The louvre

Not to be missed during a visit to the Louvre

Who doesn’t want to follow in the footsteps of Beyonce and Jay-Z? The world-famous couple’s stroll to the Louvre Museum for their 2018 music video A parasite drew a record 10.2 million visitors to the iconic building. But the spotlight isn’t for everyone, so avoid the crowds and instead explore the quieter corners of the Louvre in its treasure-filled Richelieu wing.

The Cour Marly is filled with French sculptures from the 17th and 18th centuries © Bernard Jaubert / Getty Images

Named after the French clergy, nobleman and statesman, Cardinal Richelieu (1585-1642), the Richelieu is one of the Louvre’s three vast wings (along with the east wing by Sully and the south wing de Denon), parallel to rue de Rivoli on the north side. Far from the busiest galleries of the museum, visitors will unearth here magnificent sculptures, Mesopotamian antiquities, Second Empire apartments, decorative arts and monumental French and Northern European canvases.

Cour Marly

Accessed through the Louvre’s underground entrance area, the Hall Napoleon, the Cour Marly is a spectacular glass-roofed courtyard on the first floor and ground floor. It is filled with 17th and 18th century French sculptures commissioned by Louis XIV and Louis XV for the Chateau de Marly in western Paris, which was destroyed during the Revolution.

Dominating the space on two levels, four statues of marble horses on a base. Antoine Coysevox’ Fame and Mercuryaccounts for two of these, showing two gods riding the winged horse Pegasus, while the second pair is part of the work of Coysevox’s nephew William I Coustou Horses restrained by grooms (aka Marly Horses), completed in 1745.

Other highlights include Coysevox’s trident Neptunecompleted in 1705, and the pair of figures Apollo pursuing Daphne (c. 1713–14) by Guillaume I Coustou (Daphne) and his brother Nicolas Coustou (Apollo), capturing speed and flight before Daphne was transformed into a laurel tree to escape the sun god Apollo.

french sculptures

On the west side of the ground floor of Cour Marly, magnificent French sculptures dating from 500 to 1850 AD include several by Germain Pilon (1540-1590), considered the greatest French sculptor of the 16th century. Here is also the Fountain of Diana. Believed to date from around 1550, it depicts Diana, the goddess of the hunt, reclining against a stag, accompanied by her two dogs, a greyhound and a water spaniel.

One of the large rooms in the Napoleon III apartments;  sumptuous chandeliers hang from the ceiling, red tassel curtains hang around the windows, and the ceiling is gilded with gold.
The grand Napoleon III apartments were built in the mid-19th century to accommodate visiting dignitaries in Paris © Brian Kinney / Shutterstock

Mesopotamian antiquities

From the east end of Cour Marly is the Louvre’s impressive collection of Near Eastern antiquities from the Cradle of Civilization. Sumerian, Persian, Anatolian, Punic, Arab, Palestinian and other pieces from 5000 BC to 700 AD include board games, furniture, busts, sculptures, masks, bowls and jewelry. Look for archaic writing tablets from 3300 BC. and the extraordinary 5m high stele (stone monument) Assyrian Lion and Hero, Winged Bull, circa 700 BC. AD, from the palace of the Assyrian king Sargon II.

Napoleon III apartments

Hidden on the 1st floor of the Richelieu wing (impressively accessible via the white stone Lefuel staircase), the jewel-like Napoleon III apartments were built for the Ministry of State between 1852 and 1857 to accommodate dignitaries from passage. The apartment’s succession of rooms, including reception areas, a 40-seat dining room and music room, as well as bedrooms, are awash with shimmering crystal chandeliers, gleaming gilded furnishings and beautifully decorated ceilings. of frescoes.

A view of the Galerie Medici: a wooden-floored gallery with a series of wooden benches running down the center of the room.  Large paintings hang on the walls and skylights are installed in the ceiling above.
The beautiful Galerie Médicis houses many works by masters such as Rubens, Rembrandt and Vermeer © Sylvain Sonnet / Getty Images

European decorative arts

The rest of the first floor of the wing, to the east of the apartments, is devoted to European decorative arts, particularly from the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. Along with exquisite furniture and tapestries, you’ll see stained glass, silverware, ceramics, ivory and bronze carvings, jewelry, and pieces such as a 15th-century smoky quartz and silver chessboard, 16th century wine glasses and a 1615 mirror decorated with a portrait of 15-year-old Louis XIII on his marriage to Anne of Austria in enamel and metal leaf.

Northern European Paintings

On the 2nd floor at the west end is the exceptional cache of Northern European paintings of the Richelieu wing from 1350 to 1850. Masterpieces here include works by Rubens (notably his cycle Galerie Médicis de 24 paintings originally housed in the home of the Italian-born French Queen Marie de’ Medici, and illustrates episodes from her life), Rembrandt (such as Bathsheba at the Bath from 1654, as well as numerous self-portraits), Pieter Bruegel the Elder, Frans Hals, Jan Steen, Van Dyck and Vermeer, whose intimate work The Lacemaker (1669/1670) was considered by Renoir to be the most beautiful painting in the world.

A black Darth Vader mask hangs in a display case in the Louvre's Petite Galerie
Other unorthodox art exhibits are on display in the Petite Galerie du Louvre © Chesnot / Getty Images

French paintings

At the eastern end of the 2nd floor of the Richelieu wing, French paintings span from 1350 to 1650. Among the most notable are Jean Fouquet’s Charles VII (c. 1450; Fouquet was the first European painter to produce portraits life-size, almost full face. ), Nicolas Poussin’s biblical scenes as Eliezer and Rebecca (1648), Georges de La Tour Cheating with the ace of diamonds (around 1637) and Saint Joseph the carpenter (circa 1642), and that of Simon Vouet allegory of wealth (1640).

Small Gallery

Back on the ground floor of the Richelieu wing, the Small Gallery (Little Gallery) is an innovative cultural education space. From October to June each year, he mounts a major exhibition, such as “Archaeology Goes Graphic”, covering archaeological finds in comics; or ‘Power Plays’, emphasizing the link between art and political power. There are interactive exhibits and related tours throughout the Louvre, as well as storytelling, readings, films, and other events for all ages.

The large glass pyramid which serves as the entrance to the Louvre Museum surrounded by fountains and figures;  the backdrop is the gloriously detailed facade of the historic palace
The Louvre is the most visited museum in the world © manjik / Shutterstock

Top 5 tips for discovering the Richelieu wing

1. Exploring this wing of the museum alone takes several hours; wear comfortable shoes and bring a bottle of water.

2. Nestled between the Napoleon III apartments and the galleries of European decorative arts on the 1st floor of the Richelieu wing is a branch of Angelina, renowned for serving the thickest and richest hot chocolate in Paris, as well as pastries , salads and seasonal dishes.

3. Louvre tickets cover the whole museum and are valid all day, so you can come and go. Pre-purchasing tickets online gives you an allocated time slot; alternatively, you can purchase tickets upon arrival.

4. Evenings tend to be quieter: the Louvre stays open until 9:45 p.m. on Wednesdays, Fridays, and the first Saturday of the month. Since 2019, admission to the museum has been free from 6 p.m. to 9:45 p.m. on the first Saturday of the month (there is no longer free entry on the first Sunday of the month).

5. Skip the longest security lines outside the glass Great Pyramid of IM Pei by entering through the Carrousel du Louvre underground shopping mall. Centered on the Pyramide Inversée de Pei (inverted glass pyramid), it is directly connected to the Palais Royal-Musée du Louvre metro station (served by lines 1 and 7).

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This article was first published in 2019 and updated in May 2021.

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