There are many museums that hold royal treasures but not many can claim they were once a royal palace. Although the Louvre Museum in Paris got its start as a fortress, it was actually a kind of “White House” to French nobility between the 12th century and 1682. That is when Louis XIV decided to pack up the palace and move it to Versailles. That was a good move but what to do about the Louvre?
The original Louvre sat in squalor for several years until the Revolution came along and those cheeky rebels thought it would be fun to turn a former palace into a museum for the people. That’s what they did in 1793 and the place has been humming along ever since. In fact, with over 35,000 pieces and 60,000 square feet of space, the Louvre is one of the most popular museums on the planet. If you can make your way to Paris, then you must check out these pieces at the Louvre.
The Mona Lisa
When he wasn’t busy making codes, Leonardo da Vinci was quite the painter. He put the finishing touches on La Gioconda or the Mona Lisa around 1517. The painting was picked up by King Francis I of France and it has been a proud French possession ever since. It took around two hundred years for Lisa to make it to the Louvre but that’s where it has been since 1797, give or take a few “breaks.”
Those breaks included the Mona Lisa being hidden from the Nazis at the outbreak of WWII, going on tour in America at the request of First Lady Jackie Kennedy and when it was stolen. That’s right; the Mona Lisa was once ripped off. Of course, this could only happen in 1911 when there were no alarms, cameras or monitors. It was swiped by a janitor who smuggled it out inside his coat. He wanted to take it back to Italy and kept it in his apartment for two years until he got caught trying to sell it. Arguably the most famous painting in the world and you should spend time getting lost in her eyes.
The Venus De Milo
If the Mona Lisa is the most famous painting ever, then the Venus de Milo would have to be the most famous sculpture. This work of art can be traced back to the Ancient Greeks as in 130 BC. However, between that time and 1820, the Venus was hidden away. It was uncovered by a peasant who was poking around in the ruins of Milos thus the name de Milo. Apparently, the statue was in two big pieces and she even had arms. It was later felt that the missing limbs were a hasty add on and were deemed not usable. It was supposed to be bought by the French Ambassador to Turkey day but the peasant grew antsy and instead sold it to one of the reps for a Turkish Sultan. There was a little dust up when the French Ambassador found out. In the end, he managed to get the statue for the Louvre. Like the Mona Lisa, Venus was squired away to the French countryside to hide out during WWII. Otherwise, it’s been at the museum for all the world to see.
Clearly, there is more to see at the Louvre beyond one painting and one statue. You’re probably going to need at least two days to take it all in. Best advice: avoid the tour groups and just wander. You’ll find all the art you’re looking for. Make sure you stop off in the gift shop where you can buy those replicas. What is your favorite piece of art?