Visiting the Louvre and wondering which artworks you shouldn’t miss? This article will show you the most famous paintings at the Louvre Museum you should see!
One of the best museums in Paris is the Louvre! It is not only the largest art museum in the whole world but also the most visited.
The Louvre is home to some of the most famous paintings in Paris and the world at large, and it showcases the works of the most famous painters and sculptors.
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With a collection of over 38, 000 objects on display, it’s obvious that it is hard to see everything in one visit. In fact, it would take over 200 days to see everything assuming that one spends a mere 30 seconds in front of each piece.
While most people head straight to the Mona Lisa since it’s the most famous painting in the Louvre, there are some other Louvre paintings every art lover should not miss.
And since it’s hard to see everything, in this article, I will be focusing on the most famous paintings at the Louvre that you shouldn’t miss while visiting this magnificent Parisian landmark.
Before You Go, Here’s How to Plan Your Visit To Paris: Practical Quick Tips
WHERE TO STAY
Best Eiffel Tower Views: Hôtel Le Walt (9.0)
Luxury stay: Pullman Paris Tour Eiffel (8.2)
Mid-range stay: Hôtel Eiffel (8.7)
Budget Stay: People – Paris Bercy (8.9)
Apartment Rental: Résidence Charles Floquet (9.1)
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- Consider getting either the museum pass or the Paris city pass if you plan to visit a lot of attractions. The city pass comes with free transportation and access to the hop-on-hop-off bus. You can read my Paris museum pass review to see if it’s right for you.
- Book this private transfer from CDG airport to Paris to avoid the hustle of figuring out how to get to Paris.
Famous Paintings at The Louvre Museum
If you are wondering what paintings are at the Louvre besides the Mona Lisa, take a stroll down this article to explore the 25 most famous paintings in the Louvre that no art lover should miss.
1. Mona Lisa By Leonardo da Vinci
Mona Lisa is perhaps the most beautiful and beguiling painting in the world despite its seemingly simple nature.
Leonardo painted it from 1503 to 1517 while he was still living in Florence.
Mona Lisa is always a topic of discussion because of the uncanny way it was painted, its three-quarter view, and the way the painting is turned towards the viewer instead of the standard portrait style during that time.
Apart from its structure, the Mona Lisa is so interesting that no one knows about the woman’s identity in the painting.
Rumor has it that the lady is Lisa del Giocondo, wife of a Florentine merchant. But whatever the case might be, the Mona Lisa will remain the epitome of famous art in the Louvre and globally.
It is the most visited, talked about, and sung about painting in the world and also the most expensive one valued at US$100 million in 1962 which equated to $870 million in 2021.
With all those titles attached to it, many people are usually surprised when they realize that it is actually a small portrait. It is just 77 cm x 53 cm (2.5ft x 1.7 ft). There are so many intriguing facts about Mona Lisa that make it stand out.
2. The Raft of Medusa By Théodore Géricault
This huge work of art (13.75 × 23.5 ft [4.91 × 7.16 meters]) depicts the dreadful condition of 150 people who faced the 1816 French Royal Navy Frigate of Medusa wreck, but after battling starvation for 13 days, they eventually succumbed to death; descending into cannibalism and murder. Just 15 people survived to tell the tales of the event.
This French painting is not a collective representation of what happened but rather an individual representation of the suffering of individuals who died on the raft.
Interestingly, the painting’s creator, Géricault, showed his work at the annual exhibition of French art at the Louvre but a handful of critics showed their dismay at the repellent realism, which forced him to take his painting back to England.
However, after his death in 1824, Comte De Forbin purchased the painting on behalf of the Louvre, and today, it hangs as one of the most famous paintings in the Louvre Museum.
3. Liberty Leading the People by Eugène Delacroix
This ultimate masterpiece was painted by one of the most romantic painters of French romanticism, Eugène Delacroix, and was made to commemorate the victory of the 1830 July revolution which overthrew King Charles X.
The semi-nude woman in the center depicts liberty during that time by holding the tri-colored flag that later became France’s flag. She has often been portrayed as the symbol of the republic and liberty over the years.
The other figures alongside her represent all the classes who worked together for freedom from students, workers, and professors.
It is one of the most famous Louvre paintings and no doubt the most famous painting by Eugene Delacroix.
Psst… You can admire all the Louvre paintings on this list by purchasing this skip-the-line ticket. Alternatively, you can opt for this Louvre museum-guided tour to learn about the museum’s famous pieces (or you can book it on Viator).
4. Portrait of Louis XIV By Hyacinthe Rigaud
Painted in 1701, this beautiful painting is the standing portrait of the King of France, Louis XIV.
While it looks majestic and later became the official portrait of the King, there is a very interesting story behind how this portrait was made.
When this beauty was painted, King Louis XIV was 63 years old and partially paralyzed.
Now you may ask how he managed to stand for so long. Well, he didn’t. Rigaud painted his face in merely two sittings.
He stitched the face to a large canvas and asked a 20-year-old man to pose wearing the king’s coronation outfit, which explains the rather intriguing-looking legs on an older face making it one of the most famous artworks in the Louvre.
5. Oath of The Horatii By Jacques-Louis David
Painted in 1784, Oath of the Horatii became an instant hit, and even today, it remains one of the best paintings at the Louvre in the Neoclassical style.
This beautiful painting portrays a scene from the dispute between Alba Longa and Rome during the seventh century BC.
The legend goes that, instead of the armies, they decided to send three men from each city to the war, and the winning team would decide the fate of the winning city.
This Louvre painting depicts three brothers who are taking an oath in front of their father to defend Rome, and along with these, we see their women (and sister) of the house sitting distressed, thinking about the outcomes.
Related Post: Famous Paintings by Renoir You Should See
6. Gabriel d’Estrees and one of her sisters – Unknown
This is one of the most mysterious arts in the Louvre, which sheds light on Gabrielle d’Estrées, mistress of King Henry IV, and her sister, the Duchess of Villars.
The very queer image of the Duchess (the sister) pinching Gabrielle’s nipple represents the announcement of her ( Gabrielle) carrying the illegitimate child of King Henry IV.
However, the piercing gaze of both women and the erotic nature of the painting is at times, seen as some queer love between the two women.
That could be one way of seeing it, but the pinching of the sister’s nipple represents fertility, which is emphasized all the more by the presence of the lady behind, who is sewing clothes presumably for the baby.
Related post: Best free museums in Paris to visit
7. The lacemaker By Johannes Vermeer
This spellbinding painting depicts a girl engrossed in lacework, which can also be seen as the main focus of the painting.
This is because Vermeer created a plain background free of any distractions, and he probably used the technique of camera obscura to paint this masterpiece.
If you notice the painting closely, you will see many techniques, such as the blurring of the foreground, and the noticeable depth of the ground, which is typical of photography.
The painting also poses a faithful representation of work and distraction. One of the most exquisite paintings at the Louvre, you shouldn’t miss it on your visit.
8. The Coronation of Napoleon By Jacques-Louis David
The Coronation Of Napoleon is one of the crucial and most famous art pieces in the Louvre. Painted on a massive canvas measuring 6.21 m × 9.79 m (20 ft 4 in × 32 ft 1 in), it is possible to study the faces of each person in this magnificent painting.
And if you look closely, you will see all eyes turned towards Napoleon.
This painting depicts the real-life monumental event of the coronation of Napoleon, which took place on December 2nd, 1804, in Notre Dame de Paris.
This is one of the greatest Louvre paintings that showcases one of the most historical events in France.
Needless to say, it’s my favorite painting in the Louvre Museum.
9. The Card Sharp with the ace of diamonds By Georges de la Tour
Completed in 3 years from 1636 to 1638, this intriguing painting will surely steal your heart.
During that time, gambling was a popular topic of discussion, and back then, this painting belonged to the moralizing genre.
In the painting, the eyes of the spectator cannot help but notice how the three people are exchanging glances and are about to cheat the one who is naively looking at his cards.
This painting has done a wonderful job of representing human emotions — cheating in this case — and indulgence in wine and gambling, which were very common at that time.
10. The Virgin and Child with Saint Anne by Leonardo da Vinci
Among all the Louvre famous paintings, this is one of the unfinished paintings that can’t be missed. Painted by Leonardo da Vinci, it has a similar warmth and charm to Mona Lisa.
It is popularly known for its technicality, which is the triangular form the painting takes, never leaving the eye of the spectator. This picture portrays Saint Anne, the Virgin Mary, her daughter, and Jesus.
The painting is believed to have been commissioned by King Louis XII of France though he ended up not receiving it.
11. The battle between love and chastity By Pietro Perugino
In the 15th and 16th centuries, society demanded chastity leading up to marriage, and this painting by Pietro depicts the battle and suffering people, especially women, had to face.
If you look at the painting closely, you will see the background filled with steep hills and the fight between symbolic figures of love and chastity.
Numerous mythological figures such as Venus, nymphs, and Minerva can be seen, among many others.
Although you might not recognize the artist, this work of art is by an Italian Renaissance artist named Pietro Perugino.
12. La Belle Ferronnière By Leonardo da Vinci
Commonly known as the Portrait of an Unknown Woman, this is another one of Leonardo’s famous works.
This painting took 6 years to finish and gloriously holds a place in the famous works of art in the Louvre.
The lady seen in the painting was believed to be a close relative or wife of a Ferronniere (an iron man), and some even claim her to have been the mistress of Francis I of France.
Because of the stiff pose and thick and heavier features, as opposed to Leonardo’s usual style, some critics deny this to be Leonardo’s work even today.
Though there is no absolute surety about the painter or who the lady in the painting is, what is sure is that it is one of the most beautiful paintings in the Louvre.
13. The Turkish Bath By Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres
Measuring 108 x 110 cm (42.5 × 43.3 in), the Turkish Bath remains one of the most famous paintings in the Louvre.
The painting portrays a group of nude women bathing in a harem. Painted in the most erotic style, it evokes both Western and Near Eastern styles, which are linked with the mythological matter of the subject.
This painting was initially made in a rectangular form between 1852 and 1859 but was later modified and cut into tondo form.
Unlike other nude paintings that caused a stir when first unveiled publically, this one didn’t create a scandal because it remained in a private collection until it was moved to the Louvre Museum.
14. The Four Seasons By Giuseppe Arcimboldo
Arcimboldo’s most famous painting and also one of the Louvre famous paintings, Four Seasons, which he made in a series of 4, namely, Spring, Autumn, Summer, and Winter, made with appropriate flora, fruits, and vegetables, is quite bizarre but extraordinary.
All 4 portraits consist of plants, fruits, barks, vegetables, and more, depicting the four seasons of nature.
On the other hand, Autumn is represented by a man covered in fruits that commonly appear in the fall while the last one is of an old man with a symbolic skin of a gnarled trunk that visualizes the winter season.
From a wider perspective, the paintings depict how man has lived through all seasons and now wishes to move on.
Only Winter and Summer are still available from the original series and can be found in Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, but the Louvre Museum has copies of all 4 seasons.
Related post: Famous churches to visit in Paris
15. The pastoral concert By (Suspected to Be Titian)
This painting, which is still regarded as the masterpiece of the Venetian Renaissance, sparked debates about authorship and subject matter.
It has been attributed to Titian and one of his teachers, Giorgione, back and forth over time.
This painting is symbolic of many things, and different viewers discern it in their own ways.
One of the theories is that in the 16th century, nude women were considered supernatural beings, which the woman in the painting represents — a magical illusion. And the holding of flutes and pouring of water makes them an illusion.
It could be symbolic of many things, but surely it represents fantasy above all else.
16. The rape of the Sabine women By Nicolas Poussin
Also known as the Abduction of the Sabine Women, the Rape of the Sabine Women is the first painting in Nicolas Poussin’s series of four paintings and is also one of the most famous paintings at the Louvre.
According to Roman mythology, the Romans had a shortage of women, so the first king of Rome, Romulus, threw a party and invited the Sabine women one day.
On Romulus’s signal (the one with the red cape), his army abducted these women and forced them to become their wives to bear the second generation of Romans, perpetuating the longest-lasting empire in European history.
17. The Wedding at Cana By Paolo Veronese
Measuring 6.77 m x 9.9 m (22.2 ft x 32.4 ft ), The Wedding at Cana is the largest painting at the Louvre museum depicting a biblical scene.
This monumental painting, almost the size of a wall, shows Jesus surrounded by his disciples and the bride and groom, enjoying the merry feast and witnessing Christ’s first miracle of turning water into wine.
The painting was stolen in 1797 by Bonaparte’s army, but it was destined to be hung at the Louvre where it is currently based for public viewing.
18. Dante and Virgil in Hell by Eugène Delacroix
French artist Eugène Delacroix’s first major painting was Dante and Virgil in Hell or The Barque of Dante which marked a shift from Neo-Classicism towards Romanticism.
The events depicted in the painting are loosely narrated in Dante’s Inferno, where Dante and Virgil descend into the depths of Hell.
In the painting, Dante and Virgil are shown in a boat crossing the river Styx, which divides the Earth from the Underworld, while demons and other creatures try to prevent them from passing by seizing the boat.
One of the notable features of the artwork is Delacroix’s use of color and light to highlight certain aspects like greys to depict darkness and smoke, while fiery reds and oranges for the flames of the blazing City of the Dead in the backdrop of the painting.
This painting should however not be confused with another painting of the same name and closely related scene; Dante and Virgil by William Bouguereau which hangs in the Orsay Museum.
19. Triumph of the Virtues by Andrea Mantegna
Among the famous artworks in the Louvre is The Triumph of the Virtues, also known as Minerva Expelling the Vices from the Garden of Virtue, painted by Italian Renaissance painter Andrea Mantegna in 1502.
The painting depicts a group of allegorical figures representing the moral virtues triumphing over their opposing vices and chasing them away from the garden.
The artwork shows two distinct sections — the upper and the lower. The upper part has the virtues of Justice, Wisdom, and Fortitude shown up in the sky, while the lower part depicts the defeated Vices shown as hideous figures in the marshes.
20. The Death of Sardanapalus by Eugène Delacroix
Another painting by the French Romantic painter Eugène Delacroix that makes it to the famous works of art in the Louvre Museum list is The Death of Sardanapalus (La Mort de Sardanapale).
This oil painting on canvas dates back to 1827, while a smaller replica found in the Philadelphia Museum of Art was painted by the artist in 1844.
Delacroix depicts a chaotic and violent scene using bold strokes and rich colors. The figures are shown in various stages of distress and among all this carnage, Sardanapalus looks disinterested and unbothered.
The painting was inspired by the story of Sardanapalus, the king of Assyria, who burned all of his possessions and concubines before taking his own life in fear of being captured by the enemy after living a luxurious life at the expense of his followers.
Like some of the other famous paintings in the Louvre museum, this one also faced some criticism when unveiled during the 1828 exhibition. Critics were not happy about the fact that the painting focused on a wicked scene.
21. The Massacre at Chios by Eugène Delacroix
While Dante and Virgil in Hell was Eugène Delacroix’s first major painting, The Massacre at Chios was his second major work, painted in 1824.
This famous art in the Louvre stands 4m or 13ft tall, portraying the aftermath of the 1822 Ottoman massacre of the Greek island of Chios during the Greek War of Independence.
The war-torn depiction shows a military man overpowering the people and taking a woman along while the inhabitants are shown suffering and despair.
The chaotic and horrific scene has people in varying states of anguish and desperation, either bloodied, dead, or alive in a sorry state.
When first presented at the Paris Salon in 1824, the artwork generated significant controversy due to its portrayal of hopeless civilian anguish and the absence of any heroic figure or salvation. Critics found the composition puzzling and indecipherable.
Nonetheless, the Greek population embraced the painting, and a replica was exhibited in a Chios museum where it still hangs.
Temporarily removed to bolster Greek-Turkish diplomacy, public outcry led to its eventual reinstatement.
22. Death of The Virgin by Caravaggio
Last but not least on my list of famous paintings at the Louvre museum is Death of the Virgin, a painting by the Italian Baroque artist Caravaggio depicting the death of the Virgin Mary, who is shown lying on a bed surrounded by mourners.
The artwork was commissioned by Laerzio Cherubini, a papal lawyer, for his chapel in Rome and was completed by Caravaggio in 1606.
However, it did not come without criticisms. It was deemed unfit for a Paris chapel and some art collectors even rejected it stating that Caravaggio might have modeled a prostitute or his mistress — after all, this is the kind of company he used to hang with.
It was later praised by Peter Paul Rubens, a diplomat and artist whose praise as one of Caravaggio’s best works changed the course of the painting.
It became a part of the royal collections of Charles I of England and Louis XIV before becoming a part of the permanent collection of the Musée du Louvre.
One can see a strong contrast between the bright light that illuminates the body of the Virgin and the darkness that surrounds the other figures in the scene.
Notable for its realism, the artwork emanates a sense of tragedy and emotion.
23. Bathsheba at Her Bath by Rembrandt
Dutch painter Rembrandt finished the Baroque painting of Bathsheba at Her Bath in 1654, after which it was in the possession of Dr. Louis La Caze, who ultimately donated 500+ works to the Louvre, including this one.
The artwork, which depicts a story from the Old Testament, shows Bathsheba bathing while her attendant dries her foot.
This depiction varies slightly from other artists’ work on the same subject. Not seen in the painting but included in the story is King David, who, upon seeing Bathsheba, is attracted to her and proceeds to seduce her. At the same time, he sent Bathsheba’s husband to battle where he was left to die.
Rembrandt’s painting is notable for its use of light and shadow and for showing Bathsheba naturally and realistically.
24. The Virgin of the Rocks by Leonardo da Vinci
When we talk about great artworks in the Louvre Museum, The Virgin of the Rocks by Leonardo da Vinci definitely makes the list.
This artwork showcases Mary with Jesus and a young John the Baptist set against a rocky backdrop.
Leonardo painted 2 paintings that are almost identical; this particular one we’re talking about was painted first and hangs in the Louvre and the Madonna of the Rocks which hangs in the National Gallery in London.
The 2 look exactly the same in terms of subject but the only difference is how Leornado played with light and colors!
25. The Intervention of the Sabine Women by Jacques-Louis David
Last on my list of famous paintings at the Louvre Museum not to miss is The Intervention of the Sabine Women by Jacques-Louis David.
It depicts a Roman legend of the same name, in which the women of the Sabine tribe intervene to stop a war between their Roman husbands and their Sabine fathers and brothers.
Painted in 1799 in a neoclassic style, it is known as a sequel to the Abduction of the Sabine Women by Giambologna and has become one of David’s most famous works.
Final Thoughts on the famous paintings in the louvre museum
There are so many stunning paintings, and words will always be short for these evergreen works of art.
In this article, we went through the interesting facts and interpretations of the most famous paintings at the Louvre and I hope you have gained an insight into the world of paintings so that when you finally see them hanging in the Louvre, you have a bit of background story to fully appreciate these works of art.
Do you have any other Louvre paintings you particularly appreciate but don’t see on the list, do let me know in the comments below!
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