Art at the Louvre

I had to double check if I was in the right room. Was I in the Louvre or at a rock concert? I felt the elbows and shoulders of strangers all around me, my body was being pushed forward, I even lost my balance a few times. My personal bubble was beyond burst. I heard different languages being spoken. However, I didn’t need a translation dictionary to understand. “Move up! Push forward. Try to get a good picture.” Ironically, when the tourists finally got to the front of the crowd, many would turn their back to the Mona Lisa for a quick selfie! Even as I was pushing forward just like everyone else, I questioned why the Mona Lisa was such a big deal. Leonardo Da Vinci was a genius, there is no doubting that. But Da Vinci has a lot of other great art hanging on the walls of the Louvre. So why is the focus always on the painting of that mysterious woman? Perhaps it was the mystery of her identity, the superb painting technique, or simply great marketing? It was interesting to see the way people reacted to the painting. The aura and the energy drawing people in was definitely real. A small woman risked getting arrested just to snap a quick picture. When I was close to the front of the crowd, she ran around the ropes, cutting in front of everyone to snap a quick picture before she scurried off with a security guard quickly chasing after her. The whole scene was both shocking and a little absurd.


The reaction and attention the Mona Lisa received made me question why people pick specific pieces and claim them to be special. What makes a piece of art so precious and worth breaking the rules in such an exaggerated way?


When I finally got to the front of the crowd and saw the Mona Lisa, I could appreciate the art, but it was a bit of a let down. Between the people shoving behind me and the security only giving me a few seconds before ushering me out, I couldn’t feel the excitement everyone else seem to have. The artwork was lovely, but I couldn’t really understand what makes it better than the other wonderful artwork in the room. I guess I ooh’d and awe’d along with everyone else. However, as I think about it now, I believe I was more influenced by other people’s reaction than by the idea that that  painting was really special. So I was a little disappointed.


This is not to say that the Louvre was a disappointment. On the contrary! I found other works far more interesting. Especially the pieces in which art is a reflection of history. The painting Le Radeau de la Meduse is a prime example. The beautiful painting told the tragic story of a spoils system in which an inexperienced friend of the king was appointed as the captain of a ship. The end result was a shipwreck of 150 sailors, of which only 15 survived to tell the tale. The men resorted to murder and cannibalism to survive on a raft. The facial expressions, dark background, and other significant details revealed the extent of the tragedy much better than any book could. I watched people walk, sit on the bench, and observe the painting, a huge contrast to the people shoving their way towards the Mona Lisa (a much smaller in size piece of work, I might add). While this painting did not seem as popular as the Mona Lisa, Le Radeau de la Meduse has a lot of depth. It immediately captured my attention. I was curious as to why some sailors looked in pain and some seemed relieved. It was like a puzzle. I love stories, symbolism,and mysteries; I want to know the reason behind paintings.


Seeing art makes me question everything. Why did the artist use this color, why is the object looking a certain way, why is this specific object the main focus, and the questions go on and on. This painting stuck out to me in ways that the Mona Lisa did not. A historical event told through art is much more valuable than a portrait that serves as the background to countless selfies.


– Ana Martin