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Visitor trails Masterpieces of the Louvre, Sully Wing

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

Physical disability

Le scribe accroupi - 275 px
Le scribe accroupi - 275 px

© 1999 Musée du Louvre / Georges Poncet

00Introduction

This accessible visitor trail takes you through the Sully wing, where you will view vestiges of the medieval Louvre before seeing, or rediscovering, major works of ancient Greek and Egyptian art.

In the 4th century BC, the Greek philosopher Plato wrote that no artist can attain ideal beauty. Since time immemorial, artists have grappled with the question of supreme, timeless beauty, proposing solutions that reflect their times and artistic genius. Some of these interpretations have an enduring resonance. As you admire the Venus de Milo or the Seated Scribe, why not consider what ideal beauty means to you?

 

This trail was designed to allow people 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 6 elevator trips.

 

How to get to the first stop:
From the Pyramid, head toward the Sully entrance and continue past the escalators. On your right, take elevator D or E to level -1. When you get out of the elevator, enter the Sully wing on your right, and head toward the Pavillon de l'Horloge. At the far end, on the left, enter the medieval Louvre.

Pavillon de l'Horloge, histoire du Louvre : Louvre médiéval - 1000
Pavillon de l'Horloge, histoire du Louvre : Louvre médiéval - 1000

© 2016 Musée du Louvre / Antoine Mongodin

01The Louvre of Philippe Auguste and Charles V

Around 1200, fearing that the English would invade from Normandy, as the Vikings had done three centuries earlier, the king of France, Philippe Auguste, built a fortress in front of the rampart that surrounded Paris. That castle, which protected the western entrance to the city, would not become a more pleasant residence until the 14th century, during the reign of Charles V, when a second wall extending the boundaries of Paris rendered the fortress unnecessary for defensive purposes. If you turn right further along in the moat, you will see the façade that featured a drawbridge; this used to be the eastern entrance. The drawbridge’s pier has been preserved, and the four-sided tower next to it was added by Charles V. The small opening at the base of the tower allowed sewage from the latrines to be evacuated to the moat. François I decided to build in the Renaissance style. He tore down the keep (the last traces disappearing during the reign of Louis XIV, in the 17th century), and the moat was filled with earth. Seven meters high and perfectly preserved under the Cour Carrée, the vestiges of the keep and the moat were uncovered during excavations carried out between 1983 and 1985 and have been accessible to the public since the inauguration of the Pyramid in 1989. A recently created passage—on the right, in front of the Sphinx staircase—provides access to the foot of the keep and a room that is now underground, the Salle Saint-Louis.

How to get to the next stop:
Leave the medieval Louvre the way you entered. Take elevator G on your right to level 1. When you get out of the elevator, turn right, then cross the landing and enter the Bronzes room (room 663, level 1, Sully wing). Continue straight ahead and through room 662 (level 1, Sully wing). Once in the Salle des Sept-Cheminées (room 660, level 1, Sully wing), turn left. As you leave the room, you will find elevator C on your right. Take the elevator to the Greek Antiquities section on the ground floor. When you get out of the elevator, the Venus de Milo will be immediately to your left (room 345, level 0, Sully wing).

Aphrodite dite « Vénus de Milo »
Aphrodite dite « Vénus de Milo »

© Musée du Louvre

02Aphrodite, known as the Venus 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.

How to get to the next stop:
At the Venus de Milo, turn right, then enter the Salle de Diane on your left (room 347, level 0, Sully wing). The next artwork is to the left of the entrance.

Plaque dite des Ergastines
Plaque dite des Ergastines

© Musée du Louvre, dist. RMN / Daniel Lebée et Carine Deambrosis

03The "Plaque of the Ergastines"

Certain details on this fragment of the east frieze of the Parthenon, such as the rendering of the muscles and the veins in the men's arms, and the woven texture of the borders of the peplos (the woolen robe worn by the young women in the procession), indicate a degree of realism, none the less. Moreover, the now-vanished colors of blue and gold would have tempered the work's present austerity.
Some historians view Classical art, of which this is such a fine example, as marking a perfect balance between the two competing trends of abstraction and realism in art. In an impressively succinct analysis, Goethe observed that the Greeks did not portray gods as humans, but rather created humans in the image of the gods.

How to get to the next stop:
Return to the previous room and turn left immediately to enter the Salle des Caryatides (room 348, level 0, Sully wing).

Salle des Caryatides
Salle des Caryatides

© Musée du Louvre / A. Dequier

04Salle des Caryatides

The medieval Louvre disappeared after 1547 and was gradually replaced by a modern palace with the Salle des Caryatides at its heart. In June 1610, a wax effigy of Henri IV was put on public display here, so that the people of Paris could pay their respects to the “good king” who had been assassinated by the fanatic Ravaillac. And in this same room, Molière performed before King Louis XIV for the first time, on October 24, 1658.

Notice the size and decoration of the room. Henri II wanted a grand, innovative setting for the reception room of his palace, and entrusted the task to the architect Pierre Lescot and the sculptor Jean Goujon. Look up at the musicians’ gallery above the entrance to the room: it is supported by four sculpted female figures — the first examples in France of these classical-style female columns, or “caryatids”. The room originally boasted a partially gilded wooden ceiling, which added color and warmth to the setting. Although splendid festivities were held here, the room was not used for pleasure only.


Take a look at the area sectioned off by columns and dominated by an imposing fireplace: it was once used as a “court” from which the king delivered justice.

 

How to get to the next stop:
Move closer to the Sleeping Hermaphroditos, located near the door you entered through.

Hermaphrodite endormi
Hermaphrodite endormi

© 2011 Musée du Louvre / Thierry Ollivier

05 Sleeping Hermaphroditos

When Hermaphroditos, son of Hermes and Aphrodite, rejected the advances of the nymph Salmacis, the latter begged Zeus to join their two bodies as one for all eternity, so creating the bisexed being depicted here. In a surprise effect of high drama, the observer who moves round to the front of this languorous female body is presented with an unabashed and unambiguous rendition of the male genitals.
The sinuous curve of the graceful body and the treatment of the flesh and the face echo of the work of Praxiteles, but the play of opposites (recto/verso, feminine/masculine, sleeping/twisted pose) stems from the taste for contrasts and the bizarre that was very much part of the Hellenistic spirit.

Is this work simply an erotic game, or is it an interpretation of philosophical ideas on the nature of Love, such as those expounded in Plato's Banquet? Artists of this period were certainly fascinated by abstruse allegorical themes that today often seem impenetrable.

The Child with a Goose, which you have just passed, is the first portrayal of a real child rather than a miniature adult, as had been the norm hitherto. 

 

How to get to the next stop:
Leave the room and return to elevator C on your left. Go to level 1. Turn right out of the elevator and continue through the Musée Charles X (rooms 649 to 641) to get to the staircase. On the landing, turn left, then continue through the Egyptian Antiquities rooms to the Naqada period room (room 633, level 1, Sully wing). In the middle of the room, you will find the Gebel el-Arak Knife.

Couteau de Gebel el-Araq
Couteau de Gebel el-Araq

© 2001 Musée du Louvre / Georges Poncet

06Knife from Gebel el-Arak (site near Abydos, Egypt)

This knife is one of the masterpieces of the Naqada II period (3500–3200 BC), which preceded the historical era in Egypt. Both sides of the blond-flint blade were highly polished. One is smooth and the other is very graphic, decorated with a regular pattern of parallel ripples. Considerable skill was required to remove long transversal flakes by applying pressure. The ivory handle, carved from an elephant tusk, features scenes of a battle on land and at sea, opposing two ethnic groups distinguished by their headdresses and the shape of their boats. The bodies of the defeated float in the water between the boats. Wearing a cap and keeping two lions at bay, a central clothed and bearded figure dominates the other side of the handle. Images of dogs, an ibex, a goat, a gazelle, a lioness and bovines enliven the scene. This heroic character recalls the “Master of Animals” of Mesopotamian mythology. The small knob on the handle may have served to hold the weapon inside a sheath that has not survived. This display weapon has never been used, and its decoration depicts a general theme: an exceptional entity—a hero (often found in Near Eastern antiquity), a king or a god (common in Egypt)—bringing order out of chaos.

How to get to the next stop:
Cross room 634 and enter room 635. You will find the next artwork in display case 5, to your right, in the middle of the room.

La princesse Néfertiabet devant son repas
La princesse Néfertiabet devant son repas

© Musée du Louvre, dist. RMN - Grand Palais / Christian Décamps

07Stele of Nefertiabet

This stele depicting the deceased’s nourishment in the afterlife has retained its coloring for over 4,500 years. The hieroglyphs above the young woman’s head indicate that she is Nefertiabet, the “king’s daughter.” She is wearing a feline-skin patterned dress and sits on a stool with legs carved in the shape of bull’s hooves. Her right hand, with the palm facing the viewer, is extended toward a table of offerings that bears slices of bread topped with meat. The remainder of the stele features a catalogue of all the goods offered to the deceased to ensure that they lacked nothing in the afterlife. Under the table are a vessel containing beer, a loaf of bread, the heads of an ox, gazelle and duck, fabrics, as well as hieroglyphs representing alabaster, which evoke vessels containing ointments. Above, on two lines, there is a list that includes other foods, as well as incense, ointments, and green and black cosmetic pigments. The panel on the right side of the stele contains a list of three linen fabrics of different grades, as well as their dimensions and quantity. This stele was found at the very beginning of the 20th century at Giza, in the tomb of Princess Nefertiabet, a member of the family of King Cheops, who owned the largest of the three pyramids erected on the site.

How to get to the next stop:
Continue along the room. You will find the Seated Scribe
in one of the central display cases.

Le scribe accroupi
Le scribe accroupi

© 1999 Musée du Louvre / Georges Poncet

08The Seated Scribe

The Seated Scribe is one of the most famous Egyptian sculptures in the Louvre’s collection. It was sculpted from a block of fine-grained limestone then painted, like most Egyptian sculptures. Its vibrant colors are particularly well preserved, especially the red-ochre flesh tone, reserved for male figures in Egyptian art. Sitting cross-legged, the scribe is wearing a short white loincloth, his chest is bare and his hair close-cropped. With his left hand, he holds the partially rolled papyrus scroll that rests on his lap. His right hand once held a reed writing instrument, now missing. The scribe seems to be looking up attentively at the person who is dictating to him. His bony face, hollow cheeks and very thin lips make him look extremely realistic, and the inlaid eyes give him an extraordinary presence. Encircled in copper, the eyes consist of a piece of white stone into which a disk of rock crystal was inserted. Only the back side of the disk was painted.

How to get to the next stop:
Continue on to room 638. The next artwork is on your left.

Statue pilier : Amenophis IV Akhenaton
Statue pilier : Amenophis IV Akhenaton

© Musée du Louvre, dist. RMN - Grand Palais / Christian Décamps

09Pillar Statue of Amenhotep IV/Akhenaten

This bust of Pharaoh Amenhotep IV/Akhenaten was part of a colossal statue that must have been over six meters high, and that was originally placed against a pillar in the immense open-air courtyard of a monument located east of the temple of the god Amun at Karnak. The king wore a crown with a cobra at its base, of which only the tail remains. He has a long beard, and his arms are crossed on his chest: the right hand holds a whip, and the left, a scepter. On either side of the beard and on the right wrist, there is a plaque with a cartouche bearing the name of the god Aten (a cartouche is a knotted oval Egyptian symbol upon which royal names are usually written). Portrayed as the sun and its nurturing rays on the king’s other monuments, Aten became the principal god during the reign of Akhenaten. The king’s rather elongated face, almond-shaped eyes and full lips are typical of the style of the Amarna period (named after Amarna, the new capital founded by the king), which was also characterized by prominent stomachs, exaggerated hips and frail limbs.

How to get to the next stop:
Continue on to the landing and turn right into room 641. The next artwork is in the central display case on your left.

La déesse Hathor accueille Séthi Ier
La déesse Hathor accueille Séthi Ier

© 2017 Musée du Louvre, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais/Christian Décamps

10Relief Showing Sethos I and Hathor

During the New Kingdom, royal tombs built in the Valley of the Kings were extensively decorated. Two main themes were featured: the king being welcomed by deities in the afterlife and the nocturnal journey leading to his rebirth. Here, Hathor, the goddess who protected the dead, welcomes the king by presenting him with a menat necklace, a ritual object associated with the symbolism of rebirth. The goddess is portrayed as a woman bearing on her head a sun disk between the horns of a cow, her sacred animal. She is wearing a long dress covered with a bead net into which hieroglyphs of the king’s names have been inserted. The king is wearing a long pleated garment of fine linen and an elegantly layered mid-length wig adorned with the uraeus (sacred serpent) at forehead level. A wide necklace, bracelets and an ornate loincloth apron complete his finery.

Highly characteristic of the early Ramessid period, the relief's graceful, balanced and harmonious proportions constitute a complete break from the artistic principles of the Amarna period.

 

How to get to the exit:
This is the end of our trail. To reach the exit, retrace your steps through the Musée Charles X rooms and continue on to the Salle des Sept-Cheminées (room 660, level 1, Sully wing). Turn right and go through rooms 662 and 663, then cross the landing of the Henri II Staircase. Continue on to room 601 (level 1, Sully wing), where you will find elevator G, which will take you to the exit (level -1). Once you leave the Sully wing, take elevator D or E on your left to get to the Pyramid, then take the disabled elevator up to the exit.