Want to discover Paris’s artwork but are not sure where to start? This article will show you the most famous paintings in Paris not to miss!
If art tugs your heartstrings, then a visit to Paris is a must. There are a number of museums in Paris that house some of the most famous paintings in the world. These paintings and their fascinating stories are sure to take your breath away.
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In this article, I’ll take you through 17 of the most famous paintings in Paris plus a brief description of each so that you can appreciate them, even more, when you see them in person.
Here is a taste of the art from Paris. Spoiler alert, it’s colorful and I guarantee you don’t want to miss any of them.
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)
- Don’t forget to take Travel Insurance. Request a free quote from my favorite insurance, World Nomads. (More on this at the end of the article.)
- Prepare your trip extensively with this Paris Travel guidebook.
- Don’t forget a universal travel adapter, a travel neck pouch, and comfortable walking shoes.
- 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 in Paris
Here’s a list of the most famous paintings in Paris that deserve a spot on your Parisian itinerary.
1. Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci
Mona Lisa is a painting of a woman that has captivated many people for centuries.
Even though it was painted over 500 years ago, the Mona Lisa painting still looks incredibly lifelike. It’s interesting to note that Mona Lisa’s smile disappears when looked at with direct vision.
Her gaze is another source of fascination — it seems to be looking right at you, no matter where you stand in the room.
This masterpiece by Italian artist Leonardo da Vinci holds the record for the highest valued painting at 100 million dollars in 1962 which equates to $870 million in 2021.
It’s also the most known and most visited painting in the world, and you can feast your eyes on this beautiful piece of art at the Louvre Museum in Paris.
While it gets all the attention, most people are usually shocked when they see it for the first time and realize that it is really small compared to what they envisioned. To give you an idea, it is just 77 cm × 53 cm (30 in × 21 in).
You can check out these Mona Lisa facts to learn more about this masterpiece.
Psst… To get a glimpse of this famous Paris painting, make sure that you buy this Louvre museum entry ticket, or better yet book this Louvre museum-guided tour (you can book it on Viator too) to learn more about the paintings’ history and navigate the museum with ease.
2. The Raft of the Medusa by Théodore Géricault
When you look at the Raft of the Medusa, it’s hard not to be moved by the tragedy of what happened in 1816.
Théodore Géricault captures the incident when the ship from Senegal hit a sandbank and got stuck. The captain and crew abandoned the ship, leaving 147 people behind on a makeshift raft and only 15 of them survived.
This graphic portrayal of death and violence caused quite a stir when first revealed to the public in 1819.
What’s even more impressive is how committed Théodore was to portraying this event in a real-life scenario.
He visited survivors in hospitals and interviewed them to get a real picture of the event and the outcome was an incredible painting that makes you fully visualize this tragic event.
The huge 4.91 m x 7.16 m (13.75 ft x 23.5 ft) painting is now displayed at Louvre Museum in Paris where you can see how hauntingly realistic it is.
3. The Wedding at Cana by Paolo Veronese
You must’ve heard the biblical story of Jesus turning water into wine at the wedding in Cana.
Paolo Veronese’s The Wedding at Cana is a beautiful depiction of this event and is considered one of the masterpieces of Renaissance art.
The painting is enormous, measuring 6.77 m × 9.94 m (22.2ft × 32.6ft), and is actually the largest painting in the Louvre where it is currently on display.
It’s incredibly detailed, and Veronese managed to pack in over 130 figures into the painting!
The characters are engaged in different activities, from playing music to flirting and enjoying the festivities.
4. Liberty Leading the People by Eugène Delacroix
When you think about famous Paris paintings, Liberty Leading the People cannot be missed.
This masterpiece by Eugène Delacroix commemorates Charles X’s downfall in 1830. Delacroix personified freedom as a bare-breasted female figure who is inspired by the Liberty Goddess of Ancient Rome.
She holds the tricolor flag of France in one hand and is marching forward leading the people and the revolution while the others lay dead on the ground.
This brilliant artwork was completed in the autumn of 1830, and Delacroix depicted Liberty as a goddess-like figure.
It is often mistaken as the depiction of the French Revolution of 1789 which is not the case but rather a commemoration of the July Revolution of 1830.
You can adore this beauty by one of the famous French painters at the Louvre Museum in Paris.
5. Death Of The Virgin by Caravaggio
The sheer realism that this painting brings forth with nearly life-sized figures is what makes it so special.
Made by the Italian artist Caravaggio, it portrays the death of the Virgin Mary. The painting shows Mary reclined lifeless, clad in her red dress.
Her arm is hanging, her head is tilted to the side, and her feet are swollen while the apostles are gathered around her in shock and grief.
The use of light and shadow creates a sense of intimacy and makes the viewer feel as if they are present in the room.
Head to the Louvre Museum to see this masterpiece.
6. The Coronation of Napoleon by Jacques-Louis David
The Coronation of Napoleon marks a momentous event in French history and is among the most famous paintings in Paris.
It shows Napoleon I being crowned by Pope Pius VII. Jacques-Louis David who was the official painter of Bonaparte made this painting.
Napoleon commissioned the painting himself, and David spent two years working on it.
He made a 6.21 m × 9.79 m (20.4 ft × 32.1 ft) sized artwork, much like the grand event in the history of coronations.
The painting has over 200 faces and is exceptionally detailed, making it hard to take your eyes off it! Currently, this beautiful painting is gracing the Louvre Museum in Paris.
With its impeccable details and the enormous importance attached to it, it is safe to say that this is my favorite painting in the Louvre.
7. The Virgin and Child with Saint Anne by Leonardo da Vinci
It’s hard to believe that this painting was never finished! Da Vinci worked on it for years, making changes and additions, but never completed it. But even in its unfinished state, the painting is still stunning.
It portrays Virgin Mary, Saint Anne (her mother), and the infant Jesus. Christ is shown grabbing a sacrificial lamb while Mary is trying to restain him.
The use of light and shadow creates a sense of depth, and the figures are incredibly lifelike.
It is one of the most revered paintings in Paris and across the globe and is a must-see if you visit the Louvre.
8. Impression, Sunrise by Claude Monet
Impression, Sunrise by Claude Monet is simply one of the most iconic Paris paintings even though a few critics thought otherwise at the time. It is often credited as the painting that started the whole Impressionist movement.
The painting depicts the view of the port of Le Havre in Monet’s hometown in France. It shows the sun rising above the horizon, casting a beautiful pink and orange glow over the scene.
The ships in the harbor are just starting to stir, and the whole painting has a very calm and serene feeling.
You definitely need to see this painting if you’re an art lover. It can be found in the Musée Marmottan Monet which houses a number of Monet’s other paintings.
Psst… You can admire this painting by purchasing this skip-the-line ticket to the Musée Marmottan Monet to access both the permanent and temporary exhibits.
9. Self-Portrait by Vincent van Gogh
Sitting in the Musee d’Orsay in Paris, this is one of the most famous self-portraits ever painted.
Painted in 1889 by the great Vincent Van Gogh, a Dutch Post-Impressionist, this painting is incredibly expressive and shows Van Gogh at his most vulnerable.
He was dealing with mental illness at the time, and you can see the pain and torment in his eyes.
The painting is full of intense colors and brushstrokes, which shows Van Gogh’s passion and energy.
There are over 32 self-portraits by Vincent, and this one’s considered to be his last self-portrait. However, some historians believe that the one without a beard is the last.
Psst… To admire the impressive art in Orsay Museum including Van Gogh’s self-portrait, you’ll need to buy this skip-the-line ticket to avoid the long queues. Alternatively, you can opt for this Orsay museum-guided tour to learn about all the museum’s collections in detail.
10. Bal du moulin de la Galette by Pierre-Auguste Renoir
Another painting gracing the walls of the Musee d’Orsay is Bal du moulin de la Galette by Pierre-Auguste Renoir.
The painting was done in 1876 and is one of the most prominent French paintings of the Impressionism art movement.
It is an image of a Sunday afternoon at the Moulin de la Galette in Paris and it shows people dancing, drinking, and socializing on the terrace of the Moulin which truly brought out the real-life ways of how Parisian working-class people used to pass their Sundays.
The colors in the painting are incredibly vibrant, and the brushstrokes are very loose, giving the painting a sense of movement.
It is a 131 cm × 175 cm (52 in × 69 in) painting, however, he painted a smaller version of 78 cm× 114 cm (30.7 in x 44.8 in), which is believed to be in a Swiss private collection. T
Bal du moulin de la Galette is one of the famous paintings by Renoir that you should see.
Related post: Free Museums in Paris
11. The Turkish Bath by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres
Depicting the sensuality and luxury of the Turkish Bath, this painting by Ingres is one of the most famous paintings of Paris to see.
It was completed in 1862 and shows a group of women in a harem-like setting, lounging around in the Bath.
The painting is incredibly sensual, and the women are shown in various stages of undress. Ingres painted in an erotic style that recalled the Near East and earlier Western styles.
He was around 82 years old when he completed this painting, and later altered the rectangular shape and made it into a tondo. You can witness this painting in person at the Louvre museum.
12. Olympia by Edouard Manet
Olympia is a painting by Edouard Manet and was completed in 1863. The painting caused quite a stir when first shown to the public because it depicted a nude woman who was a prostitute.
Olympia is shown reclining on a bed with a black cat at her feet and a servant bringing her flowers. The painting is incredibly lifelike, and the colors are very bold.
Manet faced criticism for this painting, and his work was condemned as vulgar and immoral.
However, after a public subscription organized by Monet, the painting was acquired by the French government and now hangs in the Orsay museum.
13. The Church at Auvers by Vincent van Gogh
The Church at Auvers is one of Van Gogh’s most famous paintings in Paris. It was completed in 1890, about two months before his death.
The church in the painting is in the village of Auvers-Sur-Oise, where Van Gogh was living at the time.
The foreground of the painting is brightly lit with sunlight while the church sits in its own shadow.
Vincent mentioned how this painting is similar to his previous works in one of the letters to his sister. However, the color here was more expressive.
Being a thoughtful artwork and one of his last pieces makes it a significant painting worth seeing while in the Orsay museum.
14. The Triumph of the Virtues by Andrea Mantegna
The Triumph of the Virtues is located in the Musée du Louvre and is an excellent example of Renaissance art.
It portrays how the goddess Minerva saves the goddess of chastity from being raped by a Centaur.
It features a tree with human features next to Minerva. And high in the sky are the three theological virtues: Justice, Fortitude, and Temperance.
It was painted by Andrea Mantegna in 1502 and is also known as “Minerva Expelling the Vices from the Garden of Virtue.”
It’s a large painting measuring 1.6 m x 1.92 m (5.2 ft x 6.3 ft), has bright colors, and is among the finest works of Mantegna.
15. Dante And Virgil by William-Adolphe Bouguereau
Dante and Virgil is a painting by William-Adolphe Bouguereau completed in 1857. It Depicts Dante being guided by Virgil through Hell and Purgatory.
The scene shows the author and the guide looking at two cursed souls engaged in eternal combat.
Dante is shown looking shocked and horrified at the scenes around him, while Virgil remains calm and collected.
This painting was made in an attempt to win the Prix de Rome, but unfortunately, Bouguereau didn’t win.
However, his other piece got him the consolation second prize later in the year. You can experience this scarily detailed painting with vivid colors in Musée d’Orsay.
16. Water Lilies by Claude Monet
Water Lilies is actually a series of paintings by Claude Monet. He started painting them in his garden in Giverny in 1897 and continued until he died in 1926.
The paintings depict the water lilies in Monet’s garden in different lights and seasons. These paintings are incredibly peaceful and serene, and the colors are very soft.
The series includes about 250 paintings, and many of them were made when he was suffering from cataracts. Monet used a lot of blue and green in these paintings to create a calming effect.
In Paris, you can see some of the Water Lilies paintings at the Musée d’Orsay while some others can be found in Musee de l’Orangerie.
Psst… Get an up-close look at the large water lilies painting at Musee de l’Orangerie by purchasing this skip-the-line entry ticket.
17. The Card Sharp with the Ace of Diamonds by Georges de La Tour
Also known as The Cheat with the Ace of Diamonds, The Card Sharp with the Ace of Diamonds was painted in 1634 by Georges de La Tour.
The painting is a brilliant illustration of a man cheating at cards by retrieving the ace of diamonds behind his back.
The intense gazes and expressions of the figures in the painting make it praiseworthy.
There’s also another version of the painting with various alterations in the details of color, clothing, and accessories called “The Cheat with the Ace of Clubs,” purchased by the Kimbell Art Foundation.
If you want to admire the original version, it is currently exhibited in the Louvre museum.
Final Thoughts on the Best Paris Paintings
This concludes my list of the famous paintings in Paris! I hope you learned something new about the city’s incredible artworks. Paris is a paradise for art lovers, and there’s so much to see and admire.
While I’ve given you a bit of history and a description of how they look plus their respective photos, these famous paintings of Paris can only be fully appreciated in person, so be sure to add them to your list of things to do when you’re in the city of love!
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Check out these posts to help you plan your trip to Paris
- Famous Churches to visit in Paris
- Fun Free things to do in Paris
- Best Neighborhoods in Paris
- Beautiful Covered Passages of Paris
- Fun non-touristy things to do in Paris
- Fun facts about Paris
- Interesting facts about the Arc de Triomphe
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