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The 13 best works in the Louvre in Paris

Stopping to admire all the works housed in the Louvre can take days, weeks or even months. That's why it's important to know which are the essential works to see in a day.

Carlos Bleda

Carlos Bleda

9 min read

The 13 best works in the Louvre in Paris

Louvre Museum | ©Pedro Szekely

The Louvre Museum in Paris is not only one of the most valuable museums in the world, it is also one of the largest, and seeing it is definitely one of the things to do in Paris. Located in the former royal palace of the Louvre in the centre of Paris, it covers more than 60,000 square metres and houses some 35,000 works of various kinds. With such a collection, it is impossible to see the museum in its entirety in a single visit. That's why in this post I'll tell you which are the pieces that every visitor who buys tickets to the Louvre must see.

1. The Venus de Milo

Venus de Milo at the Louvre Museum| ©Ivo Jansch
Venus de Milo at the Louvre Museum| ©Ivo Jansch

We begin this tour with one of the most iconic sculptures in the Louvre and in the history of art, the Venus de Milo. It is considered one of the most important sculptures of ancient Greece and was found in 1820 by a peasant tilling the land on the island of Milo in Greece. It represents the goddess Aphrodite and is made of a piece of white marble, just over two metres high. It has earned its fame and beauty thanks to the impeccable workmanship of the author and proportions considered perfect in harmony.

  • Author: Attributed to Alexander of Antioch.
  • Date: 110 BC
  • Location: Floor 0 of the Louvre, room 345.

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2. The Victory of Samothrace

The Victory of Samothrace| ©Rodney
The Victory of Samothrace| ©Rodney

Personally, it is my favourite sculpture in the whole museum. It is simply spectacular. It represents the goddess Nike, goddess of victory in Greek culture, walking on the prow of a ship. It is believed to have been made to commemorate a victory in a naval battle. It was found near the Greek island of Samothrace in 1863 and later taken to France.

The posture, the position of the wings and above all the marble work simulating a wet tunic make the sculpture look as if it is going to come to life and fly away. Moreover, its location in the museum in a privileged place, at the top of the Daru steps and on a large pedestal that simulates the prow of a ship, further enhances its beauty. Did you know that you will see a copy of the sculpture if you take a trip to Versailles from Paris?

  • Author: Unknown.
  • Date: 190 BC
  • Location: Daru Staircase.

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3. The seated scribe

The scribe sitting in the Museum| ©Ivo Jansch
The scribe sitting in the Museum| ©Ivo Jansch

The Seated Scribe is one of the best-known and most important figures from ancient Egypt due to its exceptional state of preservation. The sculpture depicts a scribe, a high-ranking official in ancient Egyptian society, with a level of detail rarely seen in ancient Egyptian works. The hair, skin and eye colours, made of rock-crystal, white quartz and ebony, are virtually intact. It also has details, such as the folds of the skin due to the posture of the figure, which are unusual in works from the same period. An essential piece for lovers of Egyptian culture.

  • Author: Unknown.
  • Date: Between 2480 and 2350 BC.
  • Location: Floor 1, room 635.

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4. The Code of Hammurabi

The Code of Hammurabi| ©Gary Todd
The Code of Hammurabi| ©Gary Todd

You have almost certainly studied or read about the Code of Hammurabi. It is nothing less than the first recorded legal document in history. It is a two-metre high black basalt stone depicting the god Shamash handing over the laws to the Babylonian king Hammurabi. Under this relief are engraved the 282 laws of what is known as the Code of Hammurabi, including such well-known laws as the law of Talion and the principle of the presumption of innocence. More than for its artistic value, this work stands out for its historical relevance, being one of the most important in the Louvre in this respect.

  • Author: Unknown.
  • Date: 1750 BC.
  • Location: Floor 0, room 3.

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5. Psyche revived by the kiss of love

Statue of
Statue of "Psyche reanimated by the kiss of love" at the Louvre Museum| ©Larry Koester

In terms of pure beauty, this work occupies a privileged place in the Louvre and in the history of art. Also known as "The Kiss", the representation of Eros and Psyche is beautiful because of the work of its author, Antonio Canova, with the marble in the posture and details of the figures. But also for the legend of what it represents. Aphrodite, goddess of beauty, ordered her son Cupid to shoot Psyche, the most beautiful daughter of the king of Anatolia, with an arrow out of jealousy for her beauty. This arrow would make Psyche fall hopelessly in love with the worst man she ever met, but Cupid fell in love with her and threw the arrow away.

  • Author: Antonio Canova.
  • Date: End of the 18th century.
  • Location: Floor 0, room 4.

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6. The Winged Bulls

The Winged Bulls of the Louvre| ©Daniel Castro
The Winged Bulls of the Louvre| ©Daniel Castro

These colossal figures were representations of hybrids between bulls, eagles and humans that in Mesopotamian culture were placed at the entrance of cities and temples in the belief that they served to protect them from enemies. The Louvre Museum houses two of these figures, which, together with those in the British Museum, are among the most important ones preserved. They are located at the entrance to a room, fulfilling the function for which they were created. As a curiosity, if the figures are looked at from the front they appear static, but from the side they give the sensation of moving. The trick is that they have five legs.

  • Author: Unknown
  • Date: 713 BC
  • Location: Floor 0, entrance to room 4.

7. The Mona Lisa

The Mona Lisa| ©Matthias Mueller
The Mona Lisa| ©Matthias Mueller

We begin now with paintings and of course I couldn't do it with any other than the most famous painting in the Louvre and in the whole world. Does it need any introduction? I am talking, obviously, about the Mona Lisa or Mona Lisa. Da Vinci's work is the symbol par excellence of the Louvre and practically everyone who passes through the museum does not leave without taking a photograph of it. The oil painting is surprisingly small for those who have not seen it, measuring 77 centimetres high and 53 centimetres wide.

The mysteries surrounding the painting are largely responsible for its fame. It is not known for certain who the woman depicted by Leonardo da Vinci is, although the most widely accepted hypothesis is that she may be Lisa Gherardini, wife of Francesco del Giocondo, both nobles of the city of Florence.

Another of the work's attractions is the woman's mysterious smile. Also noteworthy is Da Vinci's technique and his use of "sfumato", which blurs the background to enhance the figure depicted. You will have to juggle if you want a photo with the Mona Lisa as she is always surrounded by hundreds of people. It is best to go early in the morning, when the Louvre's opening hours begin, to avoid crowds.

  • Author: Leonardo Da Vinci
  • Date: Between 1503 and 1519.
  • Location: Floor 1, room 6.

8. The Marriage at Cana

The Marriage at Cana painting in the Louvre Museum| ©Peter Menzel
The Marriage at Cana painting in the Louvre Museum| ©Peter Menzel

Another of the Louvre's most famous paintings is The Marriage at Cana. It is located in the same room as the Mona Lisa, so it is sometimes overshadowed until visitors turn around and contemplate its imposing dimensions. The painting is almost 7 metres high and almost 10 metres wide.

Its enormous size together with its colours and details make it a masterpiece of Italian Mannerism. The painting depicts Jesus accompanied by his disciples at a wedding celebrated in Cana, known for being the place where he transformed water into wine. As a curiosity, the painting arrived in France after Napoleon's troops stole it in Italy in 1797.

  • Author: Paolo Veronese.
  • Date: 1562 and 1563.
  • Location: Floor 1, room 6.

9. Freedom Leading the People

Painting
Painting "Liberty Leading the People".| ©Marcus Meissner

The most recognised symbol of the French Revolution and an icon of French art. This famous painting by Eugène Delacroix depicts one of the uprisings of the French people against the monarchy and does so with the figure of a woman with a naked torso holding the French flag in one hand and a rifle in the other. This image has become an icon of freedom and can be admired today in the Louvre Museum.

  • Author: Eugène Delacroix.
  • Date: 1831.
  • Location: Floor 1, room 77.

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10. The coronation of Napoleon

Napoleon's coronation| ©Dennis Jarvis
Napoleon's coronation| ©Dennis Jarvis

Along with Liberty Leading the People, the Coronation of Napoleon is the greatest work of French art. It was commissioned by Napoleon himself from his official painter, Jacques-Louis David, and depicts the moment of his coronation as Emperor of France in Notre Dame Cathedral. The value of the painting lies firstly in the historical value of the moment it depicts and secondly in its artistic value. It is one of those canvases that you can contemplate for many minutes because of the amount of detail it contains.

  • Author:Jacques-Louis David.
  • Date: Between 1805 and 1808.
  • Location: Floor 1, room 75.

11. The Oath of the Horatii

The Oath of the Horatii| ©Graeme Churchard
The Oath of the Horatii| ©Graeme Churchard

You may not be so familiar with it, but this is one of the major works by Jacques-Louis David, the same artist who painted the Coronation of Napoleon. The canvas, 3.3 metres high and 4.2 metres wide, depicts the oath taken by the sons of Horace before leaving for war against the Curiatii. This is a conflict of interest, as two of Horace's sons were engaged to two of the Curiatians' wives. But more than for the background story, this painting is recognised for its composition and perspective. It is so successful that it is used as an example in art schools all over the world.

  • Author: Jacques-Louis David.
  • Date: Between 1784.
  • Location: Floor 1, room 702.

12. The Raft of Medusa

The Raft of Medusa| ©Julian Fong
The Raft of Medusa| ©Julian Fong

This work is an icon of French Romanticism. The painting itself was a criticism of King Louis XVIII, as it depicts an unusual subject that was topical at the time thanks in large part to this painting. It tells the story of the shipwreck of a French frigate in 1816 with more than 150 soldiers on board, of whom only about 20 survived, an event that was highly criticised by French society at the time.

  • Author: Théodore Géricault.
  • Date: Between 1818 and 1819.
  • Location: Floor 1, room 700.

13. The Death of the Virgin

Painting The Death of the Virgin| ©aiva.
Painting The Death of the Virgin| ©aiva.

Finally, and to close this list, I am going to allow myself the licence to add a painting by one of my favourite authors. The Death of the Virgin by Caravaggio. In its time it was a very controversial work as it depicts the dead Virgin Mary surrounded by the apostles. These with very successful expressions that perfectly transmit the pain of the painting.

It was the last painting Caravaggio painted in Rome, his place of residence, as he was forced to flee the city after he killed a man during a fight. It is considered to be the most important religious painting of the Italian 17th century.

  • Author: Caravaggio.
  • Date: 1606.
  • Location: Floor 1, room 11.

With more than 35,000 pieces, including paintings, objects and sculptures, and a limited time to see the Louvre to see them, it is inevitable to leave some of the most important ones out of this list. But to discover them all and get to know in depth one of the best museums in Paris and the world, the best thing you can do is to visit it. This way you can make your own list of the works that have had the greatest impact on you. Visiting the Louvre is something you can't forget.

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