Go to content Go to navigation Go to search Change language

Home>Activities & Tours>Visitor Trails>Masterpieces of the Louvre

Visitor trails Masterpieces of the Louvre, Denon Wing

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

Physical disability

Portrait de Lisa Gherardini
Portrait de Lisa Gherardini

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

00Introduction

On this visitor trail, you can admire major works from the Italian Renaissance; the Mona Lisa is joined by several of Leonardo da Vinci’s other masterpieces, as well as world-renowned paintings by Raphael, Ghirlandaio and Arcimboldo.
Offering an unforgettable view of the Winged Victory of Samothrace, the trail also features French paintings from the 19th century, a time when art acquired a new function and masterpieces were not necessarily works of beauty and esthetic abstraction intended to delight. Some of these paintings clearly reflect this new approach, in many respects heralding the status of contemporary works in present-day society.

 

This trail was designed to allow persons with reduced mobility to enjoy the museum’s masterpieces. Each stop features clear directions guiding visitors to the next artwork. This trail contains a total of 4 elevator trips.

PRM access: From the Pyramid, head toward the Sully entrance, and continue past the escalators. On your right, take elevator D or E to level -1. Turn left out of the elevator and continue through to the Denon wing.

How to get to the next stop:
After the ticket controls at the entrance to the Denon wing, take one of the elevators on either side of the staircase to level 1 (“Paintings”).Turn left out of the elevator into the Salle Mollien (room 700, level 1, Denon wing). You will find the Raft of the Medusa on your left.

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

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

01The Raft of the Medusa

Théodore 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.

How to get to the next stop:
Continue down the room. You will find the next artwork further along on your left.

 Eugène Delacroix, Le 28 Juillet : La Liberté guidant le peuple, musée du Louvre
 Eugène Delacroix, Le 28 Juillet : La Liberté guidant le peuple, musée du Louvre

© Musée du Louvre / E. Lessing

02July 28, 1830: Liberty Leading the People

Eugène Delacroix

This is an unusual work in Delacroix’s career since the artist tended to prefer Orientalist themes, and few of his compositions are inspired by contemporary events. In July 1830, the Trois Glorieuses, three “glorious” days of insurrectional riots in Paris, resulted in King Charles X being deposed. Despite the vain efforts of the city’s population to re-establish a republic—the event celebrated here—his successor Louis-Philippe mounted the throne on July 28. The towers of Notre Dame in the background situate the action behind a huge barricade strewn with dead bodies. Standing at its summit, a personification of the Republic, wearing a Phrygian cap and brandishing a gun and tricolor, is urging the people to follow her. The costumes of the different figures evoke different social classes, whereas the emblematic image of the Parisian street urchin, taking his destiny in hand—prefiguring Victor Hugo’s Gavroche—symbolizes political awareness.
This powerful and innovative painting caused a scandal when it was exhibited at the Salon of 1831. The artist’s free brushwork makes the Republic look not like a symbolic image but like an actual woman, battle-soiled, half undressed, even sporting body hair. At the time nudity was acceptable only when it was smooth and allegorical.
Louis-Philippe purchased this painting to commemorate his accession to power, but later hid it from view, fearing that this subversive picture might be used against him.

How to get to the next stop:
Turn around: the painting entitled Women of Algiers in Their Apartment is on the wall in front of you.

Eugène Delacroix, Femmes d'Alger dans leur appartement
Eugène Delacroix, Femmes d'Alger dans leur appartement

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

03Women of Algiers in Their Apartment

Eugène Delacroix

On January 11, 1832, two years after the French captured Algiers, Delacroix left for Morocco. He accompanied Charles de Mornay, head of the diplomatic mission sent by King Louis-Philippe to the court of Sultan Moulay Abd al-Rahman. On the way back, they stopped in Algiers. That is when Delacroix is said to have fulfilled his wish of entering a Muslim harem. He portrayed his subjects from a distance, grouped around a kanoun (a small brazier) and a hookah (a large water pipe of Persian origin). Dressed in the style fashionable in Algiers, the four women are wearing shirts made of fine cloth in plain white, floral print, or contrasting matte and glossy textures. Settled down on high-quality woolen Turkish or Berber rugs, with their babouches (slippers) removed, they present a serene, intimate family scene. The woman standing on the right is shown turning around, bringing the composition to life. The critics praised the artist’s flair for color and composition, deemed reminiscent of Veronese, as well as his assured brushwork. Echoing the words of the artist, who predicted in 1832 that the Orient would continue to inspire many generations, Cézanne stated: “You can find us all in . . . Delacroix.”

How to get to the next stop:
At the end of the room, you will find the landing of the Mollien staircase. Turn left and continue to the Grande Galerie (room 712, level 1, Denon wing). You will find the next artwork immediately to your left.

Giuseppe Arcimboldo, L'automne
Giuseppe Arcimboldo, L'automne

© RMN - Grand Palais (Musée du Louvre) / Franck Raux

04Autumn

Giuseppe Arcimboldo

This painting shows a figure composed of fruits and vegetables against a dark background. A variety of flowers, also fairly dark, frame the composition. Autumn is portrayed as a mature bearded man. His coat consists of disjointed barrel staves held together by a knotted branch. Note the importance of open forms: a split walnut husk, an open chestnut bur, an overripe fig and the disjointed barrel—all illustrating the figure’s full maturity. Arcimboldo played on shapes and colors, depicting all natural elements with great realism but combining them in a way that creates the illusion of a portrait. Autumn can be viewed as a political image: the middle-aged man, whose coat is held together with a tie, representing the emperor capable of holding together an empire composed of diverse peoples. The two olives emerging from the bottom edge of the painting are also symbols of peace.

How to get to the next stop:
The next artwork is on your right, by the red marble columns.

Raffaello Santi, dit Raphaël, Portrait de Baldassare Castiglione, écrivain et diplomate (1478 - 1529)
Raffaello Santi, dit Raphaël, Portrait de Baldassare Castiglione, écrivain et diplomate (1478 - 1529)

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

05Portrait of Baldassare Castiglione, Writer and Diplomat (1478–1529)

Raffaello Santi, known as Raphael

Author of a bestseller entitled The Courtier, diplomat Baldassare Castiglione was Raphael’s friend. Their friendship is expressed in the intense gaze that lights up the sitter’s face, which is seen from the front, while the bust is in three-quarter profile. The hands folded in the foreground recall the Mona Lisa, as does the overall presentation of the figure. The painter and his model have come together, as if engaged in a casual conversation. The shades of gray used for the black velvet doublet made warmer by the Siberian gray squirrel-fur sleeves, the beret that covers the hairnet and frames the face, the white of the shirt and the background that makes the figure stand out all serve to magnify Baldassare’s complexion and emphasize his blue eyes. The extra fine canvas allows the pigments to capture light, enhancing the model’s beauty. Raphael seems to have used this new medium as a means to modulate texture. At the end of the quattrocento (15th century), canvas began to supplant wood. Baldassare Castiglione was one of the most prominent Renaissance humanists; elegant, generous and sober, this portrait by Raphael is perfectly in keeping with the spirit of the book written by his friend.

How to get to the next stop:
Continue down the Grande Galerie, then turn left into the Mona Lisa room (room 711, level 1, Denon wing). You will find the Mona Lisa on the wall opposite you.

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

06Portrait of Lisa Gherardini, wife of Francesco del Giocondo

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. 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.

How to get to the next stop:
Now turn around to admire The Wedding Feast at Cana by painter Veronese.

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

07The Wedding Feast at Cana

Paolo Caliari, known as 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.

How to get to the next stop:
Come back to the Grande Galerie, then turn left. You will find the next artwork further along on your right.

Léonard de Vinci, La Vierge à l'Enfant avec sainte Anne (après restauration)
Léonard de Vinci, La Vierge à l'Enfant avec sainte Anne (après restauration)

© 2012 RMN

08Saint Anne, the Virgin Mary, and the Infant Jesus Playing with a Lamb

Leonardo da Vinci

The Virgin and Child with Saint Anne is Leonardo da Vinci’s most ambitious composition from his later years, along with The Battle of Anghiari. The fruit of much thought over the last twenty years of his life (1501–1519), the work greatly influenced the evolution of the arts in Italy in the early 16th century. This is the culmination of da Vinci’s research in the domains of nature and art, and it shows his ability to revisit a subject that was highly codified in his time. The small works he painted during the same period testify to similar research pertaining to expression, movement, the relationship between painting and sculpture, the relief of figures against dark backgrounds and landscapes, and so forth. There are nevertheless many unanswered questions regarding this famous painting, especially concerning the commissioning client, the creation of the painting, and its early history.
The restoration of this major work was completed in 2011. The painting has regained its almost sculptural original depth and relief, along with a palette of deep lapis lazuli blue set off by red lacquers, and its counterpoints of vibrant grays and browns.

How to get to the next stop:
The next work is just a few steps away.

Léonard de Vinci, Saint Jean-Baptiste
Léonard de Vinci, Saint Jean-Baptiste

© RMN - Grand Palais (Musée du Louvre) / Tony Querrec

09Saint John the Baptist

Leonardo da Vinci

Saint John the Baptist, the Annunciator and the Forerunner of Christ, is also “the one who comes to the Light.” In Leonardo da Vinci’s painting, this theme is perfectly rendered by the figure emerging into the light, the turn of the body and the index finger pointing to heaven, a gesture that takes center stage. The lighting gives the figure a sculptural volume and expresses the imperceptible boundaries between form and substance. Sfumato, “which blurs outlines in a light haze”, is masterfully illustrated here. As the body “turns” through the use of light, the painter rivals the sculptor. Da Vinci foregoes the use of color. Indeed, the work is all the more perfect without the artifice of color. Saint John the Baptist smiles gently. His face has both feminine and masculine qualities, in keeping with his identity as the Forerunner and the New Adam who, on the day of Creation, embodied a dual nature. Da Vinci’s quest for ideal beauty also involves the use of light. A theme introduced by Plato and taken up by Saint Augustine, light is at the service of Beauty and Good. Italian scholar Marsilio Ficino adopted the ideas of both Plato and Saint Augustine, and Leonardo da Vinci endeavored to convey them in his works.

How to get to the next stop:
Continue down the Grande Galerie. You will find the next artwork further along on your left.

Domenico Ghirlandaio, Portrait d'un vieillard et d'un jeune garcon
Domenico Ghirlandaio, Portrait d'un vieillard et d'un jeune garcon

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

10Old Man with a Young Boy

Domenico Ghirlandaio

Painted on a wood panel, this double portrait depicts an old man holding a child in his arms. Nothing is known about the models or the circumstances that led to the work. The closely framed scene and the touchingly intense looks on the subjects’ faces create an intimate atmosphere. This may be an unposed portrait of a grandfather and his grandson, or an uncle and his nephew, who are shown sharing a moment. The image contains one shocking detail: the old man’s deformed nose, most likely due to rhinophyma (acne rosacea). This picture of old age, ugliness and disease is contrasted with the child’s delicate face and pure profile, with its dainty nose and mouth. The painting may be an allegorical representation of the passage of time, showing the transition from the beauty of youth to the physical decline of old age. The landscape, with its two peaks —one green and the other arid—may symbolize the meeting of the two generations.

How to get to the next stop:
At the end of the room, turn left into the Salle des Sept-Mètres (room 709, level 1, Denon wing). Continue all the way across to the landing where you can view the Winged Victory of Samothrace.

 La Victoire de Samothrace
 La Victoire de Samothrace

© 2014 Musée du Louvre / Philippe Fuzeau

11Winged 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. The cement base beneath its feet is also modern; the statue initially stood on the sculpted prow of the ship. It loomed out of a hilltop sanctuary at an angle, which explains why less attention was paid to carving 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 restored: 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.”

How to get to the next stop:
Turn around and enter the Salle Daru (room 702, level 1, Denon wing). You will find the Coronation of Napoleon on your right.

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

12The Coronation of the Emperor Napoleon I and the Crowning of the Empress Joséphine in Notre-Dame Cathedral on December 2, 1804

Jacques-Louis 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’œil 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.

How to get to the next stop:
Continue to the end of the room. You will find La Grande Odalisque between the two doorways.

Une odalisque, dite La Grande Odalisque, Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres
Une odalisque, dite La Grande Odalisque, Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres

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

13La Grande Odalisque

Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres

Here, Ingres transposed the antique theme of the female nude to the Near East, a place he had traveled to only in his dreams and the pretext for the sensual image of a naked woman in a harem—hence the title, The Large Odalisque—set against an exotic background. Until the end of his life, Ingres continued to paint exotic scenes and female nudes, one of his favorite subjects—as in The Turkish Bath—drawing on influences as diverse as Raphael, the Mannerists, and Persian miniatures. Whereas Ingres, like his master David, was a classical artist in terms of technique and his interest in antiquity, which he showed in other works, he distanced himself from this trend by giving priority to draftsmanship, pure lines, and sensual curves, distorting anatomical reality if necessary. This odalisque has three vertebrae too many. Likewise, her right breast and left leg are joined to the rest of the body in a curious fashion. In contrast to this physical deformity, the heavy blue drapery, the turban, and the hookah (a large water pipe of Persian origin) are treated in an illusionistic manner. The critics of his day, completely nonplussed by this chimerical combination, berated his singular style. On the other hand, Ingres would have a strong influence on modern artists such as Picasso, who gladly borrowed his ideas and his manner of recomposing bodies to suit his own purposes.

How to get to the exit:
This is the end of our trail. Walk back across the Salle Daru to the Daru staircase (Winged Victory of Samothrace). Go down to level 0, then enter the Galerie Daru (room 406, level 0, Denon wing) and walk all the way across. Turn left into the next room and walk down one of the staircases leading to the exit. 

PRM exit:
Leave the room via the doorway to the left of La Grande Odalisque, then take one of the elevators on your left to level -1. Exit the Denon wing. Continue along the mezzanine on your right until you reach elevator D or E, which will take you to the Pyramid. Take the disabled elevator up to the exit.