18 Amazing Things at The Louvre That Aren't the 'Mona Lisa'
The Louvre in Paris is the largest, most-visited museum in the world. Some 9.3 million tourists flock here every year to see the artworks, of which there are 70,000—yet almost everyone makes a beeline for the "Mona Lisa," skipping much of the other masterpieces on the way.
While Da Vinci's painting of the mysterious woman is certainly impressive, it's also pretty tiny (and, truthfully, blocked from view by swarms of onlookers). There are thousands of other incredible works inside the Louvre, ranging from ancient Assyrian art to an opulent reconstruction of Napoleon III's apartments. The "Mona Lisa"'sneighbor, for example is the "Marriage at Cana": and it's the largest painting in the entire museum. We know you can't see them all—so here are the 18 can't-miss masterpieces that are entirely underrated.
Portrait of Baldassare Castiglione
This deceptively simple portrait, displayed in the Grand Gallery, reveals an incredible depth of character of its subject. Examine it and try to imagine what this man was like; if you thought he was pensive and intelligent, you're right—the subject was a scholar and author. Raphael's painting is considered one of the greatest portraits of the Renaissance.
A staggering 9,000 years old, this statue is the oldest piece in Louvre. It was probably used for religious ceremonies in what is now Jordan. Check it out in the Mesopotamian antiquities wing on the ground floor.
Seated Scribe Statue
Considered by many to be the premiere work of the Egyptian Antiquities wing, this painted limestone statue is incredibly detailed: the eyes alone are painstakingly made from quartz, crystal, alabaster, and copper. The seated scribe was placed on the tomb of a wealthy man to mark that he was literate.
The Winged Bulls of Sargon II
These five-legged Assyrian statues were each carved from a single block of stone. They originally flanked the entrance to a palace in what is now Khorsabad, Iraq. Today, you can find them in the Mesopotamian Antiquities wing.
Code of Hammurabi
The museum now possesses the world's oldest code of laws, which were written in cuneiform. The carved stone, which resides in the Mesopotamian Antiquities wing, also depicts Hammurabi receiving the laws from the Sun God.
Persian Ceramic Tiles
Decorating the walls of a reconstituted throne room are tiles that have survived at least 2,000 years. Their colors are bright and vivid, and a portion of the original throne room's pillars have been installed to help demonstrate the scale of the palace they once decorated.
Napoleon III Apartments
The apartments of Napoleon III have been painstakingly preserved—from the furniture to the decor—to reflect the opulence of France during the Second Empire. Sections of these lavish rooms were occupied by France's Ministry of Finances until the mid-1980s.
Built by Louis XIV, this extravagant precursor to the Hall of Mirrors in Versailles remained unfinished until the 1800s—but the Baroque-style gilded room, with its arched ceilings and inlaid paintings, is now a national and world heritage site. Find it on the first floor of the Denon wing.
The Louvre houses this entire 24-painting collection from the Flemish master Sir Peter Paul Reubens. It's the largest set he ever completed. It tells the story of Marie de' Medici, from her marriage to King Henry IV until she handed the kingdom over to her son, King Louis XIII.
Portrait of Gabrielle d'Estrees and Her Sister
This isn't just your standard nude painting. The portrait, which depicts Gabrielle d'Estrees holding a ring, is of great historical significance. Many believe it to be the coronation ring of King Henry IV, to whom she was a mistress and the mother of four of his children.
Venus and the Three Graces fresco
The same model Botticelli used for his iconic painting, The Birth of Venus, was his muse for this fresco. It's one of the only secular frescoes he completed in his lifetime, and it's now located at the entrance to the Italian Renaissance wing.
Titian, a master of the Venetian Renaissance, was known for his use of color, as is best displayed in this painting. It inspired several other famous satires, including Manet's Luncheon on the Grass. Find it behind the Mona Lisa.
Da Vinci's remarkably human portrait of Mary, Jesus, and St. Anne is also worth admiring. The dark line on the left side of Mary's shawl is evidence that Da Vinci left this work unfinished.
Paul Deleroche's painting, completed in 1855, should actually be in the Musee d'Orsay (it exhibits more modern works than the Louvre). The haunting portrait of a drowned woman was inspired by the death of the artist's wife. Despite its dark beauty, the painting is often overlooked because the room in which it is hung is now a gift shop.
Medieval Foundations of the Building
The building that eventually became the Louvre was originally a fortress, built for King Philippe II in 1190. The foundations—which are on display in the Sully Wing—date back to 1190.
Helmet of Charles VI
King Charles—once called the Beloved by his people—became known as King Charles the Mad when delusions caused him to believe his body was made of glass. This helmet, which is a replica, was his "everyday" helmet, and is on display near the St. Louis room.
The Rebel Slave and the Dying Slave
Slavery and self-actualization were common themes in Renaissance art. These Michelangelo statues are the only ones from the master sculptor to reside in France. They were commissioned to adorn Pope Julius II's tomb; now they decorate the ground floor of the Denon Wing.
The Cour Marly
This beautiful gallery features a glass ceiling, allowing the sun to illuminate the dozens of marble and bronze statues inside. The most famous statues are the horses ordered by King Louis XV, which once marked the entrance to the Champs Elysées from Concord Square.