For more inspiration, take a look at our deputy head concierge, Jean Mora, enjoying the highlights of visiting Le Louvre.
Highlights of the Louvre with Sabine de La Rochefoucauld
September 03, 2021
I was a student at École du Louvre and have worked at the museum for many years so it’s a place of real passion for me. I remember when the controversial pyramid was installed in 1989 and I love how it’s become the modern symbol of the Louvre. There’s so much to see here that even I see different things all the time. I’ve always been a huge fan of paintings but now I’m also fascinated by sculpture and antiques. Having certain areas of interest can help you plan your visit, the trick is not to overdo it – you can always come back for more.
Plan your tour
I appreciate that many visitors find the Louvre overwhelming. My advice is to come in through the medieval fortress entrance to get a sense of the history, before it became a palace and a museum. Once you’re here, don’t be afraid to get lost and see where your journey takes you. Personally, when I visit a museum for the first time, I like to do it alone so I can really appreciate what I’m looking at, gazing at one piece for hour if I want to. I usually tell my husband, “I’ll meet you in the café later.”
Le Gladiateur Borghèse
This early marble sculpture dates back to around 100 BC. The piece was unearthed in 1611 near Rome and displayed in the Borghese Collection, until Camillo Borghese sold it to his brother in-law, Napoleon Bonaparte. Contrary to its misleading name, ‘Le Gladiateur Borghese’ depicts a Greek warrior not a Roman gladiator. I’m entranced by his vivid expression of fear and anxiety. Many visitors overlook this artefact but for me it’s a real gem, laying bare the emotions the sculptor captured all those centuries ago.
L’Escalier pour la Victoire
This sweeping 19th-century staircase was given an elegant Art Deco feel in the 1930s, including a distinctive banister. It showcases the strength of the Louvre, which is the diversity of the art and its variety of settings. The Daru staircase was carefully selected as a fitting place for the majestic ‘Winged Victory of Samothrace’. This wonderful example of Greek Hellenistic art has been elevated on a marble pedestal, to show the sculpture from a more dramatic perspective. I never tire of seeing this beautiful artwork, and I’m not alone in considering it one of the highlights of the Louvre.
Les Noces de Cana
This vibrant depiction of Christ at a wedding feast, painted by Paolo Veronese in 1563, really holds your attention. There’s so much to take in, from the religious significance and compositional harmony, to the glorious colours the guests are wearing and the dogs in the foreground. At nearly 10m/33ft across, this is the largest of all our paintings. It always makes me smile when people say how small the ‘Mona Lisa’ is, it’s probably because she’s facing this colossal painting.
I remember the reopening of Galerie d’Apollon in 2004, following a major restoration. Its impressive décor acts as a reminder that the Louvre was once a palace. The gallery was the inspiration for the Hall of Mirrors at the Châteaux de Versailles and represents the harmony of the universe. It was created to glorify Louis XIV but it can feel like a puzzle. Look closely and you’ll see the sun, earth, water and the continents depictured in fabulous detail by some of France’s greatest artists, including Le Brun, Lagrenée and Delacroix. A truly spectacular sight.
Les Diamants de la Couronne
In Galerie d’Apollon you’ll find a dazzling display of the Crown Jewels. Over the years they’ve been lost, stolen, rediscovered and survived the revolution. The ultimate gem is the famous 140-carat ‘Regent’ diamond, which was the largest known diamond when it was mined in India back in 1698. It went on to adorn the crown of Louis XV and the sword of Napoleon I. These timeless jewels were designed to represent an expression of power and the strength of the nation, and today they still enthral our visitors.
I love this great work of art is by Rosso Fiorentino, painted in 1540, and was delighted to see it successfully restored to reveal its vibrant pink, orange and yellow hues. Christ is depicted with red hair as Fiorentino himself had, and The Virgin Mary’s open arms convey her faith triumphing over her devastation. Christ rests on regal orange cushions, unlike other pietàs that portray him in his mother’s arms. This was a lesser known piece in the Louvre until it appeared in the music video Beyoncé and Jay-Z shot here, which has now been viewed over 250 million times.
Mademoiselle Caroline Rivière
This 1806 painting is by Jean-Auguste-Dominque Ingres, who is considered to be the father of art distortion. As an artist, he disliked painting portraits because they took so much energy out of him but he needed to in order to make a living. I think he showed exceptional talent in daring to move from reality to more attractive perspectives, such as creating a longer and more flattering arm, spine or neckline. Here we see a girl on the verge of becoming a women, with subtle hints of her sensuality. She died young making this painting particularly poignant and I like the fact that it was one of the artist’s favourite portraits too.
View the latest issue of Collect, our bi-annual magazine featuring a curated mix of culture, art and lifestyle, together with the latest news from Dorchester Collection hotels.