The magnificent Louvre has the distinction of being one of the world’s largest art museums and also one of the oldest galleries in the world. Nestled on the right bank of the Seine, the Louvre attracts millions of visitors every year to peruse its staggering collection of priceless, iconic works from some of the world’s most famous and visionary artists. If you’re in Paris for even a weekend, you shouldn’t miss visiting the famous glass pyramid, and ticking a visit to the Louvre off your bucket list.
The problem is what exactly to look at. The museum’s house over 35,000 pieces of art and 380,000 objects, decorating a labyrinthine maze of intricate corridors and galleries. In fact, it’s been calculated that you’d need about 100 days to see everything on offer in the Louvre; and even then, you could only spend about thirty seconds or so on each piece. But that’s where BUCKiTDREAM comes in; we’ve got the five must-see paintings in the Louvre for you to jot down in that handy BUCKiTDREAM planner, so when it comes to your bucket list trip to Paris, you won’t miss any of the heavy hitters!
Death of the Virgin, Caravaggio The Italian Renaissance master Caravaggio was one of the most dynamic and controversial painters to emerge from that fertile period in art history, so it’s no surprise he joins the ranks of the elite in the Louvre. Death of the Virgin displays one of Caravaggio’s thematic signatures front and centre: the depiction of biblical scenes and characters in a modern, gritty, and realistic style. As always, though, there are traces of the divine, in this case, represented by the billowing red fabric that hangs over the scene, tellingly taking up a third of the canvas. But there are no immediate hints that Death of the Virgin is a holy scene at all; ultimately, it’s a resonate depiction of human grief that still hits home today.
Liberty Leading the People, Eugène Delacroix Liberty Leading the People is one of France’s most famous paintings and has been absorbed into the national consciousness many times over. It is a stunning, triumphant depiction of the untarnished ideals of the French revolution, and manifests the infamous motto “liberty, equality, fraternity” better than any other artwork. Unlike his Italian contemporaries, ol’ Eugène was a bit of a one-hit wonder, with Liberty being his most famous painting by far. Despite the familiarity people will have with the image, however, it still manages to be striking and moving when you set eyes on it in real life.
The Raft of the Medusa, Théodore Géricault Another native hero painted this famous scene, which has become an enduring icon of French Romanticism. The Raft of the Medusa has nothing to do with the Greek snake-haired gorgon, but in fact depicts the aftermath of the real-life sinking of the French naval frigate the Méduse, which ran aground in 1816. 147 people managed to scramble on board a makeshift raft, but by the time they were rescued, only 15 remained alive (and had to resort to some desperate measures to stay that way). The event captured the imagination of the young Géricault, who saw the perfect opportunity to launch his career with the controversial scene, which tells a morbid tale of death, desperation, and madness.
Mona Lisa, Leonardo da Vinci It should be a punishable offence to visit the Louvre and not lay eyes on its most famous inhabitant, da Vinci’s enigmatic Mona Lisa. Despite being the unchallenged most famous painting in the world, you might be surprised at the size of the Mona Lisa once you finally lay eyes upon her; the portrait only measures a paltry 30 inches by 21 inches. Despite this, however, there’s something mystical about the woman portrayed in the painting, purported to be Lisa Gherardini; is she smiling knowingly, or simply sitting neutrally for her portrait? What’s up with the imaginary background? And why doesn’t she have any eyebrows? These are questions you’ll have to answer for yourself once you come face to face with Mona Lisa.
Venus and the Three Graces Presenting Gifts to a Young Woman, Sandro Botticelli Tucked away in a quiet corner of the Louvre is a work by the Italian master Botticelli, originally painted al fresco on the walls of a Tuscan villa. Many visitors often overlook this delicate scene, which sees Botticelli return to one of his muses, the goddess Venus. Here she is being shepherded forward by the Three Graces, as they present gifts to an unknown young woman. Though the façade is a little eroded and faded, the style is unmistakably Botticelli’s, which makes this chunk of Italian wall a must-see masterwork within the venerated halls of the Louvre.
There’s much more to Paris than art, and there’s much more to the Louvre than paintings. If you’re planning a dream trip to the romantic capital of the world, make sure to check in at the world-famous gallery, but don’t forget to explore the other delights the city offers. Check out How to Spend a Weekend in Paris by Yourself, or The 10 Most Instagrammable Spots in Paris for more ideas, then keep that BUCKiTDREAM planner handy as you tackle one of Europe’s most beautiful capitals!