With over 100,000 objects located in over 652,300 square feet, the world famous Louvre is a treasure to both humanity and France. But one thing that people constantly state is that you “can’t see the Louvre” in a day, which I completely disagree with. With 5 giant wings of exhibitions it’s true that there’s a huge amount of things to look at. 50,000 pieces in the Egyptian portion alone, 5000 Islamic artworks, 6000 paintings (comprising of aprox 50% religious, 10% naked breast, 30% nobles and the rest random) and much much more. There’s an immense amount of objects to be sure, but I think the average person can “see” the Louvre in an afternoon with a good pair of shoes easily.
I know many people are reading this and thinking, “sure Scott, but if you look at 1 object per minute then it will takes years to see everything”. But let me give an example for you. When you go food shopping, there are probably 50,000 items inside a supermarket and you probably need less than 100. Do you feel the need to inspect each and every can there is inside for a minute each? One can of tomatoe soup is like the other, take a moment to look, decide and move on. After an hour inside you’ve visually processed everything inside the store but discarded most of it. We do this every day with everything we do, whether it’s the millions of pieces of information going around the internet every day or the thousands of decisions our brain makes each minute while driving, our brains are designed to take massive amounts of information, categorize, sort and give us the important stuff.
So if you’ve seen 5 paintings of Jesus on a cross, do you need to carefully inspect the other 500? What about the single exposed breasts on paintings, there’s hundreds. If you see 20 smiling nobles who paid for their paintings, is it that important to visually itemize the other 1000? Is that 1 headless Roman statue that different from the 75 others all around it that you need to spend 1 minute on each one, or can you walk by them and let the few that are great catch your eye? And while some may disagree, once you’ve seen 30 half clothed 17th century ladies with breasts hanging out, you’ve really seen them all.
Don’t get me wrong here, we walked through 4 of the wings and saw a shitload of stuff. And we probably spent more time in the Egyptian wing than the others because it’s more interesting to us. But to say that I didn’t “see” the Louvre in an afternoon is just wrong, I think we saw the best and most interesting things of the Louvre to us. And probably the most disappointing is the Mona Lisa.
Situated on a wall in the middle of the Renaissance wing, behind double pained thick glass, 4 feet behind a small dividing wall and another 15 feet behind a second roped off area sits the Mona Lisa – or one of 3 copies they display. Standing behind a crowd of 80 that’s 10 people deep, some with spotting scopes and binoculars and all gasping I couldn’t help wonder – WTF? I squeezed through to see if I could look into her eyes, see her mysterious smile that’s so well thought of and be in awe. And I saw and was disappointed. Of the millions of pieces that are in the Louvre, this is what people are so excited about?
I’d say the headless angel was more impressive, the 50 foot by 50 foot painting of the last dinner, the sarcophagus in the Egyptian room, huge roman statues, the mummy.. hell, I’d even say some of the Jesus paintings were better. Perhaps the victim of major marketing campaigns I really wasn’t impressed and less impressed with the fawning going on over old Mona.
All in, the Louvre is awesome and a tribute to mankind’s creative process. But unless you’re an art history major, on a tour, or really care to spend a minute visually inspecting the 3000 miniature statues individually you can do it in an afternoon with a good pair of shoes.
Many items inside the Louvre are there just because they’re old – a needle from the 17th century, a piece of statue, a button from a dress, a piece of a tablet.. you get the point – many pieces are just incomplete. Just bring a snack and pay attention to what grabs your eye, letting your brain guide you along.