April 20, 2024

A Guide to the Louvre’s Most Iconic Masterpieces

The Louvre Museum in Paris is home to one of the world’s most impressive art collections, with over 380,000 objects on display. From Egyptian antiquities to Islamic art, the vast galleries contain countless treasures, but it’s the Western artworks from the Middle Ages to the 19th century that draw millions of visitors every year. Here is an overview of the Louvre’s most famous paintings that are absolutely worth seeing when you visit this iconic museum.

Mona Lisa

No trip to the Louvre is complete without seeing Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece, the Mona Lisa. This iconic portrait, also known as La Gioconda, is quite small at only 21 by 30 inches but is undoubtedly the most famous painting in the world. Lisa Gherardini, the wife of a Florentine merchant, is the subject, although her enigmatic facial expression has intrigued viewers for centuries. Da Vinci worked on the Mona Lisa for over a decade and kept it with him until he died in 1519. Don’t expect to get close – you’ll have to view it from a distance behind protective glass, as it now hangs in a special humidity and temperature-controlled enclosure.

The Wedding Feast at Cana

This gigantic painting by Veronese dominates an entire wall of the Louvre’s Grand Gallery. Completed in 1563, it depicts the miracle of the wedding feast at Cana, where Jesus converted water into wine. The vivid composition includes over 130 figures, all dressed in sumptuous 16th-century costumes, intermingling around a richly decorated table set for the banquet. Veronese mixed imaginary and real people within the scenes, including contemporary artists like Tintoretto and Titian along with Venetian nobles. The amazing detail and colours make this one of the most enthralling paintings in the Louvre.

Liberty Leading the People

Eugene Delacroix’s most famous painting commemorates the July Revolution of 1830 that saw the overthrow of King Charles X of France. A woman painted as a representation of Liberty leads the people forward over a barricade and the bodies of the fallen, holding the flag of the French Revolution – the tricolour of blue, white and red. Though Delacroix completed the painting in his studio, it captures the energy and chaos of the uprising in the streets of Paris. The dynamic, vivid scene immediately became a powerful icon of the French spirit of freedom and revolution.

Paris, France-March 18, 2018: Liberty Leading the People, La Liberté guidant le peuple, painting by Eugène Delacroix commemorating the July Revolution of 1830, which toppled King Charles X of France.

The Raft of the Medusa

This dramatic 1819 painting by Theodore Gericault depicts the harrowing aftermath of the wreck of the French naval frigate Medusa off the coast of Senegal in 1816. Passengers on a makeshift raft are shown desperately signalling for help; Gericault captures both the hope and despair in a disturbing yet emotionally powerful way. The Raft of the Medusa created a sensation when first exhibited and is regarded as an iconic work of French Romanticism. The huge 16 by 23 foot canvas imposed an immense physical challenge on the artist that translates into the scene’s raw intensity.

The Coronation of Napoleon

Jacques-Louis David, the official painter of the French Revolution, commemorated Napoleon Bonaparte’s 1804 coronation as Emperor of France in this monumental work completed in 1807. Following the religious ceremony at Notre Dame Cathedral, Napoleon crowns his wife Josephine in an act of defiance toward the papacy. David captures the pomp and grandeur of the event in stunning detail, with figures painstakingly modelled on actual participants. The Coronation of Napoleon was triumphantly exhibited as a symbol of French imperial ambition until Napoleon’s 1815 defeat at Waterloo.

The Lacemaker

This intimate genre painting by Dutch artist Jan Vermeer, created around 1669-70, shows a young woman intently focused on her needlework. Bathed in daylight from a window, her downcast eyes and subtle facial expression create an emotional mood far deeper than the simple scene. Vermeer pioneered a realistic style and specialised in these quietly captivating snapshots of everyday life. The exquisite details like the delicate lace she crafts, and the folds of her yellow skirt are rendered with remarkable skill. The Lacemaker highlights Vermeer’s brilliant ability to suggest inner meaning through masterful technique.

The Louvre’s collection of paintings traces the entire history of Western art up through the mid-19th century. From ancient Egyptian funerary art like the Fayum mummy portraits to the Neoclassical canvases of Jacques-Louis David, a stroll through the galleries allows you to experience pivotal moments in the evolution of human creativity and expression. Don’t miss these and many other celebrated masterpieces from Botticelli, Raphael, Titian, Rubens, Rembrandt, Poussin, Watteau, Goya, Ingres and Delacroix.

Ticket Prices to Visit the Louvre

The Louvre is open six days a week from 9 AM to 6 PM, and on a Friday, it stays open until 9:45 PM. The only day the Louvre is closed is a Tuesday, as well as on Christmas Day, New Year’s Day, and May 1st.

Tickets cost €17 when purchased online. You can also purchase tickets at the museum for €15, but there is limited availability for these.

Visit the website to check the list of available concessions.

Give yourself plenty of time to take in the Louvre’s endless treasures – the world’s most famous paintings are waiting to be discovered within this former royal palace that is now one of the grandest art museums on earth.

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