The museum of the Louvre is so immense that we cannot give every piece of art the attention that it deserves.
By going beyond the Louvre Highlights and masterpieces, by screening and scrutinizing every detail, I found seven curiosities from the World History that made it to the Louvre.
The museum of the Louvre is so rich in History and Art. It houses thousands of art pieces, as big as wall paintings and as small as a jewellery.
However, even with the best preparation and organization, it is humanely impossible to walk the 18 kilometres of halls, galleries, stairs and rooms. Everything has been decorated in an amazing museography.
So, we hurry, we stop for a picture, we rush, we are amazed, we give our attention to the super stars of the museum such as the Mona Lisa, the winged victory and the Venus de Milo.
Consequently, we pass by these unheard-of pieces that deserve the merit of a quick stop and wonder.
Let's see what we often missed out in the Louvre visit.
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This is possible with a guide who majored in Art History from the Sorbonne.
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Let's begin our visit with the department of Eastern antiquities. We are welcomed by two wonders: the Human-headed winged bull and the monumental vase of Amathus.
Next to these big objects, the first beautiful piece that we often miss is stand next to these big objects. It is a golden dog smaller than a thumb👍.
The little dog of Susa is a golden pendant made 5000 years ago. Discovered in Iran in 1939, it represents a curious domestic dog 🐕 with a nice, curved tail on his back. What is strange is that 5000 years ago, the goldsmith succeeded to attach a golden ring on this tiny dog. It is the first known sample and proof of welding jewelry in all human history.
You can see the same dog in New York, at the Met museum.
The next artwork is not far, you just need to walk to the room D in the same department of oriental antiquity.
Passing by this weird statue made in plaster, we would find nothing appealing by the looking at her.
Old of 9000 years, this is the oldest artwork admitted and showed in the Louvre.
The admission process of the Louvre is very strict, and this unsymmetrical statue succeeded to be one of the oldest objects to be shown at the Louvre, because it comes from a neolithic society without writing, its bitumen-drawn blue eyes, remain colored and sharp despite the past thousand years.
It was discovered in 1985 on the site of Ayn Gazhal next to Israel, in Jordan, and they called her the Ain Ghazal Statue. Ayn Ghazal is the name the town, which could mean the Eyes/the river of the Deer/ the charming woman in Fuseha Arabic.
We still ignore what she was used for: praying? decoration? clothing? It looks like a mannequin or a goddess that used to be decorated with wigs and dresses.
Unfortunately, without the writing, we can not be sure.
Nearby, straight ahead to the room number 10, we will see a headless black statue without head. that represents the queen Napir Asu, wife of the King Untash-Napirisha was king of Elam ) who reigned around 1300 BC in Elam, an ancient country in southwest Iran, in Susa where we also found the golden small dog.
On her robe, you can read in Elamite language, all the curses, the gods maledictions that can occur to the men who dare to destroy the statue of the Queen.
So, if you are a man, try not to seize this statue 😉
This statue is made of heavy metal which is a great testimony of the Elamite kingdom's wealth and prosperity.
You would think that the statue is hollow, like most of the metallic statues of the Louvre. But, surprisingly, the Statue is full of heavy metal. And thus, the piece’s weight is 4400lb, about 1750 kg. We looked at its inside core: it is bronze covered in lost-wax casting copper, that turned to blue green, due to corrosion.
What I found astonishing afterwards, is that the metal of the inside part is more valuable than the metal on the outside. The Bronze-making is a tradition that went back to the mid-3rd millennium BC, and has many Elamite contributions. Bronze is 28% as electrically conductive as copper. Why choose a more valuable metal for the invisible part? This question remains a mystery …
Speaking of which, the next artifact I'm going to show you presents many mysteries. This is a beautiful brass basin incrusted with gold and silver, called the baptistery of Saint-Louis.
Despite it is used by Christian kings for Christian ceremonies, the Louvre choose to display this stunning artefact at the Arts of Islam section. The cup was engraved around AD 1330, exactly 60 years after Saint-Louis' death. When and how it came to France? We still do not know but we know that it appears in the treasure of the kings of France in the middle of the 15th century. What we also know, is that it's been made in Egypt under the Mamluk dynasty.
This is one of the ultimate masterpieces of the Islamic Art. The geometrical patterns and characters carefully engraved on the inside as well on the outside with such precision. We can see the horse riders, notables of the Mamluk court, and a collection of real and imaginary animals.
We find some surprising details too, for example, all animals are showed on the side in a traditional style, except for one rabbit, looking full-face at you.
The fact that the artist named Ibn Al-Zaïd signed six times his work, on the same basin, is another question. It is as if he knew, that someday, his work will be stolen.
But my main question is this : Why this Islamic object, made during the 1300s, it has been used for the baptism of Louis XIII in 1606 (300 years later) and still used for the one of the sons of Napoleon III in the 1800s. Their baptism was in 1856 and the basin left temporarily the Louvre just for the occasion.
Do not worry, as Today, the basin is back and waiting for you at the Louvre.
In Room 10, you can not miss a scene that will draw your attention immediately.
Eight strange characters with black hoods, hidden craggy red faces, carrying a heavy slab where lies a resting statue, wearing a medieval armor.
These ghostly figures are grave and disturbing. This sculpture of polychrome limestone is a funerary monument in memory of Philippe Pot, Great Seneschal of Burgundy and Knight of the Golden Fleece in the 15th c.
He is represented on the slab with a dog at his feet. The setup glorifies the knight. His long epitaph is written on the sides of the slab. Philippe's tomb is amazing for many reasons, but his funeral procession intrigues the most.
The eight mourners are very expressive. Each one has his own posture, and they seem to bow under their heavy load. The realism is accentuated by the characters life-size and give the impression to attend real funerals frozen in the past.
The most astonishing is that Philippe Pot himself ordered it when he was still alive. He might have been the silent partner of this unique setup in the funeral art of the late Middle Ages.
If you want to see more of the funeral art, you can go to Sully wing and see the Etruscan Sarcophagus.
Walk ahead to Room C, a masterpiece of the German sculpture will be waiting for you. This is the famous wooden sculpture of Mary Magdalene, in religious trance.
According to legend she lived naked in a cave and angels took her in the skies every day. She has a ring on the back of her head because she was lifted by angels, with cables from the ceiling of the church to appear floating innocently in the church like a Saint. The saint’s beauty comes from the artistic advanced techniques of the Renaissance in harmony with the gothic tradition.
That’s why the details of her face and of her body are chiseled with slenderness and her curves have an oddly sensual expression for a religious work … But look at her hair! It is impressive above all. A long golden stream that waves to mid-thigh and partially hides her naked body.
The ensemble gives to the statue an amazing white aura that glows through the room.
The next artefact is both an astonishing artwork and a true scientific curiosity.
Made in Paris in 1754, the Clock of the Creation of the World is so ambitious that it needed the collaboration of three engineers and almost 20 years of work to make a precise astronomical pendulum with the limited techniques and materials of the 18th century.
An engraved globe of the World, the Sun, the Moon, and a representation of the Solar System.
The ensemble reunited among the elements. It is supposed to give the time in every part of the world, and every celestial body used to rotate.
This masterpiece was a request of Joseph-François Dupleix, a general governor of trading posts in India in 18th c. Dupleix wanted a royal gift, but he has been dismissed before and the clock has never been given. It stays until today in Room 41 of the works of art section.
It is working today thanks to tremendous work of reparation and restoration in July 2017 by the famous Swiss watchmaker : Vacheron Constantin.
*Update Nov 2022: The clock is not in the Louvre anymore. It was returned to Versailles Palace.
I hope this article gave you a taste of what is waiting for you in Paris, and I hope you will want to see it by yourself.
The Louvre is truly a magical place. That's why I write, I design, I donate and adhere to the Friends of the Louvre.
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The Louvre can be your office for the entire day.
Did you know, that you can go to the Louvre and spend the entire day drawing inside the museum?
If you are a graphic designer, you can also sit in a café with a laptop and a good Wifi provided for free by the museum, next to all the Art around you, in a peaceful and inspiring atmosphere.
This gives the designer a new perspective, an endless source of inspiration and a motivation to keep improving his work, like the artists did before us.
The seven curiosities presented above are just a tiny part of the immense collection. There's plenty more delights in the Louvre to discover.
Thank you. See you soon in Paris.
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