This in-depth three-hour walk takes in the extensive French collections of the Louvre museum in the company of an art historian. You will begin your walk in the Cour Marly to establish a bit of background for the rest of the itinerary. You will take in a number of sculptures by Coustou, Coysevox, and other artists hired by Louis XIV to create works for his marvelous royal playground in Marly Park. Arguably one of the most beautiful spots in the museum, the Cour Marly is the perfect jumping-off point for the rest of the French collection: you will discuss the development of the Gothic style in France, a movement that is generally acknowledged as the beginning of Western Art in Europe as we know it today.
These sculptures, among them the justly famous Marly horses, also provide an opportunity to discuss the role of the monarchy in the beginnings of French Art: a relationship at once prosperous and fraught with frustrations, royalty nonetheless bankrolled artists and thus became a driving force behind the country's artistic development and innovation. Moving away from these sculptures, we'll begin what will be the thematic heart of our walk: the development of French painting from the 14th to 19th centuries. You'll move upstairs to the Richelieu wing, following roughly chronological path. Starting off with the 'primitive' masterworks of Quarton and Jean le Bon, you'll follow up with a number of works from the prolific School of Fontainebleau.
As you walk past the works of Charles le Brun (Louis XIV's official painter), the Le Nain Brothers, and Georges de la Tour, you'll place each work into the larger thrust of Western Art, especially considering the paintings' relationship to Italian Renaissance and Baroque art. From here, you'll move right into the 17th century and the advent of French Classicism. While exploring the works of Poussin and Claude Lorrain, the focus of your discussion will be on the historical dialogue between the pieces themselves, keeping in mind the early primitives in order to understand the development of high Classicism.
Leaving the 17th century galleries, we'll pass through the Rubens Hall, taking a look at his scenes from the life of Marie de Medici, works which greatly influenced contemporary French artists. We'll then move forward to the 18th century, stopping by Watteau's theatrical paintings, Boucher's lascivious mythological works, Chardin's fabulous still lifes, and Fragonard's "fantasy portraits." Moving through the gallery, we'll stop by the works of Marie Antoinette's personal portraitist, Elisabeth-Louise Vigée-Lebrun, then continuing on to the better-known works of Ingres and Corot, the "Grandfather of Impressionism."
Finally, we'll end with the impressive (and famous) large-format 19th century paintings in the nearby Denon wing. We'll focus on David, whose politically charged neo-classical works played a major role in the Revolution, following up with the Romantics Delacroix and Géricault. At the tail end of your walk, if time allows (and depending on the interests of your group), you may take a quick stroll through the Objets d'Art wing, which contains housewares and clothing that once belonged to Napoleon and Marie Antoinette, among others. These objects can add a fascinating anthropological dimension to the Louvre's painting collection by providing a tangible look at the lives being lived at the time.
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