The Louvre is the the biggest art gallery in the world and a true symbol of French culture. Filled with thousands of pieces, the gallery gets over 7 million visitors a year! It preserves so many French artists’ work and is a really amazing building (it used to be a palace). I have visited the Louvre twice now (once 15 years ago and once last year) and I always love seeing the paintings. Here are some of my favourites:
1. Liberty Leading the People
Such an iconic painting and yet so many people aren’t familiar with the name. Created in 1830 by Eugene Delacroix, it’s become a symbol of French freedom.
I think this was one of the first images that really meant GIRL POWER to me! Probably because the Spice Girls had come out when I was a teenager! something She’s walking over the lead, leading the people with a gun in one hand and a flag in the other. There’s something special about a bare breasted woman kicking ass and taking names.
2. Raft of Medusa
This is a sad painting. As people struggle to survive on a shipwreck, in the FAR distance is a tiny boat (too small to see in this picture) to which they wave for help. The desperation is clear in the twisted bodies and faded colours, hope draining like the colours in the sky.
It was created by Theodore Gericault (whose name I always forget, oops!) in 1819, and illustrates a scandal of the time – a shipwreck that occurred off the coast of Mauritana. The survivors practiced cannibalism, many dying before being rescued. I just think it’s a really powerful painting…have you ever tried to paint clouds or the sea? It’s not easy let me tell you!
3. The Oath of Horatii
I suppose a part of me loves these old school artworks because they were the photographs of the era. They captures stories and moments that live forever (we hope). Now that Game of Thrones is so massive, I love that more of the world can start to understand the times and realities of living during these centuries.
The Oath of Horatii was created in 1784 by Jacques-Louis David (another name I always forget!) and is one of the best known pieces of the Neoclassical style. Neoclassical art celebrated symmetry and simplicity and originated in the Greek and Italian literature before spreading throughout Europe.
This picture is about 3 siblings who decide to represent Rome in a battle. Here they make a pledge to their father that they will honour their family and ‘side’. Instead of a whole town going to war, whoever won would be the ruling kingdom. The lady in the bottom will marry one of the opposition brothers. She is sad because she will lose a real brother or a future husband either way.
4. The Wedding at Cana
This isn’t actually one of my favourite paintings because I like it, but because I had to write about it in my exam and I didn’t know it. It’s a depiction of a wedding where Jesus turns water in wine. See Jesus sitting in the centre in the red with blue shawl? I had NO clue and couldn’t see it on the black and white exam reprint so I said it was about the two dudes with the vases on the right, FAIL! Literally 😀 It still makes me laugh when it reminds me of my folding high school career! LOL
5. The Mystery of the Passion of Christ
Finally, this is a picture that I’ve come to appreciate in recent years thanks to watching Ancient Aliens! I’m not sure if you’ve ever watched the program, but it’s explores potential alien visits to earth and how aliens have been depicted throughout the years whether in physical form (like who built the pyramids) or within actual art.
This is a famous painting by Antonio Campi and depicts the heavens opening up with some kind of presence. Maybe angels, maybe aliens… are they coming to rescue Jesus on the cross? It certainly is very interesting! (And there’s not much online about it, I tried to find more!)
Bonus: The Young Martyr
This painting is super famous and one that I really enjoyed seeing on my last visit. “The Young Martyr depicts the sacrifice of a young Christian woman into the Tiber River. However, what the painting alludes to is not merely the countless Christian martyrs throughout the centuries, but specifically the martyrdom Christians under the rule of the Roman emperor Diocletian…” – Wikipedia.
Visiting the Louvre
Don’t worry about knowing art or whether you’re ‘cool’ enough to get it. If you’re in Paris, go to a gallery and see for yourself! There are no right and wrong answers and there certainly aren’t any teachers who will quiz you about whether you have something to say about it or not. It’s an awesome experience and certainly worth doing.