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 1503-1505).
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
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
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, the Bible and mythology, together with his
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.
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.