At the Louvre

View from beneath the grand pyramid

View from beneath the grand pyramid

No visit to Paris is complete without exploring the Louvre and pushing through crowds to get a 30-second look at the Mona Lisa. So that's what we decided to do. After morning espressos and window shopping at Pylones in the Carousel, we met up with friends and headed into the Louvre for art exploration.

Up the Daru staircase, we were greeted by the Winged Victory of Samothrace, a marble sculpture of the Goddess Nike believed to date back to 190 BC. The artist is unknown, but what's so striking about the piece to me is, in addition to its size, is the feel of movement. It's as if Nike is stepping into wind, and you can see the flow and force of the breeze against the wings and cloth.

I love how this sculpture is displayed so prominently.

We worked our way through the packed hall of Italian paintings. Because it was so crowded-- people standing and walking shoulder-to-shoulder -- you had to take baby steps to get all the way to the salon where the Mona Lisa hangs. But it's worth the waddle.

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This was my third trip to the Louvre in six years, and I think this was the most crowded it's ever been in the salon of Mona Lisa. The docents kept the people moving up and out at a good pace, so the wait to get to the front for a look at Da Vinci's most mysterious masterpiece wasn't too long. 

When I look at the Mona Lisa, I'm always surprised by how small the painting is. I remember the first time I saw it, I thought the portrait was going to be so much larger. How large, I don't know, but I used to assume that it would be massive -- more like the large format paintings that hang everywhere else in the Louvre. But here you are in the room, with a small Mona Lisa hanging on a massive wall, surrounded by a hundred people cramped together trying to figure out what the deal is with that infamous smirk.

After our visit with Mona Lisa, we spent several hours exploring the rest of the Louvre. Unfortunately the sculpture garden was closed during this time as the museum was doing some flood preparedness work in the area. I'll just have to go the next time I'm in Paris.

Below are some of my favorite large format French paintings, including "La Grande Odalisque" by Jean August Dominique Ingres and "Liberty Leading the People" by Eugene Delacroix.

Of course, we couldn't leave the Louvre until we visited Brandon's favorite part: the Egyptian collection. He loves mummies.

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