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Musee du Louvre (III)

The collections

    By far the largest of the museum's collections is its paintings, covering french works from the year dot to the mid nineteenth century, along with Italian, Dutch, German, Flemish and Spanish art. The early Italians are perhaps the most interesting part of  the collection. Among them is one of the most recognizable paintings in the history of the genre, Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa (La Joconde 1503-150monalisa5). The secretive smile of the subject has captured the imagination of centuries of beholders. If you want to get near her, it's best to go first or last thing in the day. Other highlights of the Italian collection included two complete Botticelli frescoes, Giotto's stigmatization of St Francis of Assisi, demonstrating a revolutionary use of space, and Fra Angelico's coronation of the virgin, displaying a new awareness of the perspective. Fifteenth to seventeeth-century paintings line the length of the Grande Galerie, which was built by Catherine de Medicis to link the Louvre and new destroyed Palais des Tuileries. Outstanding works here are da Vinci's Virgin and child with St anne and Virgin of the rocks, plus several Rapahel masterpieces. You can also admire the geometrical precision of Mantegna's Crucifixion.
    In the Dutch and Spanish collections, works worth lingering over are Rembrandt's superb Supper at Emaus, with its dramatic use of chiaroscuro, Murillo's tender beggar boy, and the Goya portraits.
    The French collection is so vast that a selective approach is necessary unless you intend to spend at least a couple of days devoted to the subject. A good place to start is with the master of french classicism, Poussin. His profound themes, taken from antiquity, t
he Bible and mythology, together with his harmonious painting-stule, were to influence generations of artists to come. Large scale nineteenth century french works are displayed in rooms 75 and 77, among them the huge epic painting the Coronation of Napoleon 1er, by David, and Ingre's languorous nude, la Grande Odalisque. Leading Romantic painters Delacroix and Gericault dominate in rooms 61 and 77. One of the latter's  best known works on display is his dramatic Raft of the Medusa, depicting the extremes of emotion felt by survivors of a shipwreck. The final part of the collection takes in Corot and the Barbizon school, the precursors of Impressionism.

The Louvre's collection of French painting stops at 1848, a date picked up by the Musée d'Orsay

    Interspersed throughout the painting section are rooms dedicated to the Louvre's impressive collection of prints and drawings, including prized sketches and preliminary drawings by Ingres and Rubens and some attributed to Leonardo. Because of their susceptibility to the light, however, they are exhibited by rotation.

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