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Visitor trails The Christmas Story

Thematic trail - Length: 1 hr 30 mins - Tour days: Monday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday

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La Nativité (détail)
La Nativité (détail)

© Musée du Louvre/P. Philibert

00Introduction

Perhaps you look forward to Christmas and its presents, but do you know the Christmas story?

Christmas is a religious feast day. On 25 December, Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, the son of God, who came to earth to save mankind. The story is told in the New Testament, the second part of the Bible. Your tour will not always follow the events as they happened in the story; it will follow the order in which the collections are presented in the museum - through history. As you go along, you will see various figures and episodes in the story of the birth of Jesus. As you look at each work, you will see how the artists showed that it was a holy event.


How to get to the next stop:
From the pyramid, follow the signs to Denon. When your ticket has been checked, take the lift to the 1st floor. Turn right out of the lift and go through Room 75 to the Victory of Samothrace. When you are standing in front of her, turn right, walk through Room 1 and turn right at the back of Room 2.

 

The Nativity and the Announcement to the Shepherds
The Nativity and the Announcement to the Shepherds

© Musée du Louvre/A. Dequier - M. Bard

01The Nativity and the Announcement to the Shepherds

Jesus has just been born. Describe the respectful, loving gestures of the people around him. The donkey and the ox are warming the Christ Child with their breath. Near him, two little angels seem to know in advance what his destiny will be. How can you tell? Can you see the cross that one of them is holding? Through the window, you can see an angel in the countryside. He is announcing this wonderful birth. Who are those people? For a clue, look at the animals grazing beside them.

How to get to the next stop:
Cross to the other side of the doorway.

The Adoration of the Magi
The Adoration of the Magi

© Musée du Louvre/A. Dequier - M. Bard

02The Adoration of the Magi, Bernardino Luini

Three men have come to worship the newborn child. Imitate their movements and imagine what they are saying. They are the three wise men, Gaspar, Melchior, and Balthazar. Tradition tells us that they came from three continents: Asia, Africa, and Europe. They have brought Jesus gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. What do you think the Infant's gesture means? This work is a fresco, painted directly on a wall. The paint, mixed with water, is applied to a coat of fresh plaster. The fresco has since been moved to the Louvre.

How to get to the next stop:
Leave Room 2 by the door between the two frescoes and walk toward Room 3. Go round the wall on your right and look across the room.

The Nativity
The Nativity

© Musée du Louvre/A. Dequier - M. Bard

03The Nativity

Mary and Joseph could find nothing but a stable to stay in. As in the two frescoes you have just seen, Mary, Joseph, and the angels have joined hands to adore the Infant. See if you can find all the animals. Are there any you have not seen before? Notice the dove in a blaze of light - it symbolizes the Holy Ghost, showing that this is a divine birth. The colors are brighter and shinier here, because the artist has used oil paint on a wooden panel.

How to get to the next stop:
At the entrance to the Great Gallery, go diagonally to the right to Room 4. The next two paintings are on the fourth partition on the left.

The Nativity<br>The Presentation in the Temple
The Nativity<br>The Presentation in the Temple

© Musée du Louvre/A. Dequier - M. Bard

04The Nativity : the presentation in the temple

Who is the main figure here? What is different about Mary's posture compared with the previous works you have seen? Look carefully! Jesus is shown twice: in the center, in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger; and, in the foreground, being bathed by two servant women. At the back of the cave is the star that guided the three wise men. Painted two hundred years before the previous picture, this one tells the same story, but has a plain gold background instead of blue sky and clouds.

How to get to the next stop:
Look to the left on the same wall.

L'Adoration des Mages
L'Adoration des Mages

© Musée du Louvre/A. Dequier - M. Bard

05The Adoration of the Magi, Pietro Lorenzetti

The three wise men have arrived. Find the star that guided them. The horses in the background are there to show they have made a long journey from the East. They are giving the Infant gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, which mean that Jesus is at once a king, a god, and a man. Note that the halos are either round or hexagonal. They indicate the holiness of the figures.

How to get to the next stop:
Go through the doorway at the back of the room, turn left and walk through Rooms 75, 76 and 77. Turn left at the top of the double staircase. The lifts are on your right. Go down to the basement. Turn right when you step out of the lift.

La Nativité
La Nativité

© Musée du Louvre/P. Philibert

06The Nativity

This work is in relief, carved in a wooden panel and then painted. Mary, the donkey, and the ox are all looking the same way, showing us who the most important person is.
What does Mary's gesture make you think of? What feelings is she expressing? Three angels are holding a banner. The Latin words on it read 'gloria in excelsis deo', which means 'glory to God in the highest' and reminds us of the divine nature of the birth.

Retable de la passion et de l'enfance du Christ
Retable de la passion et de l'enfance du Christ

© Musée du Louvre/P. Philibert

07The Christmas Story

Step closer - here the figures stand out against the background. They are carved in high relief. The panels in this altarpiece tell the story of the life of Christ.
Look at the two lower scenes in the middle. The figures on the left are all leaning over like puppets, looking at something. What are they looking at? The sculpture of the Infant Jesus had unfortunately disappeared before the work came to the Louvre. The altarpiece used to be on the altar of a church.

How to get to the next stop:
To leave the museum, follow the pyramid signs.


Author(s) :
Isabel Ollivier