A date with the Mona Lisa

If you’re in Paris for more than a day then you really should make the effort to visit The Louvre as we did on Sunday. It is the worlds biggest and most visited museum and is impossible to see in a single day, if only because due to its size the authorities close off different sections every day of the week.

I had been there twice before and hadn’t managed to visit the area I most wanted to see but the museum is so big that despite spending 7 hours there on Sunday, I only remembered a few of the rooms from last time and most was new to me.

Even on a Sunday morning in early February there was quite a queue to get in. As before we used our Paris pass to miss the queue and we were soon descending down through the glass pyramid to the museum proper itself. It was in no way shape or form due to the official we asked for guidance who seemed singularly disinterested before actually giving us the wrong information. We have found that with the exception of one or two really friendly officials, most simply don’t care. The often repeated mantra of speaking a little French to break the ice doesn’t wash. I speak quite good French and my wife speaks perfect French but it doesn’t help. Nice people make an effort no matter what language you or they speak. Several times we have intervened to help Parisians, totally ignored by their compatriots but at least we were always very warmly thanked.

Even the building itself is a work of art with its origins as a medieval castle and then grand palace. In some areas visitors spend as much time looking at the building than its contents. Most people tend to congregate in a few rooms around the Mona Lisa and though their are crowds in certain busy thoroughfares, many areas are much quieter such as the Babylonian section which because it isn’t trendy is all but deserted. Fine by me, I can enjoy these huge half man-half bull statues all to myself and they look as good today as they did when they were made at a similar time to the Pyramids.

We saw amongst other things areas dedicated to ancient Egypt, Iran, Turkey and some great Greek statues and Etruscan pottery with their distinctive black and orange colouring. The private apartments of Napoleon III were a delightful surprise and much more comfortable and lavish than Versailles, reminding me of Windsor Castle in places.

After lunch we visited Renaissance artworks, tapestries from Brussels and lots of other things before deciding to hit the paintings. There are paintings from all around the world with particular emphasis on Europe. I like Flemish paintings the best and there were plenty of large Ruebens on offer as well as others by Van Dyke, Vermeer and the like.

Last but not least of course is the Mona Lisa herself; supposedly the most famous and intriguing painting of all time except of course in my opinion it is not and it’s hard to find a less interesting painting in the whole museum. Much of its fame is due to a question over whom the lady in the picture might be, is she smiling and of course it’s famous artist who painted it. None of these though make it a great feast for the eyes like many other paintings. No one likes a novel just because of whom the author is. I don’t like a particular movie because of whom the director is or because the leading actress hides her identity but because I like the content of the film itself and with the Mona Lisa I just don’t. Sorry! It is also surrounded by lots of desperate people, half of whom probably nothing about the painting but instead wanting to pose for a selfie in front of it instead of admiring the painting! Out of the thousands of paintings I saw that day, only a handful were less interesting. The fact that so much of the rest of the museum is near deserted says it all!

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About Stephen Liddell

I am a writer and traveller with a penchant for history and getting off the beaten track. With several books to my name including a #1 seller, I also write environmental, travel and history articles for magazines as well as freelance work. Recently I've appeared on BBC Radio and Bloomberg TV and am waiting on the filming of a ghost story on British TV. I run my own private UK tours company (Ye Olde England Tours) with small, private and totally customisable guided tours run by myself!
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7 Responses to A date with the Mona Lisa

  1. Incredible….thank you for bringing us with you!!!!

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  2. Rosemarie says:

    Great photos. The Mona Lisa is actually looking better than she did back in 1971. They had her situated in a strong box with several layers of glass. You really couldn’t see her well at all.

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  3. I’ve often wondered at the hype surrounding the Mona Lisa. Quietly thrilled that somebody else thinks the same way. Lovely post 🙂

    Like

  4. joyofmaps says:

    Reblogged this on mapsworldwide blog.

    Like

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