Here I am, right out front of the museum that served as a royal palace for more than 2 centuries. Every monarch who called it home expanded the grounds more and more. Eventually, Louis XIV moved his court to Versailles, and the Louvre was never the main royal residence again. It’s transformation to art museum was largely the result of the French Revolution, displaying an impressive collection of art (and a good deal of it was stolen thanks to Napoleon).
Join me as I reminisce about my childhood journey to this wonderful spectacle of history and the arts.
The Grand Louvre Pyramids were designed by I. M. Pei and completed in 1989. The largest of the 3 now serves as the lobby to the museum. Attendance has doubled since its construction–and it’s easy to see why. The stark contrast between old museum and the contemporary pyramids is entirely unique. The Winged Nike of Samothrace is perhaps my favorite piece in the Louvre (although I admit, I may be partial). Nike, the Greek goddess of Victory, was a close friend of Zeus and Athena according to mythology. She would ride around in her chariot on battlefields, full of strength at lightning speeds, adorning the victors’ heads with laurel leaves (another symbol of victory).
That brings me to how one of my favorite brands got its name. Did you know Phil Knight and his first few employees took some time picking out the right name? In fact, only Jeff Johnson truly believed they’d stumbled across the winner, but the team was in a time crunch–so Nike it was (and ever will be). This goddess is not only the personification of Victory, but the heartbeat of one of the biggest companies this world has ever known. As a child I adored art–making it, staring at it, dreaming it all up. That’s why the Louvre was so stirring for me when I first traveled to Paris as a 4th grader. Perhaps my greatest impression, like it is for most, were the feelings I experienced as I stared upon The Mona Lisa. I stood there, brimming with disappointment. It was such a core memory for me, it’s palpable to this day. I distinctly remember fear that I was missing something. How could this tiny, seemingly unimpressive painting cause such a commotion across the globe. My parents stood behind me, shielding me from the throngs of people, hoping to catch a glimpse or a picture with their 35mm cameras. I shrugged my shoulders and walked away, my feet aching and my dreams of being an artist looking quite muddled in my brain. Fast forward 18 years, and I found myself yet again in awe of the pandemonium Leonardo’s little ol’ painting conjures in museum goers. The room where it resides is a site of utter chaos.To be perfectly honest, I could sit in the madhouse for hours and watch the way people react to the most famous painting on earth. These 4 fought their way to the front of an exhausting line, then immediately turned their backs on the very thing they’d been waiting all day to see. It’s a fascinating measure of social norms and the newly developed human need to get likes.
If you make your way down to the basement, you’ll find The Great Sphinx of Tanis and remnants of The Louvre Castle, built in the late 12th to 13th century by Philip II. On the way home from my museum adventures, I spotted a Nike store. Parisians do buildings so beautifully. I’ll leave you with a photo of my personal symbols of winged Victory:
Have you been to the Louvre? What were you lasting impressions?