Revolution, the painting was removed from the Royal Palace and shifted to the Louvre Museum. Mona Lisa spent some time on Napoleon Bonaparte’s bedroom wall in the Tuileries Palace. In 1911, Mona Lisa was stolen by a patriotic Italian, who believed that since Leonardo was an Italian, his masterpiece must also be in Italy and not France. It was recovered in 1913.
Mona Lisa’s smile is the most enigmatic: much spoken of, stolen, copied and reinterpreted. Mona Lisa is an icon that has fascinated the world for nearly four centuries. Da Vinci painted Mona Lisa on poplar wood instead of canvas. Like most Renaissance depictions of the Virgin Mary, the Mona Lisa also bears a strong resemblance to her. The woman in the painting is seen sitting on an armchair with her hands crossed and placed on her lap. Her iconic gaze is fixed on the eyes of viewers. Da Vinci gave the painting a lifelike appearance by omitting outlines on the figure, a method known as sfumato. The sfumato technique refers to a painting with no bold or harsh outlines. By blurring and blending carefully, artists use sfumato to give a smoky, atmospheric effect to a painting.
There is a new belief that Mona Lisa may not be artistically the best ever work in the world. All said and done, it is ultimately a portrait. It may even be one of the greatest portraits next to Raphael’s Girl Holding a Unicorn and in front of Thomas Gainsborough’s Blue Boy, but it’s still only a portrait. Has the theft of the Mona Lisa hyped its reputation and value? Is it a compromise in terms of artistic importance? Leonardo is not only famous for Mona Lisa, but he also painted other masterpieces such as The Last Supper and The Virgin of the Rocks.
I wanted to stay close to Mona Lisa and other masterpieces on display in room no 711 of Denon Wing but other works of art in my visit’s itinerary made me leave the room. Can’t call it a visit in a hurry as poet JaganNath Azad says:-

“Hameinthakaambahutruuksakayna pal do pal,
Guzargayeteraykooche se hum sabakitarah”

( AvtarMota . Paris, France )