Children will enjoy visiting the Louvre.
We can spark their imagination, trigger their curiosity and open their minds to novelty when there is beautiful art everywhere: giant paintings, elegant sculptures, and intriguing stories and tales behind each masterpiece.
We will turn the visit into something memorable !
My name is Flora and as a museum educator, I encourage and accompany pupils (7 to 13) from Parisian public schools into their first visit to the Louvre.
We also introduce English-spekaing pupils to Art history and help them navigate a big museum. We walk, sit and learn about our shared History. We discover few basic concepts to understand Art.
Today, I offer private services in English to all families visiting the Louvre.
The advantage of our bespoken guided tour service, adapted to English-speaking families visiting Paris, children can take the opportunity to stop and ask me any question about the Art they are seeing.
As we walk next to the paintings and the sculptures, I can answer, explain and show them. We can have a live conversation and help them understand how to read Art.
Based on my experience as a Louvre guide, I will share here some useful tips and simple ways to appreciate your visit with the children and learn about the Louvre Masterpieces with a practical example at hand: The Mona Lisa.
We love Art museums and we want kids to enjoy them as well as we do.
Even though kids do not share the same interests as the adults when it comes to Art History, we can find common grounds for a family to enjoy their visit all together.
Kids, depending on their ages, can be impressed by a particular Ancient civilization, or by the composition of a painting or the artist's story, by the colors, the size or the curves of a sculpture...
Every child is unique and has his own interest.
Art supports cognitive functions such as imagination, creativity, observation and memory.
Please, do not exceed more than 2 hours in a museum with the little ones. To captivate the attention (let's say for more than 20 minutes, depending on their age) it is important to entertain the creative minds of children with an embellished and logical story line that they can follow on your trail.
Through faithful storytelling, enigmas and games, children will find it easier to stay focus.
You are allowed to take snacks and water and as many little breaks as you need, especially in a big museum such as the Louvre.
If the children are interested in another painting rather the one you are showing them, it is alright! Curiosity is normal. You can seize this unique opportunity to follow them, to see what they like, to ask questions and understand their art logic.
Let's show them that museums are also FUN.
In the museum of the Louvre, we can develop future soft skills by learning about many interesting topics such as:
The origins of Art in Europe, the basic principles of an artistic work, the western history of Art, the life of a famous artist, the disciplines of painting, drawing, sculpture and decorative arts and many more.
We will learn about the evolution of western society and the history of Humanity in general : The artists of each civilization depicted the current events and ideas, the current technology, the food they ate, the medicine they took... All the advancements of each epoch are painted, sculpted and preserved: the ancient codes and laws, the influential figures, the personality and their politics, the evolution of borders, countries and kingdoms... It is amazing what you can learn through Art !
In a globalized society, Art is a practical mediator between different cultures and improves communication skills : We will learn about the different philosophies and religions, the values, the virtues, the cultures and the ideas that humans have spread (or tried to spread).
In the Louvre, you will travel through time and see what is left from old civilizations : Not only their art works, but also their innovative tools, their writings, their crafts, their hygiene products, their afterlife vehicles, tombs and Sarcophagi, jewelry, their identification rings, their symbols, their ceremonial clothing and their ritual objects. The most beautiful objects they left are waiting for you to see in the Louvre.
For example, in Egypt and Mesopotamia, even in Medieval Louvre wing, we will see many music instruments, games, dice, clever tools used for working and cutting stones, for measuring, for calculating, for tracking, for cooking, old pens, jars, manufactured mirror, a very old toothbrush, Oriental combs, seals and rings with creative circular symbols to identify each citizen in a unique way.
Humanity's irreplaceable treasures are displayed in the Louvre museum. Among them are objects retrieved from ancient civilizations, as well as creative paintings from different times.
On our kid-friendly tours, kids enjoy guessing the purpose of these tools and try naming the objects, then they enjoy the fascinating tales behind each innovative object. In the Louvre, every groundbreaking piece of art has a story!
Paintings to dazzle the kids in the Louvre:
For the younger public, paintings can be intimidating. Do not worry! You do not need to know everything about the painting and you do not need to tell them everything you know. It can be boring for children to listen to what we (adults) consider interesting.
We need to adapt depending on their age category.
Young kids appreciate the representation of the persona and the movement of the picture.
Older kids need more time with a painting. Their vision is more accurate. They also look for emotions, for funny pictures and for typical representation of the Hero, the Good and Evil.
Teenagers want to learn how the painting was made, they want to learn about the reason why these particular paintings are displayed at the Louvre, after a very selective process. They also show interest in the Artist's life, his techniques and his creative process.
Everyday (except Tuesdays) the Louvre is a huge learning university, open for all national schools of France, where students and their teachers walk, among other visitors, and sit in front of Art, and learn about Art history.
In addition to learning about Art during their visit, the pupils from all over Europe, come to discover the ancient civilizations, the history of Europe, the ancient laws and rituals.
All children under 18 can visit the Louvre for free.
* For European passports - from 18 to 26 - the Louvre is free.
Additionally, the students can explore the artists footsteps who devoted their lives to the creation of their masterpiece.
Art is very important in the national education of France. France uses many of its museums to educate pupils. National schools of France can take part in workshops, where pupils study the subjects, the techniques, and the conception of a painting: a genre scene, a landscape, a portrait...
The educator will guide them in creating a draft work in the style of the great Dutch masters.
Through artistic practice with a teacher and the observation of other works displayed in the room, students will learn how to read and describe a painting, how to copy it, and how to appreciate a piece of Art.
My team was inspired by the same pedagogy to design our treasure hunt game. That's why we bring crayons and blank canvas for the little ones in case they need t o draw.
Take the time to pause with your children, to let them absorb a painting, and maybe try to draw on a blank paper.
Built initially as a military fortress in 1200, the Louvre protected Paris. Later, after 400 years, the Louvre was transformed into a beautiful Renaissance Royal Palace.
Following the French Revolution, the kings were chased out from the Louvre by the people and the Louvre was open for everyone.
Now, it is a national museum. But, because of its gigantism and encyclopaedic nature, it exaggerates the idea of a national museum.
The Louvre is the go to place to examine a piece of Art, to make a research in Art History, to undergo a training as an Art Historian or a museum curator.
In the same building, we can find many offices dedicated to Art studies, a library, a conservation office, an amphitheater for the Friends of the Louvre and two halls for the temporary exhibitions of the Louvre.
The museum currently houses more treasures than any other national museum in the world. Due to its international fame, the Louvre enjoys a great popularity. It is now an inspiration for adults and children alike.
The Louvre welcomes tens of millions of visitors each year to admire the superb art works.
It is still the first most visited national museum in the world in 2022 but the second most visited tourist attraction in Paris, after the Eiffel Tower.
The word "Museum" comes from the Greek word "Muse" which means: An inspirational goddess of arts, literature, science…
In ancient Greece, museums were a source of knowledge, embodied in poetry, lyric songs, and myths that were passed from generation to generation orally.
Today, the Louvre museum has its own rules and its own unique beautiful and intriguing museography.
The "museum of museums" offers a consulting service for other museums in France and in the World to participate in the preservation and conservation of human Art and memory, particularly in zones where the cultural heritage is in danger.
Your children will be more confident to ask questions if we let them know that "It's okay to be curious" and "It's okay to ask questions!"
It is important to remember that children need explanations about (almost everything) why they are going to a museum.
The museum is really big and understanding the origins of a place so big and so important as the Louvre is the best way to start the visit.
01 - Why the Louvre does not look like a fortress?
We can explain to the children that the Louvre has undergone numerous transformations for a long time to serve its purpose today.
It is true that the Louvre building started out as a defensive fortress to protect Paris. It was the tallest building in the city. But, the city expanded and enveloped the building. So, the Louvre was not useful as a fortress anymore. The king moved in the empty Louvre to seek a better shelter and he made it look beautiful. He wanted a real royal palace with a defensive wall : The Louvre was perfect.
Therefore, we can see the walls of the fortress only inside and underground because the fortress was built 800 years ago.
Why did it become an Art museum?
A king started to buy paintings to make a royal collection. He stored the paintings in a private small Salon inside the Louvre.
When the king left the Louvre, the artists who are used to go to the Louvre, started living there, inside the building rooms, sleeping here and painting in the very galleries of the building.
Finally, the Louvre became a national museum thanks to the Revolution : the French people wanted the building to be open for anyone who is curious to see the Art made by the Louvre Artists.
Bravo to you!
For me, taking the initiative to read about the Louvre before your visit and planning a great moment for your kids is an excellent first step!
Children are smart and pick up on things:
Introducing your child to Art and to History with a lot of love and enthusiasm is a good way to communicate to them your passion for such topics. Passion is contagious !
It is natural for a child who is spontaneous in his enthusiasm to be spontaneous in his disappointment as well.
We must be prepared for a child who always shares his/her reflection: admitting that he/she is bored, or that it is hard to follow or to understand, it is hard to appreciate such a painting… It is fine !
Be patient as children will find it difficult to contemplate the masterpieces of the Louvre, under the pressure of the adults around them.
The goal is not to make them love the paintings but to give them tools to appreciate art and to make them want to go back to a museum.
It is impossible to comprehend the universal significance of these works if we do not explain it to them.
Remember, even adults are still trying to figure out Art.
If the child doesn't love the piece or doesn't find it as beautiful, the same as you do, that is totally fine. We do not have the same vision and certainly not the same interests.
However, do demonstrate to him/her that you are curious, eager to learn about new notions and that you are not afraid to challenge yourself.
In one of these long galleries, a masterpiece called the Mona Lisa or La Joconde in French, is showcased to visitors, in a room usually crowded with people.
Every year, she welcomes alone about 10 million new visitors coming just to see her alone.
She is a Masterpiece !
What is a Masterpiece?
In our team of Louvre guides, we tend to over use the word masterpiece to describe an incredible piece of Art done with uncommon skill, with phenomenal beauty.
Exactly this term can be meant as : "a famous art work", "a creation in any area of the arts that has received much critical praise", or "the finest piece of work of a Maestro's career."
For example : Would you go to the Louvre without seeing the Mona Lisa or the Venus de Milo? Of course not!
So, ultimately, what is a masterpiece for a kid?
We should learn about the Artist Da Vinci and the magic of the Mona Lisa so we can answer the questions of children and explain the fascination about this painting.
Even after 530 years since it was painted, the Mona Lisa is still a mystery. This small portrait painting from High Renaissance takes a huge space in the Louvre best room : La Salle des Etats. Although the painting is not spectacular at the first sight, many adults would fly to Paris, rush to the Louvre to get as close as possible to the Mona Lisa, to take a picture with her or a selfie, then move on to the next trophy picture.
Of course, many grown-ups appreciate this masterpiece for what it is truly : a unique psychological masterpiece of all masterpieces, blending delicately modern Science and innovation in Art, a Renaissance breakthrough that we owe to the genius of Leonardo Da Vinci.
This painting was cherished by the Kings of France and highly appreciated by the Emperor Napoleon.
But why was she beloved by the Kings and Emperors?
We believe that the Mona Lisa connects with the viewer as she smiles back and in the same time maintain an eye contact.
To explore this mystery, we made the Mona Lisa suffer all the critics and scientific analysis we can do to her, with all kinds of technologies we have at hands in Paris and in Italy.
From X rays, multi spectral camera, multi layers scan, precise digital reproductions to microscopic sampling and examinations. We even dissected other Da Vinci's paintings with Micro-Raman spectroscopy to look at the numerous layers of microscopic paints and the infinite brush strokes that the artist applied with care over the many years that it took him to (never) achieve this continuously evolving Masterpiece.
Too many of Mano Lisa's mysteries were solved thanks to the modern neuroscience discoveries but I still believe she is still keeping many more secrets behind her seductive smile, for the future generation to appreciate.
We are lucky today as the Mona Lisa is displayed in public, you can visit her with your kids, appreciate the original painting in person, experiment with her delicate smile, she will be looking right at you, maybe with a smile.
But before that, it was only displayed in the Emperor's bedroom or the King's private collection, to be enjoyed privately by France rulers.
Why is the Mona Lisa famous?
Some tour guides might suggest that the Mona Lisa is famous because she was stolen once by an Italian employee of the Louvre, in order to bring it "back" to Florence.
From 1911 to 1913, visitors would flock to the Louvre Salle des Etats to take pictures of the empty space. But, in December 1913, when the Mona Lisa was recovered and brought back to the Louvre after two years of disappearance, and remained there since, the Mona Lisa did not lose her prestige and fame.
After this incident, it is true that she became very famous and has been described as "the best known, the most visited, the most written about, the most sung about, the most parodied work of art in the world".
But, for me, she was already famous many centuries before she was stolen: "Anyone who saw her would want to keep her for himself". The painting was already coveted by the kings before the Louvre became a museum. The only difference is that now she is famous for the general public.
We should not just pause at "This is just a Masterpiece of the Louvre, like any other, that she became famous for a spectacular theft". We should dig deeper.
Let's transmit the curiosity, the desire to learn about the fascinating truth, the scientific facts about a Renaissance masterpiece that is, still in 2022, a current subject for scientific research and an enigma for the art historians of the Louvre.
We will discover how the Mona Lisa encapsulates a condensed knowledge & science and painting skills that we never saw before Da Vinci.
The Painting of the Mona Lisa of the Louvre
There are many Mona Lisa paintings in the world. This one is an original portrait painted by Leonardo Da Vinci.
The woman painted is Lisa Gherardini.
It is small - its dimensions are 77 cm x 53 cm - Oil on poplar panel.
This very painting in the Louvre is the one considered as an archetypal masterpiece of the Renaissance.
Who is the Painter of the Mona Lisa ?
The Painter is Leonardo Da Vinci, who is considered a genius engineer as well as a very well known painter.
Leonardo da Vinci was invited to the princely courts both as a painter and as an engineer. Many of his drawings were prototypes of futuristic flying machines, cities, war machines, among others, never produced but attesting to his constant research. He was expected to do many things, including the construction of a network of canals in the city of Milan, the development of show machinery for parties, and the building of an equestrian statue.
Scientists from his era call him a humanist because he was passionate about connecting all fields of science with all aspects of artistic creation to help technology progress and make life easier for humans on earth.
Duration of painting
It took him three years to paint this masterpiece : 1503-1506 and maybe more as the painter never stopped learning, copying the original and practicing his techniques.
* Some believe it took him about 10 to 16 years to conceive and then to finish up the painting.
Locations and travels of the Mona Lisa
It was painted in Italy, Florence but the Mona Lisa was refined and "finished" in France.
Then the Mona Lisa moved a lot in France : Fontainebleau, Versailles, Louvre... She was hidden during the brief periods of wars and she was stolen from the Louvre.
Today, she is sitting behind a new protective bulletproof glass in the 'Paintings' section, in the Denon wing of the Louvre.
To see the Mona Lisa, go to the Grand Gallery, 1st floor. After few Da vinci paintings, she will be on your right, at the Salle des Etats.
Would a child be able to appreciate such an amazing Masterpiece?
What kind of aspects of the painting would matter for a child?
Through my work experience as a tour guide for children, I have collected many questions and answers that kids asked me during my visits with families in Paris.
In order to be better equipped to answer the difficult, and even uncertain questions that children may ask, we need to go back to the origins of the painting and the context of the Renaissance.
A curious teenager might want to understand the drawing techniques, the origin of color pigments, the long process of painting during the Renaissance, and the amazing realism of the painting. We will understand the process that leads an art work to being considered as a masterpiece in the Louvre.
Additionally, parents can study the tricks of Leonardo Da Vinci as a Painter, as a curious Scientist, a Master of Optics and an expert in human anatomy at that time.
In our treasure hunt game, a private guided service, we start talking about Da Vinci's works 10 to 20 minutes before arriving at the Mona Lisa, by looking at other paintings by Da Vinci in the Louvre Grand Gallery. This is to prepare the children eyes, to see the differences between Da Vinci and other Renaissance artists and in order to appreciate the Mona Lisa to the fullest.
A masterpiece is defined in the Middle Ages as an exceptional art work of a Maestro (Painting Master) that everyone wants to see.
The reasons can be the talent and the expertise of the artist, his skills or simply because one King or the Pope liked his work. In our case, Da Vinci was beloved by everyone: the people and the kings. He was known for his personality, his passion, his accurate drawings, his expertise, for his new and special painting techniques giving him the freedom to work with private clients, in his studio with six apprentices, or even alone.
Today, a "Masterpiece" for a kid is just another object that the parents are obsessed about and really want to see.
We can elevate this definition during the tour with great examples and true stories of the Artists because nothing is more confusing and mysterious than the notion of a masterpiece in Art History.
We should not think of it simply as one answer or confuse it with the emotional or personal connection that we have with the piece of work, but we need to take into consideration the collective opinion of the viewers, the experts and the critics which sometimes seems difficult to grasp.
We need to know that:
- there are many definitions of what constitute a Masterpiece
- Each masterpiece can have many unique reasons and mysteries. You are free to pick the reason(s) you feel more "reasonable" or more personally connected to consider it a Masterpiece.
- a Masterpiece is an attractive curious Art object made by a talented Artist and it is still appreciated by many people.
- Each Masterpiece is the result of focus, of determination and hard work and a lot of training and practice.
- Each Masterpiece has a profound message
- a Masterpiece can serve as a proof that humans always strive to invent something extraordinary with the means and tools they had at hand.
- a Masterpiece means that you too, can invent new things that can still amaze people around you today.
In our days, we have the chance to have new practical tools.
But, artists, in medieval times and even during Renaissance, did not have the same chance. They did not have the proper tools. Some artist had to invent their own tools.
Paint was expensive. The deliveries were made by horses and it takes months to receive one color pigment.
Da Vinci used natural pigments that he found around him.
Artists life was special: they ascended the social ladder and earned their money via the ladder of Art.
It is true that the Art Academy was sponsored by the bourgeoisie: the very rich and the most prominent people were the jury.
But, Artists from different origins enrolled in the Art Academy and exceptionally disrupted what was considered "beautiful" thanks to their talent and paintings skills.
At a very young age, they learned how to draw, to paint, to sculpt... in order to accomplish a classical piece of Art that would please their Kings or their religious leaders.
The Royal Court selected the best pieces, the masterpieces through a long process of examinations and debates.
The king and his court often collect these masterpieces according to their taste and to certain rules : proportionality, the landscape, the realism, the 3D perspective, the human anatomy, the emotions but also according to their agenda, in accordance to their political ideas that they wished to propagate.
Artists who had a masterpiece selected at the Louvre, gained high privileged social status and achieved a stellar career.
This happens so rarely.
It is even more exceptional when the Louvre chooses to display the work in the Louvre's largest room, the Salle des États, such the Mona Lisa and the Wedding of Cana.
As a guide and Art history expert, I feel privileged to be around many collections of beautiful art works and to spend so much time in the best museums of Paris.
But, above all, I know it's an amazing feeling to look closely at a Masterpiece and an indescribable experience when you're actually next to a Masterpiece knowing how it got here and why it was accepted as a Masterpiece.
2 a- What is the process of the Louvre?
It takes a long time for a piece of art to be accepted as a Masterpiece at the Louvre.
Thus, all of the artists whose works are displayed are all deceased, with one exception: Pierre Soulages, who is 101 years old, born on December 24, 1919, and still alive!
The Louvre exhibits his exceptionally modern paintings only since 2019.
For a painting to be admitted, in the past century, the Louvre officials evaluates the ability of the artist to follow certain rules: the mastery of perspective, anatomical drawing, proportions, knowledge of Greco-Roman literary and historical models ...
The few reception pieces (works of art that have not been accepted as Masterpieces yet) in the Louvre, are kept in a secret safe, in a room underground, while they are awaiting approval.
The locations of these artifacts are unknown for the public.
2. b- Are all the masterpieces in accordance with the Academy's criteria?
What makes paintings that do not follow the rules, a masterpiece anyway?
During the 19th century, the rules started to change.
The social status of a painter changed: he transformed from a craftsman to an artist.
In this case, the painter does not only draw perfect objects or portraits or landscapes, but he can paint new things. His personality and creativity are more important.
In choosing subjects, compositions, or techniques which are distinctive, the artist can be daring.
By examining the individuality of its expression, we measure the originality of the work.
To be distinguished, the artist must also gain the support of amateurs and the public of a museum so that his work can be established as a masterpiece whilst remaining outside of the commonly accepted rules.
The painting you will see in the Louvre is truly painted by Leonardo Da Vinci.
But, it is one version of his work. Let's not call it a copy!
He started his first painting of Mona Lisa with her sister.
Da Vinci had a lot of thirst for knowledge and was a perfectionist when it comes to painting, continuously improving his painting skills.
He leads a painter studio with a team of young apprentices (intern painters who learn from him) that he cherished so much. In his will, he gave two of his students his fortune, estates and drawings before he died.
He would make his students do few copies of his original work to save a version, then he would use a painted copy to experiment new tricks and new techniques. Some of these experiments worked, others experiments failed.
In our Mona Lisa's case, this is one true original version of Da Vinci's work, the one that he carried with him all the time, the same one that Napoleon and King Francis were obsessed about, the same one you will see by yourself.
Maybe not the final version of his experiment because he never stopped learning and painting the Mona Lisa until he died.
The questions I get from children vary depending their ages.
Kids often ask me descriptive questions about they see (the composition, the colors, the objects...)
Teenagers are more interested in the meanings, the symbols, the hidden message of the painting.
After 10 years giving this tour, I still get new questions or new remarks, that are surprisingly smart and curious.
Let me share some of these fun questions below to prepare you for your visit of the Louvre with your kid(s) !
Young children often say this to me: "The painting is strangely old."
Considering that young children love vivid and hot colors. They walk the Grand Gallery, a hallway full of Art, before seeing the Mona Lisa, they will see a lot of colorful renaissance paintings, moving scenes and portraits of Nobles,kings,queens... before meeting with the quiet Mona Lisa.
Over time, the Mona Lisa has become darker and yellower.
Before, her colors seemed to be a little more vivid.
A slightly less dull color is also described in old descriptions.
That's because Da Vinci used a lot of Oil and cooked experimental pigments for his Smoky technique.
Da Vinci maybe wanted this painting to look realistic as much as possible, without getting the viewer distracted from the Mona Lisa's face.
Or should the Louvre repair her?
This question is taboo since the Louvre recently cleaned "The Virgin and Child", painted by the same Leonardo Da Vinci, but they do not want to take the risk with the Mona Lisa.
The Louvre do not feel ready to touch the Mona Lisa.
They are waiting for the technology to advance to permit them to clean the painting with a lot of caution.
This is a very valuable masterpiece untouched since 500 years and we can not take the risk yet to touch her.
We will leave it to the next generation to decide wisely.
Did she stayed like this while he painted her?
How is this woman's body positioned?
How was she painted for 3 years, didn't she get tired of sitting in the same position ?
She is is sitting on her balcony, she rests the left side of her hand on the arm of an armchair.
Leonardo visited her every now and then. He draws. He painted her, step by step. He made copies to experiment his techniques.
Leonardo is like other artists, he has an observation memory. They catch the mental picture in details like a photography and they can continue painting on their own without the need of being next to their subject.
It was the 16th century when this woman lived.
The fashion for women then was to pluck their eyebrows.
Even though her dress was made of fine fabrics, she didn't wear makeup or jewelry, as most women of her social rank would have done at the time.
Some say that the painting is not finished or that is one of the many copies of Da Vinci - Maybe what you are seeing is just one of his many unfinished paintings. We do not know for sure.
She lived in Florence, the same city where Leonardo her painter lived before he moved to France.
Today it is known by two names: Madonna (Madame) Monna Lisa (or Mona Lisa), La Joconde ( Gioconda ) We found the names in Italy, when the Art Historians translated documents & letters from the 16th century.
This young woman is believed to be Lisa Gherardini.
Francesco del Giocondo, a wealthy bourgeois also from Florence, was her husband. He was a rich silk merchant.
If we look closely, we can see behind the Mona Lisa, a balustrade that divides her from an imaginary wild landscape, coming from the imagination of Da Vinci and his travels but not Florence.
Why is she following me? As if she were looking at us all the time? Is she smiling at me?
She is slightly turned towards us. The horizon behind her is uneven. The brain will use the horizon behind her to balance the picture, to correct the "error" and so the face shuffles.
This is an illusion, one of Da Vinci many tricks.
The fact that the eyes are following you is not something special or hard to do at that time. The genius of Da Vinci was not only to make her eyes follow you around the room but also to make her smile "Move" as you move around her. You can almost become friends with her.
At the base of the high mountains, we see a river and a path crossed by a bridge.
It is clear that the painter did not reproduce a real site (except for the tiny Tower on the left, it comes from real life)
Having a kids on my tour who think she is going to a funeral, or that she is sad, made me wonder about her clothing.
Actually, the garment was suitable for married women.
She has a sophisticated outfit. Around the neckline, it is embellished with embroidery.
To keep her hair wavy, she wears a light sheer veil.
What is she not wearing?
Unlike other Renaissance portraits of noble women with luxurious clothes and many jewelries, Mona Lisa demonstrated her self-control as a middle-class woman in her balanced silhouette, in the shape of a triangle.
Portraits should always portray the model in the best possible light and the absence of jewelry was maybe done in purpose to bring the attention back to the face.
It is her smile that gives the painting its fame.
Her smile comes and goes when you look at her for a moment, then look away and stare at her eyes, you can see her smirking back at you.
The psychological trick is that she smiles at you if you smile at her.
How is this possible?
Leonardo da Vinci spent too much time in the morgue studying human anatomy, face muscles. He also studied smiles, light and optics.
Da Vinci loved painting faces and give them an air of life, a soul.
Through her smile, she conveyed the life and thoughts of the young woman, far beyond her physical appearance.
Her lips barely move as she smiles.
A smile's outline was successfully reproduced, which isn't easy to accomplish.
A smile on the face can't be sustained for long.
For the artist to succeed in reproducing this expression, he needed great observation skills and a deep understanding of his profession.
Da Vinci was obsessed since a young age to draw exactly what he observes with clinical proportions.
There were no cameras or photography during that period. The painters used the painting to tell stories (like we do with our cartoons or our Instagram)
Playing with shadows and light was difficult but necessary to paint a realistic picture.
Most of the time, we use painting for religious propaganda or to paint a famous person but here, Da Vinci used painting as an experiment. That's why he painted this unknown woman so he can try his new technique.
If we look closely, we see that the contours of the hands and face are not defined by a straight line.
In relation to the source of light, the lips and the eyelids are suggested by lighter or darker shades.
Sfumato : the Italian word for blurred smoke describes how the painter uses a lot of these gradients of shadow and light.
You can see this technique in his other paintings (4 of them are displayed also in the Louvre, in the gallery before the Mona Lisa)
Take a closer look at her realistic shadowy veil ! He used almost 40 layers with tiny premeditated brushstrokes for many years to create the veil.
The painter allows it to emphasize certain parts of the painting, like the cheekbones or the hands of the model, while giving other parts a lot of relief and volume.
By doing so, the artist reinforces the impression of reality he wishes to convey.
There is no way to know for sure.
Lisa Gherardini and her husband apparently never received Leonardo's portrait.
King François I invited him to France in 1516, where he brought the painting with him:
"This painting is undoubtedly more than a portrait"
It was one of Leonardo's many experiments on the theme of facial expressions and light.
How did the painting arrive at the Louvre?
Thanks to French King François 1st.
Image : King Francis I Receives the Last Breaths of Leonardo da Vinci
After moving to France, the painter died there in 1519 at the age of 67. La Joconde was among the paintings he brought with him. This painting was first exhibited at Château de Fontainebleau as early as the 16th century, although it is unclear how the monarch became its owner: its gift from the painter's hands formed the core of the Louvre collection when it opened just after the French Revolution in 1793.
The French people suffered persecution and starvation during the French Revolution. In response, they became angry and gathered in the streets, declaring that they no longer wished to live under the power of a Kings, so they removed the Kings and appointed a people's Assembly.
As a result of the national assembly's decision, the Louvre was to become a museum for the public, and not just for the kings and their guests and friends. The French people then decided to exhibit their nation's masterpieces. The museum opened on 10 August 1793 with an exhibition of 537 paintings, the majority of the works being royal and confiscated church property.
First, you can recount to your child the story of the Louvre fortress and how the building became a nice Palace and an open museum. Don't hesitate to explain the true reasons why the family is visiting the Louvre.
The Louvre can be overwhelming. With too much Art and dense information, it is impossible to absorb and deliver everything. It is alright to miss few parts and not explain everything to children. The most important is that children have the desire to come back.
Make sure that the children are well rested, well fed and ready. Show to the children that the parents are also in a positive mood and excited to discover the Louvre.
There are many shops, groceries, cafés, 2 restaurants and many clean bathrooms inside the Louvre Museum itself: You can take as much breaks as needed. You can rest on the available sofa in each room of the Louvre.
Adapt to their level of energy.
Don't forget to take memorable pictures next to the Masterpieces and to print them in a physical photo album when you are back home. People in the Louvre are friendly and you can ask them to orient you and to take a group picture of the family.
Children under 18 do not need tickets? Tickets are free but you need to reserve timed tickets in their names before you go. Otherwise the Louvre can refuse the entry as they need to anticipate the crowd numbers...
So, please go check if you can buy your tickets in advance using this link.
I advice you to contact me if you can't find it easy to buy any tickets.
If you go to the Louvre using a Taxi or Uber, give your driver this address : The Louvre main entrance, the Glass Pyramid. When entering the Pyramid, take the left entrance if you have your tickets with you, and then, after the security check, turn left to take the elevator for families with strollers.
If you use the metro, check :
You can visit the Louvre on your own very easily.
However, this experience can be overwhelming or boring because there are a lot of decisions to make, including where to go and what to see, as well as the questions of the children, the whats and the whys.
It seems logical to enjoy more time with your children when you hire a professional tour guide in Paris, knowledgeable and experienced with guiding children in the Louvre.
Whether you're looking for learning accurate facts, historical findings or a practical advice on how to visit the Louvre, how to approach a Masterpiece, the professional tour guide and the treasure hunt printed booklet will help you understand the history and richness of the museum as well as its constraints.
Treasure hunts at the Louvre is an educational gift to develop a passion for Art & History.
I am a guide but also a caring mother, I want to help fellow parents in providing a good experience in the best conditions for their cherished family.
I work in a team of kid-friendly guides who understands the challenges of the parents navigating a museum with little kids and grown-up children.
We truly admire the courage of the parents who travel with children to visit a busy city such as Paris and learn about its culture.
Being a tour guide for families is a rewarding and meaningful job!
So please feel free to contact us here with an opportunity so we can plan a tailor-made itinerary.
We are looking forward to hearing from you.
Count on us for a warm welcome in the Louvre, Paris!
There is a lot of information about Paris to sort and thanks to my experience, you will get the help you need efficiently by email and by whatsapp.
+33787082577 I will answer emails, sms texts, whatsapps and calls in max 24h
I am Flora, a kid-friendly Louvre tour guide.
During my studies at the Sorbonne University of Paris 3rd, I focused on Art and History of Art. It is almost every day that I go to work at the Louvre since I passed my exams in 2011.
After working with various booklets that I bought from the National museums & boutiques in Paris, I found out
I am Flora, a kid-friendly Louvre tour guide.
During my studies at the Sorbonne University of Paris 3rd, I focused on Art and History of Art. It is almost every day that I go to work at the Louvre since I passed my exams in 2011.
After working with various booklets that I bought from the National museums & boutiques in Paris, I found out that they were loaded with information : dates, detailed events, too many names to remember and superfluous stories... but it was too much.
The children were quickly overwhelmed.
That's why I created a home-made treasure hunt, designed for kids enjoying Paris as a fun trip. The treasure hunt must be a positive memorable moment and not a boring long lecture.
I can guide with my own printed booklets. We have two versions (the 3 to 6 and the 7 to 12)
They both come with a fun story line that children can follow, with cute games to grasp their attention and gifts to enjoy at the end of the tour.
I have guided families with teenagers, and children from different ages and with the two versions : 3-6 and 7-12.
I must confess that I am a daughter of a professional tour guide, and I am a mother of two daughters : Like my mother, I enjoy every opportunity to buy the latest Art history youth magazine or scavenger hunt games for my children when we visit a new place.
By touring in the Louvre with many families, by observing the children reactions, their level of energy, their behavior, their interests and their questions, I updated and I upgraded my Treasure Hunt to be more and more suitable, to be more meaningful for the children and effortless for the parents.
Please book your time slot in advance with me.
When I am not available, I can organize the tour with my trusted kid-friendly colleagues.
I work with travel agents on special projects & specific requests.
Private Guided tours in Paris Museums
TOUR GUIDE PARIS