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A Step Inside Giacometti’s Studio

A Step Inside Giacometti’s Studio

More than 50 years after his death, Alberto Giacometti’s studio in Paris has been reassembled and is open for you to visit.  You will find it about a mile from his original studio, in the same Montparnasse neighborhood.

Forethought to Preserve an Artist’s Legacy

When he died in 1966, Giacometti’s studio of 40 years was disassembled by his wife, Annette.  She removed all of the artist’s works in progress, furnishings and even the walls to preserve them.  Annette had the forethought, and somehow knew, that Giacometti’s studio should be saved for the future.

Eventually, Giacometti’s studio and artwork, notebooks, sketchbooks and all kinds of things Giacometti, was left by Annette in 1993 to the Fondation Alberto et Annette Giacometti.  The Foundation runs the Giacometti Institute and that organization, “is the reference place for Giacometti’s work and an art history center including exhibitions, research and pedagogy.”

Reconstruction of Giacometti’s Studio

In furtherance of its mission, Giacometti’s studio was reconstructed.  Using old photographs of Giacometti’s studio by Robert Doisneau, Gordon Parks, Sabine Weiss and Ernst Scheidegger the Giacometti Institute rebuilt the studio just as it had been.  At only 15′ x 16′, you wouldn’t think it could hold much.  But, like his skeletal sculptures, Giacometti’s studio is powerful and full of the artist’s presence.

The website explains that now the Giacometti Institute has on permanent display, “Giacometti’s reconstructed studio including his furniture, personal objects, walls painted by the artist and exclusive works, some of which have never before been exhibited.”

Giacometti’s Studio Housed in Art-Deco

The Giacometti Foundation decided to place the institute in a 1914 Art-Deco building with a famous history of its own.  Paul Follot, the renowned Art-Deco artist and interior designer had his showroom in the building.  (Super-cool!)

Of course, the 3,700 square foot space needed lots of work to make it a suitable place for the Institute.  Pascal Grasso, the architect working on the restoration and renovation, had three objectives, “respect the historic monument and give Giacometti’s work pride of place, while devising a contemporary space endowed with its own identity.”

The foundation’s collection is the largest holding of artwork by Alberto Giacometti.  It includes hundreds of sculptures, nearly 100 paintings and thousands of drawings, etchings and engravings.  Some of these can be seen on a visit to the institute.

Breaking Many Banks

Alberto Giacometti’s sculptures are some of the most recognizable in the world – and the most expensive.  “Chariot,” a breathtaking 1950 bronze by Alberto Giacometti, sold for nearly US$101 Million in 2014.  And, in 2015, the spaghetti-string armed, “Pointing Man,” sold for over US$141 Million.  That set a world record for a sculpture at auction.

Alberto Giacometti "Chariot"

“Chariot” by Alberto Giacometti

Want to see a current major exhibition of Alberto Giacometti’s work in the United States?  Visit the Guggenheim in New York through September 12, 2018.

Quotes are from the Fondation Giacometti website.

Giacometti’s Studio
Address:  Inside the Institute Giacometti, 5, Rue Victor Schoelcher, 75014 Paris
Nearest Métro:  Raspail or Denfert-Rochereau
RER:  Line B, Stop: Denfert-Rochereau
Official websitehttp://www.fondation-giacometti.fr/en
Hours:   Open by online reservation system only.  Tuesday from 2:00pm – 6:00pm and Wednesday – Sunday 10:00am – 6:00pm.
Closed:  Monday all day and Tuesday mornings.
Admission charge:  Yes

UNESCO World Heritage Sites In/Near Paris

UNESCO World Heritage Sites In/Near Paris

France is lucky to have many World Heritage Sites, but there are several UNESCO World Heritage Sites in/near Paris.  You can easily visit some of them on a trip to Paris.  Even if you do not know it, you are already familiar with one spectacular World Heritage Sites – the banks of the Seine.  Did you know that?  For many people, the designation alone is enough reason to make a trip to see the site or to plan a vacation around it.  But, what does it mean to be designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site?

What is UNESCO?

UNESCO is an agency within the United Nations.   According to its website:  “The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) seeks to encourage the identification, protection and preservation of cultural and natural heritage around the world considered to be of outstanding value to humanity.  This is embodied in an international treaty called the Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage, adopted by UNESCO in 1972.”

How Does UNESCO Do All of That?

Nearly 200 countries have agreed to be bound by that Convention and the policies adopted by the organization.   These policies affect many different aspects of culture, but a well-known way that is easy to tangibly see are landmarks or areas that are designated as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

What is a World Heritage Site?

Obtaining the designation is often a years-long process based on a variety of criteria that demonstrate the area or landmark’s significance, uniqueness and contribution to culture.  And, in emergency situations, UNESCO takes into account the potential for loss.  Suffice it to say, that the places on the World Heritage Site list are generally awe-inspiring.

Why Do Countries Want Sites on the List?

Along with the prestige of having the designation, financial assistance may be awarded to preserve, conserve and plan for the future.  Also, oversight and expert help come from UNESCO.  Plus, the designation will bring hordes of tourists (money from another source).

UNESCO, like many other organizations, has had its share of controversies.  Although it may be difficult to find agreement on how cultural conservation should be accomplished, no one can argue with attempts to save cultural sites, heighten awareness of them and provide planning assistance for the enjoyment of those sites by future generations.  Plus, they are fun to visit!

(By the way, UNESCO headquarters is in Paris on the Place de Fontenoy in the 7th Arrondissement , behind the École Militaire.)

Following are UNESCO World Heritage Sites In/Near Paris.

Links are for the UNESCO entry that describes its cultural importance and the website of the landmark.

Paris, Banks of the Seine

Banks of the Seine with bridges and Notre Dame

That’s right!  You already know this one!  And, UNESCO recognizes the entire landscape.  Medieval buildings, grand plazas, gardens, monuments, bridges – the whole thing.  Most of the designated area can be seen from a river cruise.
UNESCO website:  http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/600

The Architectural Work of Le Corbusier, an Outstanding Contribution to the Modern Movement.

Le Corbusier Signature

Le Corbusier, born Charles- Charles-Édouard Jeanneret, was a Swiss-born architect working from the 1920s to 1960s.  He was responsible for 17 international sites that are together the one World Heritage Site.  Two of his works are very near Paris.
UNESCO website.  http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1321

Villa Savoye

A National Monument located only on the outskirts of Paris.
Website: http://www.villa-savoye.fr/en/

Porte Molitor Apartment Building

Walk by this modernist apartment building from the 1930s on Rue Nungesser et Coli and faces Stade Jean Bouin.  Private residences.

Provins, Town of Medieval Fairs

Provins fortified walls of the city

Counts of Champagne ruled from this town.  Provins was home to annual trade fairs where goods were bartered and sold from as far away as northern Europe and the Mediterranean.  Still see the fortified walls and ramparts that surround the old town.  Only about 60 miles from Paris and a train can take you there.  Then, it is a mile walk to the old town.
UNESCO website:  http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/873

Champagne Hillsides, Houses and Cellars

Champagne vineyards, windmill in distance, rolling hills

Besides beauty, creativity and great taste, I don’t know what to write.  The World Heritage website describes this entry as the following:  “The property is made up of three distinct ensembles: the historic vineyards of Hautvillers, Aÿ and Mareuil-sur-Aÿ, Saint-Nicaise Hill in Reims, and the Avenue de Champagne and Fort Chabrol in Epernay. These three components – the supply basin formed by the historic hillsides, the production sites (with their underground cellars) and the sales and distribution centres (the Champagne Houses) – illustrate the entire champagne production process. The property bears clear testimony to the development of a very specialized artisan activity that has become an agro-industrial enterprise.”  Essentially, I think, the towns and work grew up around the vines.
UNESCO website:  http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1465

Cathedral of Notre-Dame, Former Abbey of Saint-Rémi and Palace of Tau, Reims

Reims Cathedral

While visiting the Champagne countryside, take a look at this marvel and its compound.  Not far from the train station, or from Roman ruins, take a look at the Reims Cathedral and other parts of the World Heritage Site.  World War I caused great damage to the cathedral towers, but they have been completely restored.
The Towers of Reims Cathedral are a French National Monument.  Website:  http://www.cathedrale-reims.fr/en
Ministry of Cultural Affairs website:  http://www.reims-cathedral.culture.fr/
UNESCO website:  http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/601

Chartres Cathedral

Chartres Cathedral at sundown

By Ireneed, CC BY-SA 3.0, from Wikimedia Commons

France named Chartres Cathedral an Historic Monument in 1862!  It is a medieval and Gothic masterpiece with peerless stained-glass windows.  From miles away, this French National Monument is visible by train.
Website:  http://www.chartres-cathedrale.fr/en/
UNESCO website:  http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/81

Amiens Cathedral

Amiens Cathedral Interior

© Guillaume Piolle / CC BY 3.0

Another medieval and Gothic masterpiece and really big.  The vaulted ceiling is the tallest of any complete cathedral – nearly 140 feet.  And, guess what the relic is?  St. John the Baptist’s head!  About a half mile from the train station.
Towers and Treasury are a French National Monument.  Website:  http://www.cathedrale-amiens.fr/
UNESCO website:  http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/162

Palace and Park of Fontainebleau

Fontainebleau and gardens

The Château grew from a royal hunting lodge into the 16th century palace of François I.  Expansions kept it growing, and the gardens along with it.  Creaking wood floors, opulent fabrics, furniture and tapestries, chapels, apartments and the grandest exterior staircases.  About an hour outside Paris by car, but no train.  Many tour companies offer day trips.
Website:  http://www.musee-chateau-fontainebleau.fr/spip.php?page=sommaire&lang=en
UNESCO website:  http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/160

Palace and Park of Versailles

‘Nuff said.
Official website:  http://en.chateauversailles.fr/
UNESCO website:  http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/83

The Loire Valley between Sully-sur-Loire and Chalonnes

Chateau on the Loire River and valley in distance

Beautiful river, glorious drive, breathtaking castles.  Some of the Châteaux included in the designated area are Chambord, Blois, Chenonceau, Amboise, Azay-le-Rideau….
UNESCO website:  http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/933

Another site, very close to Paris is on UNESCO’s “Tentative List.”

One day it may receive the prestigious designation.

Basilique Cathédral de Saint-Denis

Marble effigies of a king and queen of France in Saint-Denis Cathedral

This Gothic masterpiece is the final resting place of many kings and queens of France.  The interior and crypt are filled with funerary art.  Marie Antoinette is interred here.  A French National Monument.
Website:  http://www.saint-denis-basilique.fr/en/
UNESCO website:  http://whc.unesco.org/en/tentativelists/230/

And, just for fun, here is a poster inside Notre-Dame showing the evolution of the Gothic cathedral in France.

Poster of evolution of Gothic cathedrals in France

Notre-Dame (Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris)

Notre-Dame (Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris)

If you do not believe in an almighty creator, visiting Notre-Dame may change your mind.  Begun nearly 900 years ago, back when the world was flat, and on the site of a previous Christian temple, the famed Notre-Dame rises to soaring heights on the Île de la Cité.

Wonder of the World?

Marvel at the ingenuity and skill it took to create this temple – at anytime – even today.  Outside, the flying buttresses support the massive walls.  Inside, the vaulted arches soar overhead.  The organ fills an entire end of the nave with its pipes.  Take a look at the stained glass and stand in awe of the ones who imagined, and created, those tremendous windows.  No computers involved.

Rose window in Notre-Dame

Rose window in Notre-Dame.

Rayonnant Gothic rose window (north transept), Notre-Dame de Paris Cathedral. https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=60404628

Check out the hardware.  Even the hinges on the magnificent exterior doors are a mystery.  How did anyone fabricate those?  Or, how did anyone dream up the design for those massive doors in the 1100s?  And, at Easter, the doors open, light floods into the cathedral, incense wafts through the air inside and out, and throngs of faithful (and plain visitors) experience a rare event at Notre-Dame.  It is breathtaking and soul-stirring.

Visiting Notre-Dame

There are no tickets to buy to visit the cathedral interior.  The line snakes around and around on the plaza in front of Notre-Dame.  Jump in and patiently wait to enter.  Or, go early or late and avoid the line altogether.

While milling about in front of Notre-Dame on the plaza, you may find a brass marker of Point Zero – the center of Paris.  It hasn’t been a grand plaza for very long.  Until the houses around it were razed in the 1860s, the cathedral was surrounded by 2-3 story houses across the street from it.  Making for a surprise discovery up close, but not a very grand appearance from out front.

Also on the plaza, on the side closest to the Seine, Charlemagne stands guard on his horse.  The Frankish king is resplendent in bronze with a beard and helmet worthy of cinema.  A great photo op.

Charlemagne

Once inside, allow a moment for your eyes to adjust to the darkness.  Then, walk the perimeter of the nave and visit the side alters or chapels.  Look toward the rows of seats and the choir and alter.  That is where Napoleon crowned himself emperor right there in the big middle of it all.

Church and Organ

The Hunchback of Notre-Dame is not there to ring the bells.  But, the bells do ring.  This means that it is a working cathedral and deserves the respect of all who enter.  Near silence is expected and only use whispering voices.  When visiting, wear long pants and women cover your shoulders.

Masses are held regularly and are wonderful to attend.  Even though it is in a foreign language, observe the quietness and the choir singing and enjoy a few moments of reflection.  Religious or not, it can be a welcome calm hour or so in a magnificent man-made creation.

Organ concerts in Notre-Dame are eery and beautiful.  Strangely, the light is directed on the audience rather than toward the organ.  One has to turn around in the seats and glare into the light to see the organ master and pipes.  Maybe this encourages focus on the ears, rather than the eyes.

Back outside, on the Seine side and in the back, Notre-Dame has an inviting and quiet garden.  Yes, even though in the front and the other side is crazy with tourists, the garden is generally a quiet retreat for a rest on a bench.  Soak up the beauty of the trees, critically eye the flying buttresses and also choose your favorite gargoyle downspout.

The Towers

Want to have a close look from on high?  Climb the towers of Notre-Dame de Paris.  The stairs are crazy narrow and barely large enough for one person.  It is a little dizzying looking at your feet and spiraling around and around.

Gargoyles and cage on Notre-Dame tower

Even off the stairs, the passageways are very narrow.  Outside on the towers, a cage surrounds visitors, but the famous gargoyles are only inches away.  Walk through the belfry while the guards are telling you to keep moving.  The views are spectacular from even the mid level of the towers, but just wait until the top.  A feat of engineering up close and very personal.

History

There is so much history who knows if it can all be written.  But, here are a couple of interesting tidbits.

The cathedral is a French National Monument.  While the building is owned by the French State, the Roman Catholic Church has the perpetual right to use it for religious purposes.

Begun in 1163, construction lasted 200 years.  In 2012, it celebrated its 850th anniversary.

The cathedral has 10 bells.  Emmanuel is the largest and it is from 1681.

The holy relics now housed in the treasury of Notre-Dame include the Holy Crown of thorns, a piece of the cross, and a nail of the Passion.

A Little More

Notre Dame is inspiring from every angle – believer or not.  The sheer design of the builders is inspiring.  How could they envision such an awe-inspiring and ambitious church???  Astonishing in all respects.

Notre-Dame

Notre-Dame

Can you imagine being a peasant from the countryside, rowing your boat up the Seine in the year 1300, rounding the bend and seeing Notre-Dame?  They probably wanted to know what god was responsible for such a structure and immediately converted!

Notre-Dame (Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris)

Nearest Metro:  Cité or Saint Michel
Arrondissement:  4th
Admission:  It is free to visit the cathedral.  Admission is charged to enter the Treasury.  No bags are allowed.
Official website:  http://www.notredamedeparis.fr/en/

Exhibits at The Met – Gardens and Versailles

Exhibits at The Met – Gardens and Versailles

Are you thinking Paris is too far away for the weekend?  Then head to New York City to explore exhibits on French gardens and Versailles.  That’s right, through the end of July, go see Paris in New York City!  Public Parks, Private Gardens: Paris to Provence and Visitors to Versailles 1682 – 1789.  Both mounted in the halls of The Metropolitan Museum of Art and full of treasures from France.

Exhibition #1 – Public Parks, Private Gardens: Paris to Provence

In Public Parks, Private Gardens: Paris to Provence, The Met, “explores horticultural developments that reshaped the landscape of France and grounded innovative movements—artistic and green—in an era that gave rise to Naturalism, Impressionism, and Art Nouveau.”  All of these artistic movements are well-represented through works presented in this exhibition.

Past urbanites are no different from today’s.  People living in developed cities flock to gardens and parks to be outdoors, enjoy the air, stretch out in the wide open space and delight in the beauty of nature.  To illustrate this love of gardens, the exhibition features a wide range.  Sections include Parks for the Public, Revival of Floral Still Life, Portrait in the Garden and Private Gardens.

Exhibits of Ceramics, Drawings and Paintings to Photography

Choosing works from its extensive holdings, The Met displays drawings, etchings, paintings, glassware, ceramics and even early photographs.  Although the objects show gardens and parks in other parts of France, the majority is focused on Paris and surrounding areas.  Garden lovers will delight in seeing works depicting Fontainebleau, Parc Monceau, Bagatelle, Jardin du Luxembourg, Tuileries, Versailles, along with many other well-known and even less well-known gardens.

Love still life paintings of flowers and garden scenes?  Then this exhibition is for you.  Works by heavy hitters like, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Paul Cézanne, Berthe Morisot, Claude Monet, Édouard Manet, August Renoir, Eugène Atget, Edgar Degas, Vincent van Gogh, Mary Cassatt and many more hang from the walls.

Do 18th century Sèvres porcelain vases with garden scenes painted on them get you going?  What about Art Nouveau glass with elegant flower designs in the glass?  Do you enjoy the details of garden plans and garden furnishings?  Then this is exhibit is also for you!  They are all there in cases and on the walls.  Really, anyone who is at all interested in gardens in Paris and in France would enjoy this exhibition.

Even if you cannot make it to New York to enjoy the show in person, the exhibition features an accompanying catalogue.

Exhibition #2 – Visitors to Versailles

In Visitors to Versailles 1682 – 1789, The Met, “highlights the experiences of travelers from 1682, when Louis XIV moved his court to Versailles, to 1789, when the royal family was forced to leave the palace and return to Paris.”  The objects demonstrating this experience range from souvenirs for the visitors to gifts to the royalty and what the visitors wore and saw.

Sections of the exhibit include, Incognito and Private Visitors, To See the King, Getting Dressed for Court, the Gardens and Going to Versailles.  The dedicated rooms in the museum present men’s suits and hunting clothes, women’s court dresses, riding habits, shoes, ball gowns and fans, sculpture, tapestries, rugs, miniature portraits in diamond surrounds, hats, swords, military outfits, furniture, porcelain and objects of art.  Also, very interestingly, paintings of visitors.

And, it is convenient that the garden exhibit in another section of the museum is on at a similar time.  Gardens at the palace were a major part of court life.  You will see multiple illustrations of gardens.  Royalty wanted to be outside too.  Versailles had unending garden delights for royalty and visitors.

Everything is Over the Top, In a Good Way

Like Versailles itself, nearly everything on display is over the top.  Many things are gilded, handmade items have the most intricate detailing, master craftsmen used precious stones and rare and exotic materials – it is all here.  Just take a look at a set of ivory buttons decorated with scenes of Versailles and the gardens – talk about limited edition.  The description explains that the buttons, “intended for a man’s coat may have appealed to tourists.”  Of course, they would!  Fascinating.  And, beautiful.

Along with many items focused on the multiple kings called by the name, “Louis,” Marie Antoinette figures in the exhibition.  Likewise, multiple objects depict the visitors to Versailles.  For example, a Tunisian ambassador, several Asian dignitaries, and would be Americans, like, Benjamin Franklin!  Paintings of Ben and even some of his clothes are on display.  From 1776 until 1785, Benjamin Franklin was the representative to France of the American colonies that revolted against England.  He was at the French court all the time.

Adding to master works from The Met’s holdings, more than 50 lenders, including the Château de Versailles, offered works to the show.

Don’t miss the statue of a monkey riding a goat!

Like Exhibition #1, even if you cannot make it to New York to enjoy the show in person, the exhibition features an accompanying catalogue.  On the cover is an illustration of the gardens of Versailles and visitors enjoying their time in the landscape.

Praise for the exhibition:  ” A fascinating window into how the court would have appeared to foreigners and day trippers alike…. ” -Artnet

Public Parks, Private Gardens: Paris to Provence

Where:  The Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met Fifth Avenue)
Address:  1000 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10028
When:  March 12 – July 29, 2018
Admission:  Entrance fee for museum which includes exhibit
Official websitehttps://metmuseum.org/exhibitions/listings/2018/public-parks-private-gardens

Visitors to Versailles 1682 – 1789

Where:  The Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met Fifth Avenue)
Address:  1000 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10028
When:  April 16 – July 29, 2018
Admission:  Entrance fee for museum which includes exhibit
Official websitehttps://www.metmuseum.org/exhibitions/listings/2018/visitors-to-versailles

Musée Jacquemart-André Announces Mary Cassatt Exhibition

Musée Jacquemart-André Announces Mary Cassatt Exhibition

The Musée Jacquemart-André announces that it is hosting an exhibition of work by Mary Cassatt in its extraordinary and sumptuous chateau in the middle of Paris. Read the official press release here.

Although this exhibition had been planned for some time, it is highly appropriate in light of the women’s activities that are in the news today. During here lifetime, Mary Cassatt (b. 1844 – d. 1926) was what would now be called a feminist. She advocated equal rights for women from her days in college in the 1860s to campaigning for women’s right to vote in the 1910s.

Cassatt  was born in Pennsylvania to well-educated parents, and eventually took art classes at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts.  In 1868, she quite the art academy because of its slow pace and moved to Paris. Cassatt wanted to be a professional artist, not just a painter to pass the time. In Paris she learned from great artists and teachers, had access to the incredible museums and found inspiration from other painters.

Mary Cassatt Found Like-Minded Friends in Paris

Mary not only succeeded while in Paris, but excelled at painting. She grew from producing academic work into an impressionist master. Mary was friends with many well-known impressionist painters including Edgar Degas.  She and Degas became close friends and colleagues, each learning from the other. Along with Degas, Cassatt entered her paintings in the famous salons of Paris and in the Impressionists Exhibitions. Galleries in Paris showed her work with galleries in New York following soon after.

Cassatt’s paintings often feature mothers with their children, sometimes caring for the children in tender moments. As well as painting, she was a master at drawing and print making, she advised art collectors and was awarded the French Legion of Honor in 1904.

The current exhibition includes loans from major museums in the United States and Europe. Masterpieces from institutions like the National Gallery of Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Musée d’Orsay, the Petit Palais, the Bilbao Museum of Fine Arts and more are on display in the magnificent museum.  Check out the museum’s site to see how over-the-top the place is.  Then, take a look at the exhibit.  See if it strikes your fancy and post a comment!

Mary Cassatt, An American Impressionist in Paris

Where:  Le Musée Jacquemart-André
Address:  158, boulevard Haussmann
Arrondissement:  8th
Nearest Métro:  Saint-Augustin, Miromesnil or Saint-Philippe du Roule
When:  March 9 – July 23, 2018.  Late openings on Mondays during the exhibition.
Admission:  Entrance fee
Official website:  http://www.musee-jacquemart-andre.com

Louvre Museum  (Musée du Louvre)

Louvre Museum  (Musée du Louvre)

The Louvre Museum is the biggest museum in the world.  Some in New York may beg to differ, but the Louvre is the biggest.  Wait until you see it in person – from the outside and from the inside.  Then you can decide for yourself if it is the biggest.  At around 5 football fields long, it dominates the scenery along much of the Seine.  You can see it from many of the bridges crossing the river.  The architectural style of the exterior changed as additions were made, and sometimes the vast exterior walls may trick you into thinking it is a different building, but, it isn’t.  The Louvre is really that big.

Not only is it big, but all the parts of the Louvre are GRAND.  The courtyards are enormous, some of the galleries are immense, some paintings and stone sculptures are gigantic!  Even the roof and ceilings are endless.  Subtle and sublime details are grand as well.  Worn marble stairs look and feel soft.  Carvings and reliefs fill the rooms and corridors.  Vaulted passageways designed with minute details and all parts mesh to make the building a work of art unto itself.

The Louvre: From Fortress and Prison to Royal Palace

The Louvre began as a medieval fortress on the edge of the city for protection and as a prison.  Go underground (Level -1) in the Sully wing to see the remnants of the original 12th century structure.  Eventually, the Louvre became a royal palace and home to the kings of France.  After many years as a working palace, the Louvre became a museum in 1793.  Not just any museum, but THE museum all other museums aspired to become.  The royal history of the art collection can be seen on the identification tags next to the works of art – look for, “from the collection of Louis XIV,” or choose a monarch and you will probably find the name.  Pretty impressive, huh?

With so many years as a royal residence, it has seen more palace intrigue than will ever be written.  The escapades in the dark hallways and stairs are unimaginable.  As you walk on a far-flung set of steps, think of how dark it would be in the middle of the night.  Imagine a royal family member or one of the court ringing a bell and a servant scurrying in the night, holding only a single candle, into the deep dark recesses of the palace.  Then trying to find the right door, trying to locate the bell ringer.  After attending to the royalty and collecting the slop jar (or for whatever the necessity in the middle of the night), the servant would creep along to make his or her way out of the maze of steps and hallways and back to the workers’ quarters.  Who knows what could have been lurking in the shadows on just that one errand?

A Palace Now for Priceless Art and Gardens

Now the servants are gone, but the Louvre employs thousands of people to make your experience in the historic royal palace memorable and safe.  They help visitors navigate through the collection, making sure priceless artworks remain untouched, pointing out the location of the toilets and generally guaranteeing the collection remains intact.

The Louvre’s official websites states that its collection includes, “Western artworks from the Middle Ages to 1848, as well as the art of the ancient civilizations that preceded and influenced them. Some 35,000 artworks are on display, the oldest of which date back over seven thousand years.”  (Just an FYI, the Musée d’Orsay picks up at 1849.)  Not to mention, the building itself is an architectural work of art whose construction spans the 12th to the 21st centuries.

Visit the Louvre with a Plan

The Louvre will be impressive even if you do not go inside.  But, if you decide to go in, make a plan for what you will do once you get into the museum.  Besides being the biggest museum in the world, the art and artifacts are of unsurpassed quality and by the most important artists and civilizations in history.  That means it is generally a mob scene and completely overwhelming.  It is easy to get lost in the crowds and move into areas that you are not really interested in seeing.  That is disastrous in such a magnificent museum.

A great introduction to the Louvre is to pick one of the “visitor trails” that the Louvre website provides online and do a self-guided walking tour.  Each trail has specific instructions to lead you through the Louvre to 10 or so world-renowned works of art.  The trails take about an hour from start to finish, depending on how long you linger in admiration and whether or not you get sidetracked.  That time does not include going through security and getting into the reception area of the museum.  Then add on getting your bearings and going through the line to purchase a ticket or through the ticket-checker line if you already have a paper ticket or museum pass.

See the Classic Masterpieces, a Special Exhibit, or Both

The “Masterpieces” trails are a terrific introduction to the Louvre.  One masterpiece trail is accessible for all, and the other is for those who choose to take the steps.  The Louvre site also suggests other trails that are tailored to more specific interests.  There is even a Da Vinci Code trail!  Take a look.

Buy your tickets in advance.  Once you make it past security, there are lines going into each wing for those who have tickets, and there are lines to purchase tickets from a ticket machines or an actual person.  Get in the correct line.

Also to note, if there is a special exhibition that you want to see that has timed entry and requires a special ticket, ensure you purchase tickets for that exhibit.  Once, I bought tickets online for a Vermeer show, way in advance.  I checked the tickets, thought they were for the exhibition, guarded them in my satchel all the way to Paris, and when I got to the entrance, the guard told me that my ticket was for general admission to the Louvre – not to the exhibition.  Beware!  Check your tickets!

Putting this on your calendar?  Remember, you may only spend an hour looking at the art, but take into consideration the time it takes to get in, go through security, then get in line to go in, go to the bathroom and finally get to your starting point.  Plan accordingly.

The Louvre: Make Your Plan

What makes it special:  What doesn’t make it special?
Nearest Métro:  Two stops serve the Louvre.  Exiting at Louvre-Rivoli, you will be at the eastern-most end of the Louvre.  Exiting at Palais-Royal–Musée du Louvre, you will be closer to the pyramid entrance and very close to the entrance at the Passage de Richelieu (if they will let you in) and the entrance through the Carousel de Louvre – kind of underground shopping area that leads you to the main entrance under the pyramid.
Nourishment:  Food and drink options are available inside the Louvre in various locations – enjoy a baguette sandwich overlooking the entrance while watching the people come down the stairs under the pyramid!
Arrondissement:  1st
Hours:  Wednesday – Monday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Night opening until 9:45 p.m. on Wednesdays and Fridays
CLOSED ON TUESDAYS
Also closed:  January 1, May 1 and December 25
Official websitehttps://www.louvre.fr/en/
Suggested time to visit:  In the evenings on the days it is open late