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Louvre, Paris

December 22, 2013

The Louvre.
It is on the list of must-see museums. It houses some iconic pieces. In fact, the museum itself is iconic.
Quite a few people who have visited the Louvre assured me I would love it. The downside of such assurances is that my expectations rise to a higher level.

While spending a week in London for my studies I hopped over to the European mainland for a day. My destination: Paris, the Louvre.
I won’t bore you with stories of rude personnel. After all, a visit can be improved by good staff, but a museum’s impression cannot be destroyed by bad staff. The museum is what it is.

Think what you will of the glass pyramids, the old building is beautiful. In some places it is overdone, but such was the style of the time this was built and decorated.

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Some of the many rooms with Egyptian artefacts look like this.

It is also a labyrinth. Thankfully the signs are not too bad and a map is available as backup.

I have to admit, even now (11 days after my visit) I’m still struggling to form an opinion. Was I blown away (as I was told I would be)? Not at all. Did I hate it then? No, I wouldn’t go that far either. I guess I think the Louvre is ok. So why did I not love it?

There are 30 rooms with ancient Egyptian artefacts. That seems a lot to go through. The setup is so generous and the information so minimal that it didn’t take me all that long. And the order eludes me. The rooms’ themes seem to go from topical to chronological to material and vice versa. I found myself walking back through time and then forward again. I really did follow the numbers and walked from room 1 to 30 in the correct order (which is, at times, a bit of a puzzle). My conclusion is that the Louvre is quite unorganised. And that is not a good thing for a world renowned museum.

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A very famous inhabitant of the museum

Does this all mean I didn’t enjoy my visit? Of course I did.
You can’t really go wrong with a large number of ancient Egyptian items. I’m old enough to find my own way, so the puzzling ‘order’ of the rooms I could manage too. But I didn’t love it; not in the slightest. From the museums I’ve visited so far I’d pick Neues Museum in Berlin as my favourite.

As a photographer I was often cursing the large amount of glass in this museum. The generous setup allows the visitor to get around easily, but at the same time nothing blocks the light coming through the often large windows, causing horrible reflections.

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There is no avoiding the reflections on the glass in some cases.

On the other hand, glass displays allow you to get very close to objects. There is a good and a bad to every situation, isn’t there?

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I was quite taken by this little statue.

I did mention at the beginning of this post that the Louvre has some iconic pieces. One of them is the Dendera Zodiac. I did try to take photos of it, but they just don’t do it justice. It is one of those things you have to see for yourself. And it is truly beautiful.

I am often more interested in the not so famous pieces. I’m quite emotional when it comes to what I like and what I don’t like. For example, the wooden statuette of which I put up a photo above. I think it’s lovely.
The following four ladies were also quite lovely to look at, they are on display in one of the first rooms.

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There are a lot of statues of scribes and some wonderful examples of palettes. And did I mention the cat mummies? Actually, I was quite surprised by the amount of cat statuettes they have on display (see above for a few of them).
Some of the statues are simply stunning and stand out, like this one of Horus:

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Of course I have to mention the interior in a little more detail. I have read a book about Jean-Francois Champollion and in that book I read that he had a lot to do with the Louvre. Apparently he was quite appalled at the decoration. I believe I know why.

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Part of a ceiling painting in one of the Egyptian rooms

Let me say this as a conclusion: it is unfortunate I didn’t enjoy my visit as much as I could have and that I am not as overwhelmed by the Louvre as most people I spoke to. At the same time I will say that I think they have some wonderful pieces. It is telling that I ended up with 45 photos in total, taken in the space of 2.5 hours. I’m happy I have been, but the Louvre will very likely not see me again (unless they put on an amazing temporary exhibition of course!).


From → Museum visits

  1. Thank you for your candid review, Nicky. My first highly-anticipated visit was sand-bagged by a closure of the whole Egyptian section, and I was unable to stay abroad for the expected months of refurbishing.
    My second visit was with extended family who had no interest in the exhibit (“OK, we’ve done the Louvre, what’s next?”). I was rushed through in about 20 minutes, and my experience was one of being overwhelmed and frustrated.
    Nevertheless, I am not one to give up and I will visit again, alone or with another Egyptophile. Your comments are helpful, especially regarding sequence and reflective cases – it occurs to me that ‘reading up’ in advance would be a good idea so that I can get the most from my visit.
    PS: I also read of Champollion’s fruitless battle to eliminate the floridly significant artwork of the period. It’s hard to imagine that type of display embellishment today!

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