The Louvre would be one of the most recognisable brands in the world – there would be few people who would not know what the Louvre was, and where it is? There are nearly nine million people per year who visit, which is 30,000 people per day on average, going there to look at some of the 30,000 exhibits.
If you ask those nine million people visiting the Louvre what they went to see there, the answer would always be the same. “I’m off to see the Mona Lisa”. Bus tours take their groups to the museum, they walk for 15 minutes along the “Mona Lisa” highway, bypassing other extraordinary works of art, until they arrive at Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece. It is interesting because even though this painting was painted towards the end of the 15th century it has only become a popular art work since 1913 when an art critic wrote an article on it.
Once the tour party arrives at the room where the Mona Lisa is housed, you enter the room jam-packed with thousands of camera wielding tourists, you bump your way across the room until you can finally see something on the wall. There it goes! You can probably get about 20m away from this disappointingly small painting. You hold your camera out and put it on full zoom for your photo of someone’s head in front of you! Got it! Now you’ve got to get back to your bus tour, or the metro to take you to the Eiffel Tower!
That’s the Louvre, and an introduction to an illness I call “MLS – the Mona Lisa syndrome”.
I see examples of MLS throughout the travel world. I’ve met people recently who have travelled via Milan for flight connections, and I have said “Did you get to see Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper while there?”. “No, I had no idea where that painting was?”. I even heard of an art lecturer travelling with a group through Milan recently who advised his group “no you have no need to see “The Last Supper” while here”. But this group would have all gone to see the Mona Lisa in Paris. Why is this?
People suffering from MLS syndrome do only the expected things; Rome, Florence, Cinque Terre, Paris, London. It is rare to find people who will break the route and see some of the greatest roman art in Ravenna, the breath-taking artworks of Giotto at the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua, the architectural beauty of abbeys of Fontenay or Fontevraud in France, or the Cathedral of Chartres or even St Denis in Paris. Sorry it’s not on the list of things to do. But the sad thing is, these are treasures. To spend a moment in any of these places, is a special moment, a moment to savour the wonders of this world.
I have visited all these places mentioned above in the last few years while escorting tour groups through Europe, and even if I have seen them before, without exception I have been moved by each visit. I remember each time, the intense emotion I felt when viewing “The Last Supper”, I remember saying that when I viewed the basilica in Ravenna that this was the closest to heaven I have ever been.
Over the last few weeks I have asked people to recommend to a first time visitor to the Louvre what they should see there? You know what they said don’t you? “But is there anything else you long to see in the Louvre if you were to go there tomorrow?”, I asked.
I feel now, that to help in a small way to cure the MLS syndrome, I have a serious job in front of me. Over the next weeks I will be writing a series of articles, each week covering one work of art in the Louvre that I long to see again. After you have read these I hope that you will have a new awareness of the Louvre and its highlights. If you have your own favourite please can you share it with me in the comments section below. If you don’t want to miss out on my articles on the Louvre please just click on the “Sign up for Newsletter” button on the top right of this article, and you will be advised each time a new article is published. I can’t wait for next week!
The museum is open every day except Tuesday and the following French holidays: December 25, January 1, and May 1.
- Monday, Thursday, Saturday, Sunday: from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
- Wednesday, Friday: from 9 a.m. to 9:45 p.m.
- Closed on Tuesday
The Pyramid is the obvious entry point, but for easier entry try going to the Caroussel du Louvre at 99 rue du Rivoli, where there is an entrance. Metro: Palais Royal – Musée du Louvre.