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Visitor trails The Louvre: Outsize!

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

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Pieds d'un colosse royal réinscrit par Aménophis III  (détail)
Pieds d'un colosse royal réinscrit par Aménophis III  (détail)

© RMN / F. Raux

00Introduction

Monarchs and rulers have always tried to find ways to make their mark, to make sure their reign goes down in history and that their own name is remembered forever. In this trail, we will be looking at some of the biggest works of art in the Louvre and asking the question – why so big?

Some of the works we will be looking at are truly enormous – so huge that you have to take a step back and crane your neck to see the whole thing. They are far too big for any home – apart from a royal palace. Rulers often build huge palaces as a way of displaying their power and making sure their subjects respect and admire them. To fill these palaces, they often commission gigantic statues or enormous paintings to impress visitors, even long after their death. Many emperors and pharaohs are still remembered today because of the huge works of art they built and which can still be seen today, either in their original setting or in museums like the Louvre.


How to get to the next stop:
Starting from the pyramid, follow the signs for the Richelieu wing. After the ticket barrier, walk straight on through the gates then turn right into the Cour Puget.

Captifs
Captifs

© 1994 RMN / René-Gabriel Ojéda

01Four Captives also known as Four Defeated Nations: Spain, the Holy Roman Empire, Brandenburg, and Holland

Hold your hand up against one of the statues (no touching!). These four giant statues are three times bigger than any man! They represent the countries defeated in battle by Louis XIV of France.
Compare their expressions and try and find the symbols of their defeat – broken weapons, chains round their wrists. Originally, the four statues were dominated by the central figure of the victorious Louis, known as the Sun King because he was the most powerful king of his time.
This group, sculpted in bronze, was originally covered in gilt. It used to stand in the center of the place des Victoires in Paris. The statue of the king was melted down during the French Revolution because it represented a grandiose image of royalty at odds with the aims of the revolution.

How to get to the next stop:
Take the passage to the right of the Captives, then turn left. Take the stairs then the escalator up to the ground floor and follow the signs to the Department of Oriental Antiquities. Pass through room 1, then turn left in room 2 and find room 4.

Héros maîtrisant un lion
Héros maîtrisant un lion

© 2011 Musée du Louvre / Thierry Ollivier

02The Hero Overpowering a Lion

Stand underneath the statue of a giant strangling a lion, representing the king’s power. Look up at his eyes and see how he towers above you. You only reach up to his knees! Only the lion seems to be shown life size. Behind you are another two monsters, called lamassu, which stood guard at the gates to protect the king of Assyria and his palace. They each stand four meters tall and weigh some thirty tons. They have the head of a man to represent intelligence and the body of three animals – a lion, an eagle, and a bull – to represent physical strength.

How to get to the next stop:
Pass between the two lamassu then turn right into room 6. Carry straight on to room 8, then turn left into room 12 a.

Chapiteau d'une colonne de la salle d'audiences (Apadana)du Palais de Darius Ier
Chapiteau d'une colonne de la salle d'audiences (Apadana)du Palais de Darius Ier

© 1999 RMN / Hervé Lewandowski / Franck Raux

03The Palace of Darius

Go right up to the two bulls (again, no touching!). What are they carrying on their heads? On the underside is a drawing showing that this was the capital of one of thirty-six columns that bore the roof of the reception hall. This room is only big enough for one of the capitals. Look out of the window on the right and try to imagine how tall the whole column must have been. We know that each column was 21 meters tall and would have reached the roof of the Louvre. This palace, built by King Darius I to impress the neighboring kingdoms, was the most enormous of its time.

How to get to the next stop:
Pass through rooms 13 and 16 and go downstairs. Walk straight on and then up the next set of stairs. Pass through rooms 18 to 21 and turn right into the Department of Egyptian Antiquities. Find room 13.

Sarcophage du roi Ramsès III
Sarcophage du roi Ramsès III

© Musée du Louvre/C. Décamps

04Sarcophagus box of Ramesses III

Walk right round this enormous block of granite. Granite is an extremely hard-wearing stone that was chosen specially to preserve the body of the great pharaoh for all eternity. The pharaoh’s body was not placed directly in the hollowed-out stone, but instead was encased in a series of smaller sarcophagi made of wood or precious metals. Look at the decoration. At the bottom is a carved frieze representing the stout walls of the royal fortress. As you walk upstairs, you will see that the top of the sarcophagus is missing.

How to get to the next stop:
Take the stairs up to room 12. Go to the far end of the room and look at the work of art on your left.

Pieds d'un colosse royal réinscrit par Aménophis III
Pieds d'un colosse royal réinscrit par Aménophis III

© 2006 Musée du Louvre / Christian Décamps

05Base and feet of a colossus in the name of Amenophis III

Take a close look at these huge feet, carved out of pink granite. They are 1.15 meters long and once belonged to a pharaoh. If you look up, you will see his head. This statue, carved from a single block of granite, originally stood some ten meters tall, about twice the height of the pillars behind him. Imagine what he would look like whole, standing tall! This gigantic statue of Amenophis III stood in the outer courtyard of his funeral temple in Thebes to remind people of his greatness.

How to get to the next stop:
Leaving this room, turn left and walk on to the next staircase. Go downstairs then up the facing set of stairs to reach the Department of Greek, Etruscan and Roman Antiquities. Walk straight on to the next staircase and go upstairs. Turn left and look up to the top of the stairs.

La Victoire de Samothrace
La Victoire de Samothrace

© 2006 Musée du Louvre / Daniel Lebée et Carine Deambrosis

06Winged Victory of Samothrace

The statue at the top of the stairs once stood in a shrine overlooking the sea. At some time in the past, it lost its head and arms. Take a closer look at the statue. How did the sculptor suggest the strength of the wind and the sea? Look at the body and the outstretched wings. The base of the statue represents the prow of a ship. This type of statue is known as a Victory. This Victory commemorated a naval battle won by the Greeks. Its enormous size was intended to guarantee success for the Greeks in future battles.

How to get to the next stop:
Go back down a few steps and follow the signs on your left to the Department of Painting. Find room 75. Go to the middle of the room and look at the painting on the right-hand wall.

Sacre de l'empereur Napoléon Ier et couronnement de l'impératrice Joséphine dans la cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris, le 2 décembre 1804
Sacre de l'empereur Napoléon Ier et couronnement de l'impératrice Joséphine dans la cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris, le 2 décembre 1804

© Musée du Louvre, dist. RMN / Angèle Dequier

07The Consecration of the Emperor Napoleon

Take a couple of steps back to have a good look at this vast painting, commissioned by Napoleon to demonstrate his power. How many people can you count? There are two hundred in all, covering sixty square meters of canvas. The artist, David, took three years to paint them all.
The scene is taking place in the Notre Dame cathedral in Paris. In the center of the painting is the emperor Napoleon shown placing the imperial crown on the head of his wife, Josephine. Sitting behind him is the Pope. How many symbols of the emperor’s power can you see? Try and spot the crown, the imperial scepter, the hand of justice, and the globe.

How to get to the next stop:
Leave the room at the far end and take the lift on the left to the exit. That’s all for this visit!

 

Authour(s) :
Cyrille Gouyette