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Visitor trails JAY-Z and Beyoncé at the Louvre

Thematic trail - Length: 1h30 - Tour days: Wednesday Thursday Saturday Sunday

Apes**t - 278 * 278 px
Apes**t - 278 * 278 px

© The Carters

00Introduction

Follow this trail to discover the iconic artworks from JAY-Z and Beyoncé’s music video “Apes**t.”

Starting under the Pyramid head towards the Denon wing. After the ticket check, continue on up the stairs. Take the spiral staircase on your right to the Salle du Manège (room 183). Go up the flight of stairs on the right and cross the Galerie Daru (room 406).

Victoire de Samothrace, après restauration, vers 190 av. J.-C.
Victoire de Samothrace, après restauration, vers 190 av. J.-C.

© RMN - Grand Palais (Musée du Louvre) / Benoît Touchard / Michel Urtado / Tony Querrec

01Winged Victory of Samothrace

An original Greek statue probably destroyed by an earthquake, this work was found in countless pieces in 1863 on the island of Samothrace, in the northeast Aegean. The right wing is a plaster copy of the left wing, the only one to have survived. It was originally placed at an angle in the corner of a precinct perched on a high terrace in a sanctuary, which explains why less attention was paid to the right-hand side. The Victory—“Nike” in Greek—is shown as if she were just alighting on the prow of the ship to which she is bringing divine favor. Discovered in 1950, her right hand enabled her original gesture to be reconstructed: with her raised hand, she announces the coming event. Staged in spectacular fashion very much in keeping with Hellenistic taste, she could be seen from afar by ships approaching the island. The proportions, the rendering of the bodily forms, the manner in which the drapery flapping in the wind is handled, and the expansiveness of the highly theatrical gesture all bear witness to the search for realism in sculpture dating from this period. After examining certain stylistic details, scholars believe that this monument might be a votive offering from the Rhodians to thank the gods for a naval victory around 190 BC, but André Malraux was delighted with the accidental mutilation of this statue, which turned it into a timeless icon of Western art—“a masterpiece of destiny.”

At the foot of the statue, take the stairs on the right and cross the room with the frescoes (room 706) till the Salon Carré (room 708). Enter the Grande Galerie. On the left wall opposite the second entrance to the Salle des Etats (on the right) you will find The Madonna of the Green Cushion.

Andrea Solario, La Vierge au coussin vert
Andrea Solario, La Vierge au coussin vert

© RMN - Grand Palais (Musée du Louvre) / Jean-Gilles Berizzi

02Madonna of the Green Cushion, Solario

At the beginning of the 17th century this painting was found in the Cordeliers (Franciscan) convent in Blois, but its previous history is unknown. It probably dates to the period of Solario’s stay in France (1507–1510) in the service of Georges d’Amboise; it is possible, however, that the work was painted for the latter’s nephew, Charles II d’Amboise, governor of the Duchy of Milan, upon the artist’s return to Italy. Madonna with the Green Cushion, a devotional image of the Virgin nursing Jesus, has been so called since the 17th century due to the motif of the green cushion placed on a marble plinth in the foreground. This detail, perfectly integrated here within the holy group, is indeed remarkable; with its soft, padded comfort it truly accompanies this scene of family tenderness and well-being.

Carry on through the Grande Galerie, until you reach the painting in the middle of the room. On your left you will find Rosso Fiorentino’s Pietà.

Giovanni Battista di Jacopo Rossi, dit Rosso, Fiorentino, Pietà
Giovanni Battista di Jacopo Rossi, dit Rosso, Fiorentino, Pietà

© Musée du Louvre, dist. RMN - Grand Palais / Angèle Dequier

03Pietà, Rosso Fiorentino

This is the only easel painting that can be dated with certainty to Rosso’s stay in France in 1530–40. The cushions beneath Christ’s body bear the blue alerions on an orange background of the coat of arms of Constable Anne de Montmorency, from whose château at Ecouen the Pietà was taken to the Louvre in the late 18th century. The marks visible on the bodies of Christ and St John are due to an initial, reversed composition—visible under X-ray photography—which Rosso had blacked out. At the time of the French Revolution Rosso’s Pietà was confiscated from the Château d’Ecouen, the residence Anne de Montmorency, Constable of France, had built for himself. Set above the main door of the chapel, the painting was doubtless a commission: the Constable’s coat of arms can be seen on the cushions Christ is resting on. The work may originally have embellished the Chapel’s stone altar, now to be found in the Château de Chantilly. After de Montmorency’s fall from favor, his assets passed to the Condé family. This is the only surviving example of the religious works Rosso executed in France.

Go back and turn left. into the Salle des Etats (room 711).

 

Léonard de Vinci, La Joconde, portrait de Monna Lisa
Léonard de Vinci, La Joconde, portrait de Monna Lisa

© RMN - Grand Palais (Musée du Louvre) / Michel Urtado

04Mona Lisa, Leonardo da Vinci

Acquired by Francis I in 1518, acclaimed by artists of the day, the Mona Lisa—also known as La Gioconda—only earned her worldwide fame in the 20th century, more on account of her “adventures” theft (1911–14), stoning (1956), travels to the United States (1963) and Tokyo and Moscow (1974)—than her outstanding qualities. Da Vinci’s dazzling, almost magical technique models the forms through his use of glazes (very diluted, quasi-transparent layers of paint), playing with light and shade effects by making the contours hazy (“sfumato”). Aerial perspective, moving from brown to blue, creates, through the density of the air, an abstract landscape made up of earth and water. What a pity that the colors darken as the varnish ages: the sleeves were once saffron yellow. The model’s identity has given rise to the oddest suggestions at times, even going as far as to say that she was a man. It is probably a portrait, begun in Florence between 1503 and 1507, of Monna (“Mrs.”) Lisa Gherardini del Giocondo. Her smile could thus be a symbol of her name, “Gioconda” also meaning “cheerful.” While this is one of the period’s largest portraits, painted on a single, very thin (12 mm) poplar board, it is not an ostentatious image of a rich bourgeoise lady, although her pose and attire and the absence of eyelashes and eyebrows are in keeping with the elegance of her station. It is above all an ideal portrait, reflecting Renaissance interest in Platonic theory, when the beauty of the body was seen as that of the soul.

Now, turn around and admire The Wedding Feast at Cana.

Paolo Caliari, dit Véronèse, Les Noces de Cana
Paolo Caliari, dit Véronèse, Les Noces de Cana

© Musée du Louvre, dist. RMN - Grand Palais / Angèle Dequier

05The Wedding Feast at Cana, Veronese

This huge canvas once adorned the refectory of the monastery of San Giorgio Maggiore in Venice. Here, Veronese, acclaimed as a colorist and for painting vast, multifigured scenes, chose to depict Christ’s first miracle, performed during the Marriage at Cana. Working the perspective so as to draw the spectator into the scene, he transposed the biblical episode to his own era, rich 16th-century Venice. Note the splendor of the fabrics, the sumptuous jewelry, silver and silver-gilt tableware, and the elegant Palladian architecture, which set a magnificent stage for this story, which is supposed to have taken place in the home of poor people who ran out of wine during a wedding feast. In the center, on Christ’s right, Mary holds an invisible glass in her hand to show that there is no wine left. In the right foreground, the figure in yellow pours water that has turned into wine from a jar, a miracle witnessed by the two figures behind him. A man clad in green hurries toward the newlyweds, on the left in front of the columns, to ask why the best wine was kept for the end of the banquet. Another reading of the work moves vertically from the symbolic image of the butchers chopping up meat to the hourglass on the musicians’ table and the dog chewing a bone: it heralds the “sacrifice of the Lamb,” the death of Christ, who revealed his true nature by performing this miracle. But the dogs are also an allegory of fidelity, that of Christians whose faith will sweep away the clouds.

Go round the Mona Lisa and exit the Salle des Etats into the “Salles Rouges” (red rooms). The room on the left, the Salle Mollien (room 700), is dedicated to the Romantic movement and its masters: Theodore Géricault and Eugène Delacroix. Enter, and on your left you will find The Raft of the Medusa.

Théodore Géricault, Le Radeau de la Méduse
Théodore Géricault, Le Radeau de la Méduse

© RMN - Grand Palais (Musée du Louvre) / Michel Urtado

06The Raft of the Medusa, Géricault

Romanticism’s manifesto, this work caused a huge scandal at the Salon of 1819. For the first time, an artist had depicted an event from contemporary history without having received a commission and had filled his composition with anonymous figures in a format hitherto reserved for historical painting. Precursor of the critical spirit that so often motivates art today, the subject was a caustic statement on the government then in power: in 1816, the frigate “Medusa” sank because of the incompetence of a captain who had obtained his post through political relations. Due to a shortage of lifeboats, 149 people piled onto a raft that drifted for twelve days. Only fifteen survived the ensuing slaughter, madness, and cannibalism. Seen from one corner, the raft appears very unstable, while two diagonals heighten the dramatic tension: one leads the eye to the vast wave that threatens to engulf the raft, the other leads to the tiny silhouette of “The Argus,” the ship that eventually rescued them. This long oblique line evokes the tragedy—the torso of a man who has perhaps been devoured by his companions—and the various psychological states of mind: the dejection of the bewildered man holding his dead son, the dying man rising up with a start, and the desperate hope of those waving to their potential rescuer. But at this point in time, nobody knew which way the scales of fortune would tip. The only hero in this poignant story is humanity, and that is what still moves us today.

Above on your right you will find The Ghosts of Paolo and Francesca Appear to Dante and Virgil.

 

Ary Scheffer, Les ombres de Francesca da Rimini et de Paolo Malatesta apparaissent à Dante et à Virgile
Ary Scheffer, Les ombres de Francesca da Rimini et de Paolo Malatesta apparaissent à Dante et à Virgile

© RMN - Grand Palais (Musée du Louvre) / Jean-Gilles Berizzi

07The Ghosts of Paolo and Francesca Appear to Dante and Virgil, Scheffer

“A noise as of a sea in tempest torn by warring winds. The stormy blast of hell with restless fury drives the spirits on whirl’d round and dash’d amain with sore annoy. [...] I understood that to this torment sad the carnal sinners are condemn’d, in whom reason by lust is sway’d, [...] So bears the tyrannous gust those evil souls. On this side and on that, above, below, [...] As cranes, chanting their dol’rous notes, traverse the sky, stretch’d out in long array: so I beheld spirits, who came loud wailing, hurried on by their dire doom. Then I: ‘Instructor! who Are these, by the black air so scourg’d?’ [...]” Francesca, daughter of Guido da Polenta, from Ravenna, married the deformed Giovanni Malatesta for state reasons, but she fell in love with the handsome Paul, her husband’s brother. Moved after reading the story of Lancelot and Guinevere’s thwarted love, the lovers kissed, only to be interrupted by Giovanni, who burst in, killing them both with his sword. This historical drama features in Canto V of Dante’s Inferno, the first volume of the Divine Comedy trilogy. Guided by his master, Virgil, author of the Aeneid, the poet meets the damned couple in the second circle of hell, punished for having let passion prevail over reason.

On the wall across from The Raft of the Medusa you will find The Charging Chasseur.

Théodore Géricault, Officier de chasseurs à cheval de la garde impériale chargeant
Théodore Géricault, Officier de chasseurs à cheval de la garde impériale chargeant

© RMN - Grand Palais (Musée du Louvre) / Hervé Lewandowski

08Officer of the Chasseurs Commanding a Charge, Géricault

By the time of the Salon of 1812, Géricault was 20 years old. Legend has it that the painter was inspired by a work horse that reared in a cloud of dust on the route de Saint-Germain. He was able to assemble a powerful combination of various sources of inspiration: Antiquity, Rubens, his first master Carle Vernet, Antoine-Jean Gros, while reconciling and invigorating these influences by adding a unique personal experience into the mix. After Géricault’s death, the work was bought by the Duc d’Orléans. A powerful gray horse rears in front of an obstacle, foaming at the mouth, his eyes wide with fear, his nostrils dilated with excitement. For the cavalier, who remains firm in the saddle, unblinking, Géricault had one of his friends pose—cavalry lieutenant Alexandre Dieudonné. The framing of the composition is very compact: the horse forms an ascending diagonal to the right and occupies the entire width of the painting. The sky is split in two—the twilight and the fire—along the same diagonal. The horizon line, placed very low, reinforces the relief effect and projects the subject towards the viewer. On the left, another cavalier sounds the charge, while the officer gives the order by lowering his sword in a violent twisting movement. He seems to be addressing his troops and yet it is unclear where his gaze is directed.

Turn back to the second large red room, the Salle Daru (room 702), dedicated to the neoclassical movement. On your left you will find The Coronation of Napoleon.

Jacques Louis David, Sacre de l'empereur Napoléon Ier et couronnement de l'impératrice Joséphine dans la cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris, le 2 décembre 1804
Jacques Louis David, 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 - Grand Palais / Angèle Dequier

09The Coronation of Napoleon, David

It took David three years to complete this vast painting commissioned by Napoleon I to immortalize his coronation on 2 December 1804 at Notre-Dame. Specially redecorated for the occasion in neoclassical style with painted trompe-l’oeil wooden paneling, the choir of the cathedral resembles a theater stage in which each actor has his place amidst the grandiose scenery. As in any work of political propaganda, there are certain notable arrangements with reality: the presence of the emperor’s mother on a throne in the center, when in fact she was absent that day, as she was angry with her son; or the idealized beauty of a slimmer, taller Napoleon and a younger Josephine, rejuvenated by the brush of a diplomatic artist, recently appointed First Painter to the Emperor. It depicts Napoleon crowning Josephine, blessed without great conviction by Pope Pius VII, seated behind the emperor, and is less provocative than the painting in which he crowns himself. Amidst the 150 portraits of spectators, his skillful lighting effects play up these central figures, lingering over the brilliance of a jewel, the richness of a fabric, or the softness of a velvet cushion. David was the precursor of modern-day photographers who immortalize celebrity events in magazines where luxury is supposed to feed the dreams of the public. Yet the most lifelike figure of them all is Talleyrand, dressed in red, on the right. He seems to be casting an ironic eye on this ostentatious display.

Now turn around, and you will see Madame Récamier.

Madame Récamier, née Julie (dite Juliette) Bernard (1777 - 1849)
Madame Récamier, née Julie (dite Juliette) Bernard (1777 - 1849)

© RMN - Grand Palais (Musée du Louvre) / Gérard Blot

10Madame Récamier, David

Juliette Récamier, the wife of a Parisian banker, was one of the most famous socialites of her time. This portrait, showing her dressed in the “antique style” and surrounded by Pompeian furniture in an otherwise bare picture space, was extremely avant-garde for 1800. Exactly why it was never finished is unclear, but its state enables one to study David’s technique before his vibrant preliminary brushwork and background rubbings were “glazed over” with translucent colors. Madame Récamier, gracefully reclined on a meridienne with her head turned towards the viewer, is dressed in a white antique-style sleeveless dress and is barefoot. The room is empty except for the antique-style sofa, stool and candelabra. She is seen from some distance, so her face is quite small, but this is less a portrait of a person than of an ideal of feminine elegance. Madame Récamier (1777–1849), although then only twenty-three, was already one of the most admired women of her time. The daughter of a notary, she epitomized the social ascension of the new post-revolutionary elite. Her husband, older than her, had become one of the principal financial backers of the First Consul, Napoleon Bonaparte. In their mansion, restored by the architect Percier and furnished by the cabinetmaker Jacob, the couple entertained numerous writers, some of whom—like Benjamin Constant or Chateaubriand—fell passionately in love with Madame Récamier.

On your left you will see The Oath of the Horatii.

Le Serment des Horaces
Le Serment des Horaces

© 2009 Musée du Louvre / Erich Lessing

11The Oath of the Horatii, David

These works invariably bring back memories of school textbooks. They illustrated noble sentiment and great heroism in the chapter on the French Revolution. But, in fact, it was Louis XVI who encouraged the birth of this style in reaction to the frivolous, feminine spirit of the preceding period, when mythology was more a pretext for female nudity than for the edification of the viewer. In this return to the antique, the Revolutionaries, extolling the ultimate sacrifice made for the homeland, borrowed outstanding episodes from Roman history that served their own ideology. Jacques-Louis David became the leader of this “neoclassical” movement and painted the masterpiece of the genre. Rome’s chosen champions, the Horatii, swear an oath of loyalty before their father. Only one of the three brothers would return alive from their duels with the Curiatii, in the city of Alba. He would kill his own sister, Camilla, because she mourned the death of her betrothed, a Curiatius. The very sober scene, lit like a theater stage, is set in an austere republican house. The straight lines and warm, strident colors of the male figures form a contrast with the fluid lines and softer tones of the group of resigned, despondent women. The illusionary perfection of the technique, in which any trace of the brush was considered “vulgar,” stemmed from David’s desire to “paint like people spoke in Sparta.” It gives the spectator the quasi-disturbing impression of a snapshot taken over 2,000 years ago.

On the other side of the room you will see The Intervention of the Sabine Women.

Les Sabines
Les Sabines

© Musée du Louvre, dist. RMN - Grand Palais / Angèle Dequier

12The Intervention of the Sabine Women, David

After the abduction of the Sabine women by the neighboring Romans, the Sabines attempted to get them back—David depicts this episode here. The Sabine women are intervening to stop the bloodshed. Hersilia is throwing herself between her husband, the king of Rome, and her father, the king of the Sabines. David is using the subject to advocate the reconciliation of the French people after the Revolution. His increasingly simple style is inspired by Ancient Greece. David’s painting depicts a legendary episode from Rome’s beginnings in the 8th century BC. After the Sabine women had been abducted by the neighboring Romans (the scene Poussin depicted in his masterpiece The Rape of the Sabine Women, Louvre), the Sabines attempted to get them back. David shows the Sabine women intervening to stop the battle raging beneath the ramparts of the Capitol in Rome. The painting is a masterful summary of the whole episode. Hersilia is leaping between her father Tatius, the king of the Sabines, on the left, and her husband Romulus, the king of Rome, on the right. A woman is pointing at her children; another has thrown herself at a warrior’s feet. The picture also evokes the happy consequences of their intervention. The horseman on the right is putting his sword back into its sheath while, further away, hands and helmets are raised in gestures of peace. Unlike in David’s previous paintings (The Oath of the Horatii, Brutus, Louvre), women play the crucial role here.

Now continue on to the staircase of the Winged Victory of Samothrace. At the foot of the statue, take the flight of stairs on your left. In the rotunda, turn right and observe the ceiling of the Galerie d’Apollon.

 

Apollon vainqueur du serpent Python
Apollon vainqueur du serpent Python

© Musée du Louvre, dist. RMN - Grand Palais / Olivier Ouadah

13Ceiling of the Galerie d’Apollon

The Galerie d’Apollon, situated above the Petite Galerie, was destroyed by fire in 1661 and rebuilt by Le Vau. The ceiling, begun by Le Brun, is a homage to the Sun King, Louis XIV. The central panel, Apollo Slaying the Serpent Python, is by Delacroix (1851). The gallery was recently restored.

Turn around and walk back past the Winged Victory of Samothrace to go down the stairs. Facing the Galerie Daru, take the stairs on the right and head through the rooms to the Venus de Milo (room 345).

Salle de la Vénus de Milo
Salle de la Vénus de Milo

© 2010 Musée du Louvre / Angèle Dequier

14Venus de Milo

There’s nothing more frustrating than studying Greek art, given that the originals are so few and far between and are never seen in their original state. Could you imagine this statue with arms, and adorned with jewelry and color? The Venus de Milo, or Aphrodite of Melos (named after the Greek island on which it was discovered in 1820), is one of these magnificent originals. Her naked torso enabled her to be identified as Aphrodite, the Roman Venus, goddess of love and beauty, born out of the foam of the sea. And with her, Greek art gave birth to all Western art’s female nudes. Certain stylistic details indicate a dating of around 100 BC. Her elongated silhouette, position in space, and very sensual, realistic nudity link this work to the Hellenistic period (323–31 BC), the last great era in Greek history. Her neutral, impassive face, however, forms a stark contrast, rather like a mask that has been added on. Timeless and emotionless, it is comprised of a play on proportions: it is three times as long as the nose, which is a continuation of the forehead in this “Greek profile”—which the Greeks, of course, did not actually have! What the sculptor was seeking to depict was divine beauty, that of Plato’s ideals, not worldly reality. This image “that expresses beauty in a language which is always our own” (Alain Pasquier) provides a fine answer to the eternal quest for Beauty; in short, it is a timeless masterpiece.

Continue into the room through the forest of sculptures.

Hermès à la sandale
Hermès à la sandale

© 2003 Musée du Louvre / Etienne Revault

15Roman copy of Hermes Fastening his Sandal after Lysippos

This marble work is a Roman copy of a bronze work by Lysippos. The transposition from bronze to marble explains the addition of the tree trunk, a necessary support for the stability of the marble statue which did not exist in the original bronze. This Hermes Fastening his Sandal is part of “the tradition of athletic nudes practiced since Polykleitos in the late fifth century” (J-L Martinez). The accuracy of the musculature is particularly remarkable. But the work also shows innovation by Lysippos; for example, the slender proportions of the body. The work is exemplary of the new canon invented by Lysippos in the 4th century BC, departing from the classic Polykleitos canon. Pliny the Elder evokes this innovation: “he brought innovations which had never thought of before into the square canon of the older artists.” The head is small while the slender body is eight times its size. The way his sculptures appeared differently when viewed from different angles was another new feature. Thanks to the position of the leaning body, the legs, the twisting torso, and the head, the statue can be appreciated from all sides. Lysippos manages to animate the figure without compromising its stability. Far from the majestic representations of the gods of the classical period, he endeavours to show an instant, a footnote, the moment when the messenger god stops to fasten his sandals. The gesture is trivial and so we don’t necessarily even realize it is a god at first glance. The portraitist of Alexander the Great, Lysippos is, along with Praxiteles, one of the most famous sculptors of the 4th century BC. Pliny goes on to say of Lysippos and his contemporaries: “he often said that the difference between himself and them was that they represented men as they were, and he as they appeared to be.”

Once you have arrived at the statue of Athena at the end of the room, turn left then go down the stairs to the Crypt of the Sphinx (room 338).

Statue : sphinx royal
Statue : sphinx royal

© Musée du Louvre, dist. RMN / Christian Décamps

16Great Sphinx of Tanis

This 24-ton granite sphinx welcomes visitors to the Department of Egyptian Antiquities. Take the stairs on your left to begin your thematic tour, which then continues, which then continues chronologically on the first floor. The last part of the tour, Egypt during the Roman and Coptic periods, is exhibited in the Denon area. Champollion first deciphered hieroglyphics in 1822. He then encouraged King Charles X to acquire a private collection, the jewel of which was this statue when he founded the Egyptian Antiquities section at the Louvre Museum in 1826. Here the sphinx combines the image of the lion, at once a powerful animal and a solar symbol, with that of the king, identified from his headcloth (“nemes”), the protective cobra (“uraeus”), false beard, and the name written on the cartouche. Specialists believe that “sphinx,” a word of Greek origin, derives from the ancient Egyptian term “seshep-ankh,” meaning “living image.” Egyptian art should be interpreted as a magic art in which each representation is potentially alive. No better guardian could have been found for the entrance to the department. Egyptian art aspired to eternity and is awe-inspiring because it does not seem to have been made for mankind. In fact, this statue, which is over 4,000 years old, still conveys an impression of profound majesty. To have sculpted such a monumental work in such hard stone is in itself a masterpiece of technique and patience.

Go up the steps to the Egyptian section and continue through them till you reach the Southern staircase. Go up the stairs then turn left towards the Musée Charles X. Then turn left and take the spiral staircase. Head through the French painting galleries to room 935. On your left, just before the stairs, you will find the Portrait of a Black Woman.

Portrait d’une femme noire
Portrait d’une femme noire

© 2009 Musée du Louvre / Erich Lessing

17Portrait of a Black Woman, Marie-Guillemine Benoist

The painter, a gifted pupil of J.-L. David, took a bold stance with this dark-skinned figure—an unusual, rarely taught exercise that was held in low regard. The grave expression, calm pose and bare breast give the anonymous model the nobility of an allegory—perhaps of slavery, recently abolished.

Finish off your visit through the French painting galleries till the Pavillon de l’Horloge (room 900). Take the Henri II staircase back down to Level -1. Pass by the temporary exhibition rooms in the Rotonde Sully and proceed to the exit.