I know, I get it. Visiting the Louvre is kind of cliché when in Paris. I can assure you, my adventuresome spirit has not worn out.
It’s cold in Paris, roughly 25 degrees, which in Philadelphia is no big deal. In Paris, the news reports talk of the “Russian front” and the “Beast from the East” referring to the Siberian air making it’s way to the United Kingdom, Europe and down into the Iberian peninsula. The chatter has me convinced I should stay inside. And so, I decided it was time to tackle the Louvre. For all my trips to Paris, I have never visited the museum.
Art museums are wonderful escapes for me. Somehow the physical dominance of these buildings, the curation of masterpieces, the carefully lit rooms and the dull murmur of patrons admiring art puts me in a peaceful place. Art is restorative when I am anxious or my mind is moving in dozens of directions at once. One of my dear friends, an accomplished woman and world traveler extraordinaire, commented on my love of museums during one of our morning runs. She mentioned that going to a museum would be ‘absolute torture’ for her. It’s funny, I understood her completely. Perhaps it’s the difference between extroversion and introversion? I gain my energy in these quiet creative places.
With that in mind, I set out for Louis XIV’s starter home, the Louvre. He lived in the royal palace, now a part of the (the ‘old Louvre’) museum complex, prior to upgrading to Versailles. Many of the French monarchs lived in this location. Technically, I was not in the part of the museum which was the royal palace occupied by Louis XIV, but I will get there this year.
Instead, I opted to head to the Richelieu wing (part of the ‘new Louvre’) and to look at the apartment chambers of Napoleon III. The scale and opulence are on par with Versailles. The walls are covered in silk and every surface with a raised border or carved element is gilded or mirrored or both. The crystal chandeliers truly rival those at Versailles. The palace at Versailles might win in quantity of crystal chandeliers, but the opulence of Napoleon III’s chandelier in the Grand Salon is second to none. It’s the size of a car.
I struggled to orient myself in these rooms; a feeling of not knowing where to look first. One element is more flashy and flamboyant than the next. The painted ceilings are remarkable if you can gaze up before the distraction of a carved marble fireplace mantel, dozens of wall sconces, massive murals or cherub adorned clocks. It’s a lot to take in. I could not decide if it was a decorator’s dream or nightmare.
To recenter myself (cleanse my optical palette, if that is possible), I looked at the views outside from the apartment before taking on the next room. The generous two-story windows in the Richelieu wing look into the heart of the city. The Cour Napolean, Place du Carrousel and Arc de triumph du Carrousel are in the immediate foreground looking south and west. Looking in the same direction, if you take your eyes to the horizon, the Eiffel Tower appears on a clear day. If you get a purely west facing view, you have the expanse of the the Tuileries.
I have much more to discover at the Louvre. My membership extends through the year so I be able to come and go frequently. I think my next visit will the the Egyptian antiquities unless you would like to recommend another direction. I am open to suggestions on how to experience the museum. I am still trying to figure it out. Please send me your strategies!
As a quick sidenote, if you are a fan of podcasts, I have a super recommendation for you. Every few weeks, art historian, Jennifer Dasal, produces the ArtCurious Podcast. She is exceptionally knowledgeable and tells wonderful stories behind the art. Podcast #1 had me hooked: Is the Mona Lisa a Fake?