Paris: Queuing for the Louvre

By Russell Maclennan-Jones

Russell Maclennan-Jones reminds us that there’s more to the Paris museum than just the Mona Lisa.
Tourists crowd around da Vinci’s Mona Lisa at the Louvre museum, Paris. Photo / 123RF
Tourists crowd around da Vinci’s Mona Lisa at the Louvre museum, Paris. Photo / 123RF

Even if you haven't yet been to the Louvre yet you have probably heard of two things: the queues and the huge crowds viewing its most famous exhibit, the Mona Lisa.

The best way to beat the queues is to get there early - even an hour early at busy times - but while you are queueing outside, your reward is the chance to study the building and its mighty sandstone reliefs.

When you have made your way through the slow security checks and bought a ticket, follow the crowds heading towards the Mona Lisa, but at the top of the stairs - where you will see the magnificent Winged Victory - turn left, not right, and you will find yourself among the museum's Roman and Greek treasures.

Here I was especially delighted by tiny works of art that people would have had in their houses, perhaps as talismen or just as trinkets. These are just small works by artisans, but they are real and treasured objects of their time, and the Louvre rightly treats them as being as important as Mona and her ilk. One work I loved especially was a nymph kneeling within a shell.

Perhaps she is a goddess.

And then I found a great treasure, a Greek vase by an artist celebrated in his day, and signed by him ("Euphronios painted this"). This work from thousands of years ago, the Krater of Antaeus, is given celebrity appropriate to our age by setting it with two big touch screens that allow you to explore the work, get to know the characters and what they are doing, and appreciate what the artist was trying to achieve.

The Egyptian section is brimming with sculptures, carvings and funeral caskets. Some of the people portrayed seem very lifelike even though they are depicted in the stylised way we are used to in Egyptian art.

Of course I paid the obligatory visit to Mona Lisa, who seems even duller and further away than I remember, and locked behind bomb-proof glass. What a shame her celebrity means we can never see her properly.

The Louvre, as a famous museum, even has a museum celebrating its own history. It's in two sections across a hall near the entrance and is well worth a few minutes.

You could spend weeks exploring the Louvre but even a couple of hours will be rewarded with memorable art.

So don't be put off by the queues.

- NZ Herald

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