The Louvre is the most visited museum in the world and a historic landmark in Paris, France. It houses some of the world’s most famous pieces of art, including the Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo.
It is a city landmark situated on the Right Bank of the Seine in the city’s 1st Arrondissement (district or ward). At any one moment, about 38,000 artifacts ranging from prehistory to the twenty-first century are shown across an area of 72,735 square meters (782,910 square feet).
While paintings like the Mona Lisa attract the most visitors, the Louvre’s statues and sculptures are the true stars for the discriminating art aficionado.
Famous Statues in the Louvre
1. Venus de Milo – Alexandros of Antioch
In 1820, a peasant farmer on the Greek island of Milos discovered one of the most renowned sculptures from antiquity.
The statue was discovered and acquired by the French envoy to Greece, Marquis de Rivière, who eventually gave it to King Louis XVIII. The monument was put in the Louvre Museum in Paris only two years after it was buried in soil on the little Greek island.
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Scholars have given this statue several other titles, but it is most popularly known as Venus de Milo. The female figure in the sculpture is missing both arms above the elbow, making it one of the most recognizable works from ancient Greece.
The exquisitely created sculpture is thought to be a depiction of Aphrodite, although it has an inscription with the name Venus, which is the Roman equivalent for the same figure.
Unlike many of the more well-known pieces uncovered in recent centuries, this piece is not a copy, but is thought to be the original.
Her figure and the cloak that covers her lower half are done in great detail, making it one of the most stunning works from the first or second century B.C.
2. Winged Victory of Samothrace(Nike) – Unknown
The statue known as the Winged Victory of Samothrace (Nike) is one of the most renowned works from ancient Greece.
It is considered to be one of the best sculptures from the Greek Hellenistic time period. Archaeologists and researchers who study Greek sculpture think this piece was completed around the second century B.C.
The figure, carved from Parian marble, was virtually lost to history until it was discovered during an archaeological dig on the island of Samothrace in 1863.
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The statue is more than 8 feet tall and is said to depict the Greek goddess Nike, who signifies triumph.
Many researchers and historians who have examined the work think it was created to commemorate a big war fought sometime around the second century B.C.
The statue is missing its head, but it was fashioned with big, complex wings that are positioned backward as if the goddess Nike was preparing to take flight.
3. The Dying and Rebellious Slaves – Michelangelo
The Louvre’s two “slaves” originate from the second version of Pope Julius II’s tomb, which was commissioned by the Pope’s heirs, the Della Rovere, in May 1513.
Despite the fact that the early designs for a massive tomb were scrapped, the construction was nonetheless grandiose, with a hallway elaborately ornamented with sculpture, and Michelangelo was immediately assigned to the project.
The two Prigioni (renamed “slaves” only in the nineteenth century) were among the earliest pieces produced, intended for the bottom half of the funeral monument, adjacent to the pillars that framed the niches housing the Victories.
Their positions were chosen by the necessities of this architectural environment, thus they had a strong impact from the front, but the side views garnered less attention than normal.
A letter from Michelangelo to Marcello dei Covi confirms the dating of the two sculptures, in which he mentions a viewing by Luca Signorelli in his Roman villa as he worked on “a figure of marble, standing four cubits high, with its hands behind its back.”
All of the Prigioni created in the artist’s workshop were removed from the monument in its final form, finished in 1542. Michelangelo dedicated the two pieces in the Louvre to Roberto Strozzi in 1546 in exchange for his wonderful hospitality in his Roman home during Michelangelo’s illnesses in July 1544 and June 1546.
Strozzi had the two sculptures sent ahead of him when he was banished to Lyon in April 1550 for his hostility to Cosimo I de’ Medici. They were displayed in two niches in the courtyard of the castle of the constable of Montmorency at Écouen, near Paris, in April 1578.
In 1632, Henri II de Montmorency sold them to Cardinal Richelieu, who had them delivered to his Château in Poitou, where they were observed by Gianlorenzo Bernini, who drew a picture of them on his travels.
The Duke of Richelieu had them transported to Paris and displayed at the Pavillon de Hanovre in 1749. They were concealed in 1793, but when the widow of the last Marshal of Richelieu sought to sell them, they were confiscated by the government and added to the collection presently housed at the Louvre.
4. Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss – Antonio Canova
Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss is a sculpture by Antonio Canova that was commissioned by Colonel John Campbell in 1787.
It is recognized as a masterwork of Neoclassical sculpture, yet it depicts the legendary lovers in a state of intense passion, which was indicative of the burgeoning Romantic movement.
It depicts the deity Cupid at his most loving and caring, just after reviving the dead Psyche with a kiss. The myth of Cupid and Psyche was famous in art and is based on Lucius Apuleius’ Latin classic The Golden Ass.
In 1800, Joachim Murat purchased the first or prime version (shown). Following his death, the statue was donated to the Louvre Museum in Paris, France in 1824.
Prince Yusupov, a Russian prince, purchased the second version of the sculpture from Canova in Rome in 1796, and it was eventually donated to the Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg. The Metropolitan Museum of Art has a full-scale replica of the second edition.
5. Sleeping Hermaphroditus – Unknown/Bernini
The Sleeping Hermaphroditus is a life-size marble sculpture of Hermaphroditus. Gian Lorenzo Bernini, an Italian artist, carved the mattress on which the statue presently stands in 1620.
The figure is inspired by ancient depictions of Venus and other female nudes, as well as contemporary feminized Hellenistic depictions of Dionysus/Bacchus. According to the number of variants that have survived, it depicts a topic that was often repeated in Hellenistic and Roman eras.
The Sleeping Hermaphroditus, discovered in Santa Maria della Vittoria in Rome, was quickly claimed by Cardinal Scipione Borghese and formed part of the Borghese Collection. The “Borghese Hermaphroditus” was eventually sold to the occupying French and relocated to The Louvre, where it is now on display.
The Sleeping Hermaphroditus has been regarded as an excellent early Imperial Roman replica of a bronze original by Polycles, the later of two Hellenistic sculptors (working about 155 BC); the original bronze was noted in Pliny’s Natural History.
6. Milo Of Croton – Pierre Puget
Puget’s Milon of Croton (1682), a nearly three-meter-high massive piece, is one of his most dramatic and expressive works.
It represents the moment when Milon de Croton, a famed warrior who is now aged and frail, is attacked by a lion, based on an Ovid narrative. At the instant the lion claws Milon, his visage is contorted by anguish and filled with melancholy.
The royal government acquired this piece and placed it prominently in the Gardens of Versailles.
It is presently held at the Louvre and may be found at Richelieu, [SCULPT] Room 219 – La Petite Galerie de l’Académie des Sciences.
7. Spartacus – Denis Foyatier
Denis Foyatier was a neoclassical sculptor from France. Foyatier was born into a poor household (his father was a weaver and then a farmer in Bezin, a hamlet near Bussières in the Loire).
While attending a design college in Lyon, he began by working on religious images. He enrolled at the École nationale supérieure des beaux-arts in Paris in 1817.
He showed his first works in 1819 and, at the age of 26, was offered a scholarship for the French Academy in Rome at the Villa Médicis.
He constructed the mold for his sculpture Spartacus at the Villa Médicis, which was commissioned by royal order of Charles X in 1828.
8. Diana of Versailles
The Diana of Versailles, also known as Artemis, Goddess of the Hunt, is a life-size marble statue of the Roman goddess Diana (Greek: Artemis) holding a deer. It is presently on display in the Musée du Louvre in Paris.
Diana with a Doe, Diana Huntress, and Diana of Ephesus are some of the other names for the monument. It is a partly repaired Roman replica (1st or 2nd century AD) of a lost Greek bronze original ascribed to Leochares and dating from about 325 BC.
Diana is seen during the hunt, hurrying ahead as though in chase of prey. She turns to the right, raising her right arm to retrieve an arrow from her quiver.
Her left arm has been restored, and a deer, rather than a dog, has been placed at her feet. Her left hand is carrying a tiny cylindrical object that may have been part of a bow. She’s dressed in a short Dorian chiton with a himation around her waist and sandals.
The statue was presented to Henry II of France by Pope Paul IV in 1556, with a subtle but unmistakable reference to the king’s lover, Diane de Poitiers.
It was most likely found in Italy. One account indicates the old sanctuary of the Temple of Diana (Nemi), while another cites Hadrian’s Villa at Tibur.
“Alone among the statues exported from Italy before the second half of the seventeenth century, the Diane Chasseresse acquired a reputation outside Italy equivalent to the masterpieces in the Belvedere or the Villa Borghese,” though its admirers frequently confused it with the Artemis at Ephesus’ temple.
It was put as the centerpiece of the Jardin de la Reine (today’s Jardin de Diane) at the Château de Fontainebleau; it was the most widely exhibited and among the first Roman sculptures to be viewed in France.
Henri IV brought it to the Palais du Louvre in 1602, where it was exhibited in a gallery particularly constructed for it, the Salle des Antiques (now the Salle des Caryatides).
Barthélemy Prieur improved its repairs at the time. Louis XIV put it in Versailles’ Grande Galerie (Hall of Mirrors) in 1696.
The Diane Chasseresse, one of France’s finest treasures, returned to the Louvre in An VI (1798) of the French Republican calendar. Bernard Lange renovated it once again in 1802.
9. Great Sphinx of Tanis
The Great Sphinx of Tanis is a sphinx sculpture made of granite that dates back to the 26th century BC. It was unearthed among the remains of the Amun-Ra Temple at Tanis, Egypt’s capital between the 21st and 23rd Dynasties.
It was constructed much earlier, although the precise date is unknown, with possibilities ranging from the 4th to the 12th Dynasties. The only fragments of the original inscription that remain are references to Pharaohs Amenemhat II (12th Dynasty), Merneptah (19th Dynasty), and Shoshenq I. (22nd Dynasty).
It was purchased by the Louvre in 1826 as part of Henry Salt’s second Egyptian collection, which was managed on behalf of the French state by Jean-François Champollion.
Initially, plans were made to relocate it outside, in the heart of the Cour Carrée, but they were never carried through. Instead, from 1828 until 1848, the sphinx was shown in the museum’s courtyard, today known as the cour du Sphinx, before being transferred to the galerie Henri IV, which is now the principal colossal sculpture chamber of the museum’s Egyptian Department.
The Sphinx was moved to its current site in the crypt built by Louvre architect Albert Ferran to unite the two sections of the Cour Carrée’s southern wing in the mid-1930s.
10. Borghese Gladiator
The Borghese Gladiator is a Hellenistic life-size marble sculpture depicting a swordsman that was created around 100 BC in Ephesus and is now on display at the Louvre.
Agasias, son of Dositheus, who is otherwise unknown, signed the sculpture on the pedestal. It is unclear if the Agasias named as Heraclides’ father is the same person. Agasias, Menophilus’ son, might have been a relative.
It was discovered before 1611 in the current territory of Anzio, south of Rome, among the ruins of Nero’s seaside palace on the site of the ancient Antium.
The figure’s posture indicates that the statue depicts a warrior battling a mounted fighter rather than a gladiator. Friedrich Thiersch speculated that it was supposed to portray Achilles battling with the mounted Amazon, Penthesilea, during the days when ancient sculptures acquired immediacy by being connected with individual persons from history or literature.
The sculpture was transferred to Rome’s Borghese collection. It was housed in a ground-floor chamber named for it in the Villa Borghese, which was redecorated in the early 1780s by Antonio Asprucci.
In 1807, Camillo Borghese was forced to sell it to his brother-in-law, Napoleon Bonaparte; it was moved to Paris when the Borghese collection was bought for the Louvre, where it currently sits.
It was among the most revered and reproduced works of antiquity in the eighteenth century, giving artists with a canon of proportions despite being misnamed a gladiator owing to an erroneous restoration.
A bronze cast was made for Charles I of England (now at Windsor), and another by Hubert Le Sueur was the centerpiece of Isaac de Caus’ parterre at Wilton House; that version was given to Sir Robert Walpole by the 8th Earl of Pembroke and is now the focal figure in William Kent’s Hall at Houghton Hall in Norfolk.
Other versions may be discovered at Petworth House and Knole’s Green Court. Originally housed in Lord Burlington’s garden at Chiswick House, a replica was eventually transported to the grounds at Chatsworth in Derbyshire.
In the United States, a copy of “The Gladiator at Montalto” was among the furnishings of Thomas Jefferson’s ideal museum of educational art envisioned for Monticello.