If you’re visiting Paris and have some time to pass, one of the most beautiful experiences you can have is admiring the famous paintings in the Louvre, the largest art museum in the world.
Below we list some gorgeous Louvre paintings, and we will discuss the painter and the painting itself.
Not only will the list below provide you with some fantastic things to see when you go to the Louvre (French: Musée Du Louvre), but you may also learn about the paintings and the meanings these paintings hold.
Since Paris is famous for its art, here are some of the most famous paintings you can see that will enhance your Louvre experience, one of the best places to visit in the city.
17 Famous Paintings in the Louvre Museum You Can’t Afford to Miss
Here are the most famous Louvre paintings you can see on your next trip to Paris. Still, if you want to visit more places, here’s a list of the best Parisian museums.
1. Mona Lisa by Leonardo Da Vinci – The Most Famous Painting in the Louvre
The most well-known portrait in the world, the painting of a woman thought to be Lisa Gherardini, wife of Francesco Del Giocondo, painted by Leonardo da Vinci in the 16th century, is one of, if not the most famous paintings in the Louvre Museum.
After being sold to King François in France, the Mona Lisa eventually was part of the royal collections displayed in the Louvre Museum after the French Revolution.
Many interpret this Italian painting as a capture of the idea of happiness. Others consider her smile emblematic.
However, in August 1911, this Louvre artwork disappeared without a trace.
The painting got found after more than two years passed, when the thief tried to sell Leonardo Da Vinci’s piece to an art dealer who tipped off the police and returned the painting to its place.
2. The Coronation of Napoleon by Jacques-Louis David
As one of the most famous French paintings, the Coronation of Napoleon by Jacques-Louis David is the second largest of the paintings held in the Louvre, and it’s believed to have gotten commissioned by Napoleon.
After being stored by the Royal museums, it eventually got displayed in the Palace of Versailles before moving to the Louvre Museum, where it is today.
After the original painting depicting the coronation of Napoleon and his wife and emperor and empress got unveiled, the French painter received a commission from Americans who wanted a replica.
However, the replica was made from memory and took much longer than the original; the original, exhibited in 1808, took two to three years.
In contrast, the replica, which you can now see in the Palace of Versailles, was only finished in 1822.
3. Dante and Virgil in Hell by Eugène Delacroix
The first of its kind from the artist Eugène Delacroix The Barque of Dante, also known as Dante and Virgil in Hell, was Delacroix’s first painting during the shift from his neo-classic to the romantic art style.
In this painting from the 19th century, Delacroix depicts Dante and Virgil busy making their way by boat across the river Styx while souls of the dead try to use the boat as a means of escape from their suffering.
There are two very well-noted influences on this famous painting in the Louvre Museum, the well-known writing of Dante’s Inferno and some influence from a painting discussed earlier, the Raft of the Madusa.
However, though it is a well-loved and famous painting now, at the time, the work of art wasn’t seen in the same light; some considered it a masterpiece, while others thought it the opposite.
Because of his unparalleled talent, Delacroix is considered one of the most famous French people to date.
4. The Raft of the Medusa by Théodore Géricault
The raft of the Medusa is a Louvre painting by Théodore Géricault in the 19th century, depicting the starving survivors and some of the deceased from the French royal navy frigate the Madusa on a raft after it ran aground.
Being a political statement against the upper classes of society that left the lower classes to die and a statement against slavery, the painting didn’t make the best impression at its initial exhibit in France.
Because of this lousy reception, the painting got brought to England, where it reached more acclaim.
However, not too long after, it was brought back to the Louvre Museum, the place of its first unveiling, after the painter’s passing in 1824.
5. The Wedding Feast at Cana by Paolo Veronese
The biggest and one of the most celebrated and famous paintings in the Louvre, the Wedding Feast at Cana, painted by Paolo Veronese in the 16th century, depicts a biblical scene in which Jesus turns water into wine.
After troops of Napoleon’s confiscated the painting in 1798, it was brought to France and eventually made its way into the Louvre Museum.
However, when it was time for the painting to return to its original owners, it was exchanged for a painting by Charles Le for fear of damaging it due to the enormous size of the painting and the journey back.
The painting depicts a famous biblical wedding, and many believe there is a lot of symbolism, including hits to the coming sacrifice of Jesus.
6. Liberty Leading the People by Eugène Delacroix
Liberty Leading the People is a famous Louvre artwork commemorating the July revolution in France that dethroned Charles V of France.
Because of this connection to the July revolution, it became one of the most famous and renowned paintings of artist Eugène Delacroix.
The painting got displayed with others in 1831, and the image of a woman leading a pack of revolutionaries behind her is iconic of French revolutionary art.
However, this historical art still receives mixed feelings, as the physical depiction of liberty as a half-nude lady leaves some feeling that the art is distasteful.
In contrast, others find the painting’s mixed realism and idealism inspiring.
7. The Lacemaker by Johannes Vermeer
Finished around 1669 to 1670 by artist Johannes Vermeer, this Lacemaker measures around 9.6 inches by 8.3 inches, relatively small compared to some of the other famous Louvre paintings.
However, some theorize there is a symbolic reason that the painting is so small, which makes sense considering its focus.
This famous painting in the Louvre Museum depicts a woman busy with work and giving the work she is doing every bit of concentration she has.
Some people believe the smaller size of the painting, the colors, the light’s angles, and the painting’s particular focus are meant to all work together to create a sense of intimacy with the depiction and make the art feel personal.
While the woman focuses only on her work, the painter and now the viewers focus only on her. There is also the theory that the book and focus on work emphasize the value of domestic virtue.
8. Battles of the Granicus by Charles Le Brun
This famous Louvre artwork, known as Battle of the Granicus, painted by artist Charles Le Brun in the 17th century, depicts a struggle between Alexander the great and the Persian Achaemenid Empire from 334 BC.
This painting measures around 185 by 475 inches, and since this painter had a few different works revolving around Alexander the great, it is believed they are for a collection of sorts.
Some also believe that this painting was one of the paintings commissioned by King Louis XIV, which would make it a part of some of the artist’s earliest commissions and some of the first for Louis XIV.
This painting explicitly shows a scene from the battle of the Granicus, a river in Turkey now called the Biga river.
9. The Virgin of the Rocks by Leonardo Da Vinci
Another of the famous paintings in the Louvre, arguably the best museum in Paris, is one by one of the world’s most famous Italian masters Leonardo da Vinci, depicting the Virgin Mary.
There are also children in the painting, and art historians believe the painting would have represented the idea of the Immaculate Conception, which would stick with the theme of the sculpture the painting would support since it was for the same religious group.
The Virgin of the Rocks was one of three paintings commissioned by the group mentioned above in 1483, and the paintings would stand below a sculpture made by Giacomo del Maiano.
There are also two versions of this painting, one in London, which most believe is a replacement for the original painting in the Louvre Museum since the original got sold due to Leonardo not receiving adequate compensation.
10. Oath of the Horatii by Jacques-Louis David
The Oath of the Horatti, with the original painting being a Louvre artwork and a replica in the Toledo Museum, depicts three brothers approaching their father to pledge their lives to stapping a feud between two cities.
The original and the replica were painted by artist Jacques-Louis David, with the original made around 1786 and the replica reportedly made with help from his assistant.
The original painting got commissioned by Louis XVI and is a life-size painting, whereas the replica is a bit smaller.
The original painting reportedly drew inspiration from a play called Horace by the playwright Pierre Corneille.
Though it may not be the initial intention, the painting also inspired some for the French Revolution of 1789 due to the depiction of people laying down their lives to save the place they call home.
11. Gabrielle d’Estrées and One of Her Sisters
When it comes to the painting called Gabrielle d’Estrées and One of Her Sisters, it is a wonder that this 16th-century artwork makes the list of famous paintings in the Louvre Museum.
Not only because it has no known artist but also due to the controversial depiction of Gabrielle d’ Estrées, a mistress of French King Henry IV, sharing a bath with one of her sisters. It is especially noteworthy that some believe the painting is sexually inspired.
There are many interpretations of this painting, but since we don’t know the artist and since the painting doesn’t have a name given by the artist, most of what we know is speculation.
However, there is a widely held belief that the painting represents a queer relationship, though this isn’t as widely believed or would have symbolically indicated that Gabrielle was pregnant with the king’s child.
12. The Turkish Bath by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres
Originally finished in the 19th century but later resized and changed to a circular form, the Turkish Bath painting by artist Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres was sent initially to Prince Napoleon before his wife sent the painting back to the artist’s studio.
The painting depicts an overly romanticized scene of many nude women in a Turkish bath, as discussed with one of the painter’s correspondences in earlier years.
After the return, the artist kept the painting, showing it to very few people because some saw it as distasteful or vulgar.
In 1867 the painting was sold to a well-known collector, Khalil Bey, before getting shown to the public in 1905 to praise from other well-known artists.
13. The Virgin and Child with Saint Anne by Leonardo Da Vinci
Another one of Leonardo da Vinci’s Louvre paintings depicts Saint Anne with her daughter, the virgin Mary on her while Mary is holding on to Jesus as a child.
There is some speculation about this painting, with some believing it was a commission by French King Louis XII for the birth of his daughter in 1499 and others believing it was to be a high altarpiece for the Church of Santissima Annunziata.
This painting by da Vinci never got shipped off to a client, making many people feel like it was still unfinished when it got sold, likely by his assistant, to King Francis.
The first known record of the painting is from the 17th century when it got counted in the inventory of the Palace of Fontainebleau.
The painting is well-known and served as an inspiration for many other artists of the time.
14. Death of the Virgin by Caravaggio
Measuring around 145 by 96 inches, Death of the Virgin is one of the biggest paintings by the artist Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio and was initially a commission from a lawyer to his church, the Carmelite church of Santa Maria della Scala.
However, upon receiving the painting in 1606, the church rejected it; some believe this is because the virgin Mary resembled the artist’s love, a prostitute.
The painting sets a dark and depressive tone in which the Virgin Mary lies deceased on a bed while her followers and the followers of Jesus mourn her passing.
15. David With the Head of Goliath by Guido Reni
Another of the famous paintings in the Louvre is this one, depicting David holding the severed head of the giant Goliath as imagined by artist Guido Reni.
The picture Reni created is of a nonchalant-looking David holding up the head of a defeated Goliath with a visible mark on his head where, in the Biblical story, a stone that David released from his sling would have caused the Giant to crumble.
Some sources claim many art collectors held this painting, created in the 17th century, before finding a place in the Louvre Museum.
16. The Battle Between Love and Chastity by Pietro Perugino
The painting commissioned in the 16th century, also called the Combat of Love and Chastity, is a work of Pietro Perugino after the decline of his work in the 1500s.
Commissioned by Isabella d’Este, and delivered in 1505, Isabella d’Este was, according to some reports, unhappy or only moderately happy with the work of Pietro on this painting, saying that she would have preferred it to be an oil painting.
However, this 63-by-75-inch Louvre artwork, tempera on canvas, still stands today as a representation and famous work of this artist, despite its initial reception.
As we can tell from the title of the painting, it depicts a battle between the symbolically displayed love and chastity.
This theme was predetermined when the painting got commissioned to make part of a series of paintings for Isabella’s study.
17. Minerva Expelling the Vices From the Garden Of Virtue by Andrea Mantegna
Though beautiful, the painting Triumph of the Virtues, also called by the name we can see above, is filled with strange and creepy imagery of humanoid creatures and half-human and half-animal combinations.
This painting, similar to the one mentioned just before, is tempera on canvas and was, as the one before, commissioned by Isabella d’Este for her private study.
This painting represents Minerva, the goddess of wisdom, justice, law, and victory, chasing away the vices such as ingratitude and ignorance.
By doing so, Minerva will allow virtue to rule the garden again, as seen by the returning virtues of Justice, Temperance, and Fortitude.
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Famous Paintings in the Louvre Museum You Can’t Miss
- Mona Lisa by Leonardo Da Vinci
- The Coronation of Napoleon by Jacques-Louis David
- Dante and Virgil in Hell by Eugène Delacroix
- The Raft of the Medusa by Théodore Géricault
- The Wedding Feast at Cana by Paolo Veronese
- Liberty Leading the People by Eugène Delacroix
- The Lacemaker by Johannes Vermeer
- Battles of the Granicus by Charles Le Brun
- The Virgin of the Rocks by Leonardo Da Vinci
- Oath of the Horatii by Jacques-Louis David
- Gabrielle d’Estrées and One of Her Sisters
- The Turkish Bath by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres
- The Virgin and Child with Saint Anne by Leonardo Da Vinci
- Death of the Virgin by Caravaggio
- David With the Head of Goliath by Guido Reni
- The Battle Between Love and Chastity by Pietro Perugino
- Minerva Expelling the Vices From the Garden Of Virtue by Andrea Mantegna
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