Think big!Les Salles Rouges (The Red Rooms)

The salle Mollien Room 700, Denon wing, Level 1

The Red Rooms, which derived their name from the colour of their walls, are home to some of the largest paintings in the Louvre, including masterpieces by the greatest 19th-century French painters from David to Delacroix.

The largest French paintings in the Louvre

Napoleon I reportedly exclaimed ‘One can walk through this painting!’ when he saw Jacques-Louis David’s depiction of his coronation ceremony. At six metres high and almost ten metres wide it is certainly an impressive work, giving the viewer a sense of actually attending the ceremony. That is the effect that these huge history paintings can create – so it was important to find an exhibition space that would do them justice.

A Second Empire decoration

The Red Rooms were part of Napoleon III’s project to expand the museum and give it splendour worthy of his imperial status; the red and gold decoration, created in 1863 by Alexandre Dominique Denuelle, contributed to that goal. The predominantly brown tones of the paintings stand out against the red background. The rooms originally presented works by 17th- and 18th-century French masters, with large 19th-century paintings added later. Compositions by the greatest names in French painting – such as Jacques-Louis David, Théodore Géricault and Eugène Delacroix – are now displayed side by side on the walls.

Jacques-Louis David, The Consecration of the Emperor Napoleon and the Coronation of the Empress Joséphine in Notre-Dame Cathedral on 2 December, 1804 Room 702 (Salle Daru), Denon wing, Level 1

Prestigious history painting

Apart from famous portraits such as Madame Récamier by Jacques-Louis David and Mademoiselle Rivière by Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres, most of the works in the Red Rooms fall into the ‘history painting’ category, traditionally regarded in France as the most important and prestigious. The history in question can be modern (Napoleon’s battles by Antoine Jean Gros), classical / mythological (Aurora and Cephalus by Pierre-Narcisse Guérin) or biblical (The Flood, by Anne-Louis Girodet). Some artists opted for ‘exotic’ subjects such as Delacroix’s The Death of Sardanapalus, or, more unusually, recent events with a political impact: Théodore Géricault’s The Raft of the Medusa.

La Grande Odalisque

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Romanticism and modernity

The Raft of the Medusa

Théodore Géricault, The Raft of the Medusa Room 700, Denon wing, Level 1

Liberty Leading the People

Eugène Delacroix, Liberty Leading the People (28 July 1830) Room 700 (Salle Mollien), Denon wing, Level 1

Masterpieces in the Red Rooms

  • Jacques-Louis David, The Intervention of the Sabine Women

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A special red

La salle Daru Salle 702, Aile Denon, Niveau 1

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