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What art is in The Louvre? 20 Must-See artworks to see before you die

In this post I will tell you the top 20 artworks in The Louvre that need to be seen when you visit. I will also tell you where the Mona Lisa is located today (the Mona Lisa is in room 6 of the Denon wing), the names and locations of artworks you sort of know but don’t know the name such as “that sculpture of an angel kissing a woman” (it’s called “Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss” and is located in Room 4 of the Louvre Museum “Galérie Michel Angel”.) the famous Napoleon III apartments and much much more.

The reason I wrote this post is that I went to visit Paris as part of my honeymoon. After visiting the Louvre, I wish I had done some research into what artworks are in the Louvre as this would have saved me and my wife hours and hours of aimless wandering around looking for specific works of art.

(Before I forget, the Louvre is closed on Tuesdays – I know as we went on a Tuesday and discovered this fact. At least we got the chance to visit the lovely Musee D’Orsay across the river.)

I knew the Mona Lisa was on the top of my list (and gathering from the crowds in that room, it’s also on the top of the list of thousands of people) but it was not long after I got there I realized that my list contained only one artwork! If I had only done some research before I went, I could have gone in to the Louvre with a list of at least 20 artworks I wanted to see.

The reason is I had also missed out on seeing some other fantastic art works as well as the not so famous Napoleon Bonaparte III apartments!

I only found out about the apartments on my return home, and that is one major regret I will have until I get to revisit the Louvre again.

Secondly, I had entered the Louvre from the Lion’s Gate entrance which I am told is no longer open for tourists.

The Lion’s Gate is a side entrance and at the time it left me skip the queues of people wanting to get into the Louvre.

While entering via the Lion’s Gate saved me time queueing to get in, it also meant I went against the tourist flow for each work, seeing everything in reverse order.

If only someone had told me what artworks are in The Louvre and where I could find them so that I could plan my day there.

The Louvre Pyramid
The Louvre Pyramid – aka Pyramid of Ming Pei

The Entrance

The entrance to the Louvre Museums takes place through the Pyramid of Ming Pei, a structure that contends, with the Eiffel Tower in popularity and is one that is most loved and hated by Parisians.

From the pyramid you have access to the three main wings into which the museum is divided: Sully, Richelieu and Denon.

Each wing has four floors: one underground and three above ground.

These three main areas are divided in turn into eight smaller departments, where the works are divided into the following categories:

Oriental antiquities. Egyptian antiquities. Greek, Etruscan and Roman antiquities, the arts of Islam, sculptures, art objects, paintings, graphic arts.

Louvre - Photo by Daniel Gregoire (Unsplash)
Louvre – Photo by Daniel Gregoire (Unsplash)

Artworks in The Louvre?

There are so many artworks in The Louvre that I have broken the top 20 down into the main 2 categories as I saw them, which is Sculpture and Paintings and then added some random ones such as diamonds and Napoleon’s apartment.

That said, the Louvre contains countless priceless of artworks of all categories as listed previously and you should not limit yourself to just these. Do not dwell too long on a specific artwork in the Louvre or you will lose all track of time.

SCULPTURES

“Aphrodite” also known as “Venus de Milo”

Aphrodite also known as Venus de Milo
Aphrodite also known as Venus de Milo – From https://www.louvre.fr/en/oeuvre-notices/aphrodite-known-venus-de-milo

Re-Discovered in 1820 in a field on the Cyclades island. It is located in room 7 of the Sully wing.

It represents a model of the Greek ideal of beauty and comes to us from 100 BC.

It is partially mutilated but remains one of the great masterpieces of the Hellenistic period.

Some believe she may have held an apple, a shield or a crown in her hand.

Another hypothesis is that Venus raised a mirror to admire her own beauty.

“Nike of Samothrace” also called “The Winged Victory of Samothrace”

"Nike of Samothrace" also called "The Winged Victory of Samothrace"
“Nike of Samothrace” also called “The Winged Victory of Samothrace” – https://www.louvre.fr/en/oeuvre-notices/winged-victory-samothrace

Located on “Escalier Daru”, a staircase leading to the first floor of the museum. Carved around 190 BC, the “winged goddess of victory” was rediscovered on the island of Samothrace.

Historians believe that the monument was a religious offering from the people of Rhodes in commemoration of an important naval victory.

A breeze seems to blow the clothes between the legs, which gives the sculpture an extraordinary sense of realism.

Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss

Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss
Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss – http://musee.louvre.fr/oal/psyche/psyche_acc_en.html

The sculpture is located in Room 4 of the Louvre Museum “Galérie Michel Angel”.

Antonio Canova was undoubtedly the most representative artist of Neoclassicism.

This was the movement that emerged in Europe between the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries to revive the classic model of Greco-Roman art.

“The Rebellious Slave”

The Rebellious Slave
The Rebellious Slave – https://www.louvre.fr/en/oeuvre-notices/rebellious-slave

It is situated in the Denon wing, First floor, Room 403 by Michelangelo gallery.

Michelangelo portrays a slave who writhes to free himself from the ropes that bind his hands, was donated by Buonarroti himself to Piero Strozzi.

Strozzi then took it to France, where it remains today.

“The Seated Scribe”

The Seated Scribe
The Seated Scribe – https://www.louvre.fr/en/oeuvre-notices/seated-scribe

It is situated in the department of Egyptian Antiquities, room 635

Rediscovered in Saqqara in the late 1800s by a French Egyptologist, this painted limestone statue constitutes one of the finest Egyptian works of art in the Old Kingdom.

“The Lamassu from the Khorsabad Palace” also known as “Winged human-headed bull

"The Lamassu from the Khorsabad Palace" also known as "Winged human-headed bull"
“The Lamassu from the Khorsabad Palace” also known as “Winged human-headed bull” – https://www.louvre.fr/en/oeuvre-notices/winged-human-headed-bull

These are winged bulls with a human head, which King Sargon II erected on the sides of one of the city gates of Dur Šarrukin, the capital of the new empire.

These threefold creatures – they are in fact both man, bull and bird – symbolically represented the guardians of the city. Dating from 721 to 705 BC.

They were rediscovered in 1843 by the French archaeologist Paul Botta.

“Zodiac of Dendera”

Zodiac of Dendera
Zodiac of Dendera – https://www.louvre.fr/en/oeuvre-notices/zodiac-dendera

The zodiac of Dendera is a famous Egyptian bas-relief from the ceiling of the pronaos of a chapel dedicated to Osiris in the great Temple of Hathor in Dendera.

Bearing astronomical representations such as the constellation of Taurus or Libra, it is situated in room 12 bis.

Artemis with a Doe” also known as “Diana Versailles”

"Artemis with a Doe" also known as "Diana Versailles"
“Artemis with a Doe” also known as “Diana Versailles” – https://www.louvre.fr/en/oeuvre-notices/artemis-doe

It is a marble statue, slightly larger than its natural size, depicting the Greek goddess Artemis with a roe deer.

It is situated in palace of Fontainebleau, Hall of Mirrors, Greek antiquities, room 17.

PAINTINGS

“Gioconda” or The Mona Lisa

Louvre Mona Lisa aka La Gioconda - Photo by Zach Dyson (Unsplash)
Louvre Mona Lisa aka La Gioconda – Photo by Zach Dyson (Unsplash)

Where is the Mona Lisa located today? The Mona Lisa is located in room 6 of the Denon wing.

One thing you will notice when you see it, is that its is much smaller in person than what you have imagined. The room that houses it is also packed in like sardines and people taking flash photographs of the work.

The problem is the Mona Lisa is housed behind a bullet proof glass barrier built into the frame so all the flashes of light from cameras means you will be guaranteed a horrible photo.

Also called “La Gioconda” it is a masterpiece by Leonardo da Vinci.

For those who love history: the woman portrayed is believed to be Lisa Gherardini, wife of a Florentine merchant named Francesco del Giocondo.

But there is no certainty about it.

There are those who dared to say that in reality it was a distorted self-portrait of the author; and then there are those who say she never existed.

One thing most people say when they walk into the crowded room is “it is much smaller than I expected”.

Now did Napoleon own the Mona Lisa? While Napoleon did not actually own the Mona Lisa, he did take it for a while to hang in Josephine’s room until it was returned to the museum in 1804.

The Mona Lisa was not even purchased by Napoleon for France, it was acquired by France’s King Francis I for 4,000 gold coins from one of Leonardo Da Vinci’s assistants after his death a few hundred years earlier.

After the French Revolution, the painting was taken from the royal family and the state took ownership of the Mona Lisa and proudly added it to the museum for all to see and enjoy.

Why is the Mona Lisa so expensive? As a painting it is nothing that special. Being painted by one of the geniuses of the Renaissance would give it value today as Leonardo Da Vinci is more revered today than ever.

The Mona Lisa is also one of the few completed works of art by Da Vinci who was notorious for leaving many works uncompleted and moving on to the next.

“Wedding of Cana” also known as “The Wedding Feast at Cana

"Wedding of Cana" also known as "The Wedding Feast at Cana"
“Wedding of Cana” also known as “The Wedding Feast at Cana” – https://www.louvre.fr/en/oeuvre-notices/wedding-feast-cana

Paolo Caliari’s work, originally painted in the Benedictine refectory on the island of San Giorgio Maggiore.

It is now preserved inside the Louvre Museum, exactly in front of the famous Mona Lisa.

Dated 1563, the painting was dismantled in 1797 by Napoleon, who took it and sent it to Paris where it is still located today.

The canvas depicts an episode of the Gospel according to John, or the transformation of water into wine that took place during the wedding in Cana.

“The Raft of the Medusa”

"The Raft of the Medusa"
“The Raft of the Medusa” – https://www.louvre.fr/en/oeuvre-notices/raft-medusa

It is located in the Denon wing, room 77. This artwork I did manage to see and it is amazing in person! The level of detail and the story behind it will blow you away.

Théodore Géricault’s work tells of a serious chronicle of the past, the sinking of the Medusa flagship that was headed for the colony of Senegal.

The accident, which occurred off the coast of Africa, saw officials rescuing aboard lifeboats many men and women.

The were embarked on a raft which was found 13 days later with only 15 survivors.

“Virgin of the Rocks”

Virgin of the Rocks
Virgin of the Rocks – https://www.louvre.fr/en/oeuvre-notices/virgin-rocks

It is located in the Denon 8 wing room.

Painted by Leonardo da Vinci on commission from the friars of the convent of the Conception.

The Virgin of the Rocks is a masterpiece that represents the Madonna, the child Jesus, John the Baptist in the act of blessing the child and the angel placed at the entrance of a cave.

In this rocky landscape, the artist contrasts the maxima (the cave) and the minima (the flowers and plants) made with attention to the smallest details.

July 28: Liberty Leading the People

July 28: Liberty Leading the People
July 28: Liberty Leading the People – https://www.louvre.fr/en/oeuvre-notices/july-28-liberty-leading-people

Dated 1830, the Liberty that guides the people is an artwork that tells of the struggle that the Parisians waged against Charles X of France. You cannot visit France and the Louvre and not see this painting.

Eugène Delacroix has given maximum importance to the figure of Liberty, a classic nude revisited in a modern key, reminiscent of the Venus de Milo.

The woman represents Marianne, earthly as a goddess, who guides people of all social ranks. She holds the French Republican flag and a rifle wearing the Phrygia cap, which is a clear appeal for freedom.

It is situated in galler 77 on the first floor in the Denon wing.

“The Coronation of Napolèon” also known as “The Consecration of the Emperor Napoleon and the Coronation of Empress Joséphine on December 2, 1804

The Coronation of Napolèon
The Coronation of Napolèon – https://www.louvre.fr/en/oeuvre-notices/consecration-emperor-napoleon-and-coronation-empress-josephine-december-2-1804

Painted by Jacques-Louis David and located in the Denon wing in room 75.

Napoleon commissioned this monumental painting from Jacques-Louis David.

He commissioned it as a testimony to his coronation ceremony in May 1804 after a coup d’état decided following his victorious military campaigns in Italy and Egypt.

“The Oath of the Horatii”

The Oath of the Horatii
The Oath of the Horatii – https://www.louvre.fr/en/oeuvre-notices/oath-horatii

Jacques-Louis David’s Oath of the Horatii represents the symbol of Neoclassicism in painting.

This is the scene: before confronting the enemy, the three Orazi brothers swear before their father to courageously face their destiny for the good of their homeland.

“O Rome, o death”: this is the solemn oath.

In the Denon Wing room – 1st floor
Daru
Room 702

“The Lacemaker”

The Lacemaker
The Lacemaker – https://www.louvre.fr/en/oeuvre-notices/lacemaker

Vermeer is one of my favourite artists of all time and what struck me about this painting is its size, it is actually quite tiny but beautiful. I could just stand in front of this tiny painting and stare at it all day.

Jan Vermeer was, together with Rembrandt, one of the most influential Dutch painters of the 17th century.

His style is unmistakable: an almost obsessive attention to detail.

The light used as a tool to create games of shadows and reflections.

The bright colors make even by today’s standards, a vivid and inimitable artwork

Richelieu wing, 2nd floor room 837.

“The Death of the Virgin”

The Death of the Virgin
The Death of the Virgin – https://www.louvre.fr/en/oeuvre-notices/death-virgin

The Death of the Virgin is a painting dating back to the mature phase of Caravaggio.

Caravaggio is counted among the most revolutionary painters in the history of art and and considered by many the father of the Baroque himself.

“Oedipus and the Sphinx”

Oedipus and the Sphinx
Oedipus and the Sphinx – https://www.louvre.fr/en/oeuvre-notices/oedipus-explaining-enigma-sphinx

Oedipus and the Sphinx is one of the first works of the French painter Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres.

Painted in neoclassical style, it represents the moment in which Oedipus reveals the solution he proposed of the riddle imposed by the monster; if he did not succeed, would devour him

Denon wing 1st floor, daru room 702

“Portrait of Louis XIV”

Portrait of Louis XIV
Portrait of Louis XIV – https://www.louvre.fr/en/oeuvre-notices/louis-xiv-1638-1715

It was painted in 1701 by the court painter Hyacinthe Rigaud.

The painting was commissioned to Rigaud by Louis XIV himself to satisfy the request of his nephew, Philip V of Spain, to have a portrait of the French sovereign

Sully wing, second floor.

“Diamond” known as “Le Régent”

"Diamond" known as "Le Régent"
“Diamond” known as “Le Régent” – https://www.louvre.fr/oeuvre-notices/diamant-dit-le-regent

It was on the crown of King Louis XV, as well as on the hilt of the sword of Napoleon Bonaparte: One of the most famous diamonds in history.

The stone was ‘found’ in Golconda, India, in 1698, before being cut in England: a painstaking operation that required two years of work.

This goldsmith’s work is visible in the Apollo Gallery.

… Well … only 20 great works of art in the midst of many thousands of every historical era from all past and non-past cultures that contribute to making the Louvre perhaps the most visited museum in the world.

The wonders do not end here… Napoleon III Apartments

Napoleon III Apartments - Room
Napoleon III Apartments – Room – https://www.flickr.com/photos/lawhitejr/4779392459

How about taking a look at the splendid and sumptuous rooms of Napoleon III, The Apartments are located at the end of the 1st floor, in the Richelieu wing, right next to the splendid Apollo Gallery.

The rooms now in the Louvre were the reception rooms of the Emperor’s Minister, the Great Hall, dining rooms and various reception lounges.

There is so much gold and it is everywhere, I recommend you wear sunglasses!

Louvre Ceiling Art - Photo by Tom-VanderHeyden (Unsplash)
Louvre Ceiling Art – Photo by Tom-VanderHeyden (Unsplash)

I for one will be revisiting these artworks and the Napoleon III apartments when I return.

Hopefully you will now know what art is in The Louvre before your visit!

If you wish to see more art works online, please visit The Louvre’s website and further plan your trip and purchase any tickets to shows in advance. There is also a fantastic virtual reality experience which should not be missed!

Download a map of The Louvre

Finally, be sure to download a map of The Louvre which also includes its own list of must-see artworks in the Louvre.

If you wish to see what books on The Louvre are available on Amazon, feel free to click the links below – please note as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

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