Explore the former palace which housed the kings of France – now the largest museum in the world covering almost 10 000 years of history. The Louvre is divided into three wings: Richelieu, Sully and Denon, and houses a host of treasures – and not just the Venus de Milo as well as the Mona Lisa. Read this article to discover what these treasures are.
The Protective Genies
Towering over passers-by at 4.2 m tall, these magnificent stone guardians date from the 8th century BCE. Known as shedu or lamassu, these statues have huge wings, human heads as well as the body of bulls. They were the protectors of the palace of Sargon II. Originally hailing from what is now Iraq, these statues are now perched and ready to be seen in the Louvre.
On Cour Marly’s ground floor, on the western side, are glorious French sculptures dating from 500 to 1850 AD. These include several by Germain Pilon (1540–90) who is considered France’s greatest 16th-century sculptor. Also to be found here is the Fountain of Diana. Thought to date from around 1550, it portrays Diana, the goddess of hunting, resting against a stag, together with her two dogs, a greyhound as well as a water spaniel.
The Head Of Amenophis IV-Akhenaten
Dating from around 1372 BCE and the rule of the sun god devoted Amenophis IV, this portion of a pillar hails from the Temple of Amon at Karnak. With highly-detailed carving – as well as wonderfully-preserved condition – this is a must-see for any fans of Ancient Egypt. This statue is one of the Louvre’s hidden secrets.
Accessed from the eastern end of Cour Marly is the Louvre’s astounding collection of Near Eastern Antiquities from the cradle of civilisation. Sumerian, Persian, Anatolian, Punic, Arabian, Palestinian as well as other astonishing pieces from 5000 BC to 700 AD include board games, furniture and busts in addition to sculptures, masks, bowls and jewellery. Keep an eye out for archaic writing tablets from 3300 BC, and the extraordinary 5m-high stele (stone monument) Assyrian Lion and Hero, Winged Bull, circa 700 BC, from the palace of Assyrian King Sargon II.
The Two Sisters (Chassériau)
An important work of the French romantic movement, Théodore Chassériau’s work of art – “The Two Sisters” – has been held in the Louvre from 1918. The painting first received a mixed reception from critics when it was unveiled in 1840. However since then, the portrait of Chassériau’s two sisters, Adèle and Aline, has mesmerised art lovers and had a lot of people insisting the two women are identical twins.
Napoléon III Apartments
Hidden up on the Richelieu wing’s first floor (most notably reached by the white-stone Lefuel staircase), the jewel-like Napoléon III apartments were constructed for the ministry of state between 1852 and 1857 in order to accommodate visiting dignitaries. The apartments’ succession of rooms – incorporating reception areas, a 40-seat dining room and a music room, as well as sleeping chambers – are awash with glittering crystal chandeliers, gleaming gilded furniture and splendidly frescoed ceilings.