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20 Louvre Paintings Not to Miss

Posted by Susan Benford

With 9.2 million visitors in 2013, the Louvre was the most frequently visited art museum in the world. Although the Louvre collection consists of some 38,000 objects from prehistory through the 19th century, visitors primarily come to see the renowned collection of Louvre paintings in this 100 acre (40 hectare) art museum.

Uccello Battle San Romano Louvre resized 600Paolo Uccello.  The Battle of San Romano, ca. 1435-1440.  Wood, 71 1/2" by 125".  Louvre.

Enough facts and figures.  

I'm thinking about your feet; the limited timeframe most art museum visitors have; and choosing which Louvre paintings are must-see.  

Here are 20 of the most famous paintings in the Louvre (according to Masterpiece Cards' research):

1. Paolo Uccello.  The Battle of San Romano, ca. 1435 - 1440. One of the most famous Renaissance paintings anywhere, The Battle of San Romano was long believed to have been commissioned by the de Medicis.  Recent research, though, suggests that it was actually  commissioned by Lionardo Bartolini Salimbeni, who helped instigate the battle portrayed here.  This panel is one of three about the Battle of San Romano, which commemorates the 1432 victory of Florence over Siena; the other panels are in the National Gallery, London and the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. 

2. Enguerrand Quarton.  Pieta de Villeneuve d' Avignon, ca. 1450.  One of the most significant works in religious art, Quarton's Pieta is a standard Christian scene that seems to embody all human and spiritual grief.  This Pieta is not the typical idealized scene but instead features angular figures with abstracted faces highlighted against a luminous background.

3. Leonardo da Vinci.  The Virgin of the Rocks, ca. 1483-86. The largest painting Leonardo
da Vinci ever finished
, The Virgin is one of two versions of this theme; the other is in the National Gallery in London.  In this enigmatic Leonardo painting, the Virgin sits between the leonardo virgin child with saint anne resized 600 resized 600infants Christ and Saint John the Baptist in the care of an angel.

4. Leonardo da Vinci.  The Virgin and Child with Saint Anne, ca. 1503-1506. Although underpainting shows in this unfinished work, Virgin and Child demonstrates three pictorial techniques either created or perfected by Leonardo.

Left: Leonard da Vinci.  The Virgin and Child with Saint Anne, ca. 1503-06.  Oil on wood, 66" by 44".  Louvre.

Additionally, the enigmatic smile of Saint Anne is reminiscent of that of Mona Lisa. Explore two more famous paintings by Leonardo, the Benois Madonna and the Madonna Litta

5. Leonardo da Vinci.  The Mona Lisa, ca. 1505.  The calm, wistful countenance of Lisa di Antonio Maria Gherardini, a/k/a Mona Lisa, is the most famous and mocked portrait in the entirety of Western history of art.  Read about an alleged newly discovered Leonardo painting that might be Mona Lisa's sister!

6. Titian.  Le Conceret Champetre (Pastoral Concert), ca. 1509-1510. A group of four are gathered in a verdant landscape, and are stumbled upon by a shepherd and his flock. Despite extensive art history research, no literary reference has been found for Pastoral Concert. Centuries later, its meaning remains uncertain, as does any record of its early ownership: its existence was first documents in 1671 when it was purchased by Louix XIV.  

Explore other Titian paintings not in the Louvre, including Rape of Europa, Man with a Gloveand Bacchus and Ariadne

7. School of Fontainebleau.  Diana the Huntress, mid-16th century. The first School of Fontainebleau consisted of mainly unidentifiable artists.  Diana the Huntress was created around the same time that a Hellenistic scuipture of Diana, goddess of the hunt, arrived in School Fontainebleau Diana Huntress resized 600France as a gift from Pope Paul IV Carafa to Henri II.  Many art historians believe that this Diana is the king's mistress, Diane de Poitiers, known for supporting the arts -- and dominating Henri II. 

Right: School of Fontainebleau.  Diana the Huntress, mid-16th century.  Oil on wood, transferred to canvas, approximately 75" by 52".  Louvre.

8. Peter Paul Rubens.  The Disembarkation of Maria de' Medici at the Port of Marseilles on November 3, 1600.  One of a series of 21 Rubens paintings commissioned by and about the life of the Queen of France, wife of Henry IV.  Completed between 1621 and 1625, these Rubens paintings all hang in the Louvre. Learn about another Rubens paintings, Venus and Adonis

9. Jusepe de Ribera.  The Club-Footed Boy, 1642. A Spaniard who worked all his life in Naples, Ribera introduced social realism in painting and the influence of Caravaggio to France. 

10. Hyacinthe Rigaud. Portrait of Louis XIV.  1701. This larger-than-life-sized portrait (it's 9' 2" tall) draws attention to the king's legs -- of which he was quite proud - and makes no effort to camoflage the red built-up heels he work to compensate for his short stature.  

11. Jean-Baptiste Greuze.  Betrothal in the Village, 1761.  From 1759 until the 1770s, Greuze's paintings of everyday life (genre scenes) were stars of the Paris Salons.  Betrothal in the Village, shown in the Salon of 1761, received rave reviews for its authenticity.

riguad portrait louis xiv resized 60012. Jacques-Louis David.  The Oath of the Horatii, ca. 1784.  David rejected the extravagance and opulence of the Baroque and Rococo eras, and with fellow 18th century painters, promoted Neoclassicism; now, painting was dominated by subject matter from ancient Greece and Rome, and by unadorned line and color. Later, David paintings became political propaganda about the French Revolution. Explore other Jacques-Louis David paintings not in the Louvre.

Hyacinthe Riguad.  Portrait of Louis XIV, 1701.  Oil on canvas, 9'2" by 7'10 3/4".  Louvre.

13. Elisabeth Vigee-Lebrun.  Self Portrait with Daughter, 1789. After her talent was discovered at an early age, Vigee-Brun became a popular portraitist for members of the aristocracy. After she was summoned to Versailles to paint Queen Marie Antoinette, Vigee-Lebrun was commissioned to paint over 20 portraits of the Queen and her family.  

14. Marie Benoist.   Portrait of a Negress, 1800. A student of both Jacques-Louis David and Elisabeth Vigee-LeBrun, Benoist sealed her reputation with this Portrait when it was shown in the Salon of 1800, six years after slavery had been abolished in France.  After earning commissions from Napoleon and a gold medal in 1804, Benoist had to stop exhibiting when her husband was appointed to a public, high position of state.

15. Antoine-Jean Gros.  Napoleon Bonaparte Visiting the Victims of the Plague at Jaffa, 1804. Twenty-three feet long, this painting is pure political propaganda, commissioned to showcase Napoleon's brave and humanitarian sides as he compassionately touches the sore of a plague victim.  What is ignored here is that Napoleon poisoned these same men in his earlier retreat from Jaffa. 

16. Pierre-Paul Prud'Hon.  Empress Josephine, 1805. This portrait, commissioned by Napoleon, shows his beautiful and melancholic wife shortly after their coronation.  It seems as if Empress Josephine is contemplating her bleak future: she has failed to produce any heirs after sixteen years of marriage. As a consequence, Napoleon declared their union null and void, and remarried. 

17. Ingres.  Oedipus and the Sphinx, 1808. At the age of 20, Ingres was the pupil of, and aide to, Jacques-Louis David.  While Ingres portrays here the Greek myth about Oedipus solving the riddle of the Sphinx, he also introduces distinctly unclassical elements, like Oedipus' muscled torso. 

Gericault Raft Medusa18. Ingres.  Valpincon Bather, 1808.  Ingres has a reputation of painting a woman's back as he feels it ought to be, rather than anatomically correctly; this is demonstrated by the extra vertebrae of Valpincon Bather and in his controversial Grande Odalisque, also in the Louvre. 

Theodore Gericault.  Raft of the "Medusa", 1819.  Oil on canvas, 16' by 23'6".  Louvre.

19. Theodore Gericault.  Raft of the Medusa, 1819.  After the French frigate Medusa hit a reef, its captain, selected passengers and senior officers comandeered all available lifeboats for themselves.  The remaining 149 passengers and crew were crammed onto a wooden raft which the captain cut loose from a lifeboat.  Only 15 of the 149 survived.  Through Raft of the Medusa, Gericault become instrumental in publicizing this scandal

20. Eugene Delacroix.  Dante and Virgil, 1822. Delacroix captures the Romantic revival of interest in Dante's Inferno.  In this Delacroix masterpiece, Dante and his guide, Virgil, are in a listing bark near the internal city of Dis;its burning towers are visible in the background. The viewers sees the backside of Charon, Hades' boatman, and the writhing bodies of damned souls grasping onto and biting the bark. Explore another Delacroix work, Liberty Leading the People

Although these twenty Louvre paintings are an infintesimal part of the Louvre collection, they nonetheless survey over 400 years of art history, showing works by some of the most renowned painters, then and now.

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Famous Painters Blogroll

Anguissola, Three Sisters Playing Chess and Phillip II of Spain

Beckmann, Blind Man's Buff

Beckmann, Departure; Self-Portrait in Tuxedo; Sinking of Titanic

Bingham, Fur Traders Descending the Missouri

BonheurPlowing in the Nivernais

Bonheur, The Horse Fair

Bosch, Garden of Earthly Delights

Botticelli, Primavera

Caillebotte, Gustave, The Floor Scrapers; The House Painters; Pont de l'Europe; Paris Street, Rainy Day; Fruit Displayed on a Stand

Caravaggio, Fashion and Art History

CaravaggioConversion of St. Paul

Caravaggio, Young, Sick Bacchus and Basket of Fruit

Caravaggio, Cardsharps and Fortune Teller

Caravaggio, St. Francis of Assisi in Ecstasy

Caravaggio, Taking of Christ (Kiss of Judas)

Caravaggio Paintings at the Villa Borghese

Cave Paintings

Cezanne, Bathers 

Cezanne, Card Players

Cezanne, Madame Cezanne Paintings

Cezanne, Most Famous Paintings

Cezanne, Red Dress series

Copley, Paul Revere

David, Death of Marat 

David, Death of Socrates

David, Napoleon Crossing the Alps

de Kooning, Retrospective at MoMA (Part I)

de Kooning,Excavation and Painting, 1948 

de KooningWoman I

Degas, The Bellilli Family, The Dance Class, In a Cafe (Absinthe Drinker)

Delacroix, Liberty Leading the People  

Diebenkorn, The Ocean Park Series

Duncanson, Robert Seldon.  Art History Welcomes Duncanson 

Durer, The Four Apostles

El Greco, Burial of Count Orgaz

El Greco, View of Toledo

FontanaPortrait of a Noblewoman

Frankenthaler, Color Field Painting and Mountains and Sea

Gainsborough, The Blue Boy

Gentileschi, Artemisia.  Judith Beheading Holofernes

Gentileschi, Artemisia.  Self-Portrait as an Allegory of Painting 

Ghent Altarpiece.  

GiorgioneThree Philosophers 

Goya, Duchess of Alba

Goya, Family of Charles IV

Goya, Self-Portrait with Dr. Arrieta

Goya, The Third of May 1808 

Goya, Duchess of Alba; Saturn Devouring his Son; Two Old Men; Half-Submerged Dog; Black Paintings

Grunewald, Isenheim Altarpiece

Hals, Banquet of the Officers of the St. George Civic Guard

Hals, The Laughing Cavalier

Hals, Regents of St. Elizabeth's Hospital

Hopper, Nighthawks

Ingres, Grande Odalisque and Portrait of Madame Moissetier

Ingres, Oedipus and the Sphinx

Isenheim Altarpiece

Kahlo, Renowned Frida Kahlo Paintings.  

Angelica Kauffmann.  Self-Portrait Torn Between Music and Painting and David Garrick.  

Klimt, The Kiss and Adele Bloch-Bauer

Lawrence, Great Migration Series

Leonardo, Lady with an Ermine

Leonardo, Painter at the Court of Milan, National Gallery, London 

Leonardo, La Bella Principessa 

Leonardo, New Mona Lisa

Leonardo, Benois Madonna and Madonna Litta 

Leonardo, Savior of the World(Salvator Mundi) 

Leonardo, The Virgin and Child with St. Anne

Leyster, Famous Female Painters

20 Louvre Paintings not to Miss 

ManetA Bar at the Folies-Bergere

Manet, Luncheon in the Studio

Manet, The Old Musician

Manet, Street Singer

MantegnaDead Christ

Matisse Paintings, In Search of True Painting

Matisse, The DanceThe Music

Matisse, The Cone Collection

Matisse, The Red Studio

Matisse, The Yellow Dress

Michelangelo, Crucifixion with the Madonna

Michelangelo, Famous Paintings

Michelangelo, La Pieta with Two Angels (latest attribution?)

Michelangelo, St. John the Baptist Bearing Witness

Modersohn-Becker, Famous Female Painters

Monet, Impression, Sunrise

Monet, Nymphaes, Le Pont de l'Europe

Monet Paintings at the Marmottan Monet Museum

Monet, Waterlilies

Morisot, Famous Paintings

MorisotMore Famous Paintings

Munch, The Scream

O'Keeffe, Jack in the Pulpit

Peeters, Clara

Picasso, Girl Before a Mirror

Picasso, Nude, Green Leaves and Bust

Picasso, Portrait of Gertrude Stein

Picasso, Las Meninas

Piero della Francesca, The Baptism of Christ

Pippin, Domino Players and Cabin in the Cotton

Poussin, Assumption of the Virgin

Raphael, Sistine Madonna

Rembrandt, Aristotle with a Bust of Homer 

Rembrandt, Night Watch

Rembrandt paintings at Frick Show

Rembrandt, Self-Portrait at an Early AgeJeremiah Lamenting the Destruction of Jerusalem, The Jewish Bride

Rembrandt, The Syndics of the Amsterdam Drapers' Guild

Rubens, Venus and Adonis

Sanchez Cotan, Spanish Still-life

Sargent, El Jaleo

Sargent, Madame X

Sargent, Smoke of Ambergris

Steen, The Christening Feast 

Steen paintings at Frick Show

Tanner, The Banjo Lesson and The Thankful Poor

Titian, Assumption of the Virgin

Titian, Bacchus and Ariadne

Titian, Man with a Glove

Titian, Nymph and Shepherd, Allegory of Prudence, Jacopa Strada, St. Jerome, Slaying of Marysas

Titian, Rape of Europa

Turner, J. M. W, The Fighting Temeraire

Uccello, Battle of San Romano

van der Weyden, St. Luke Drawing the Virgin

van Eyck, Arnolfini Portrait

van Eyck, Adoration of the Lamb

van Eyck, Ghent Altarpiece

van Gogh, The Potato Eaters

van GoghMemory of Garden at Etten; Tatched Cottages; White House

van Gogh,  Portrait of Madam Trabuc; Morning: Going Out

van Gogh, Starry Night

van Gogh, Three Pairs of Shoes

Vincent van Gogh paintings up to 1889

Vincent van Gogh paintings, 1888-1890

Vigee-LeBrun, Marie Antoinette and Her Children, Self Portrait, Self-Portrait with Julie

Velazquez, Juan de Pareja

Velazquez, Pope Innocent X

Velazquez, Overview of Famous Paintings

Vermeer, Girl with a Pearl Earring

Vermeer, Saint Praxedis

Vermeer, The Kitchen Maid

Vermeer, The Allegory of Painting

VermeerGirl with the Red Hat

Vigee-LeBrun, Marie Antoinette and Her ChildrenSelf PortraitSelf-Portrait with Julie

Warhol, Campbell's Soup Cans

Warhol, Marilyn Diptych and Gold Marilyn 

Warhol, Mao 

Whistler, Whistler's Mother

Anders Zorn

Famous Paintings by Art Museums

Learn about famous paintings to see in these art museums:

Albright-Knox Art Gallery (Buffalo, NY). One of those intimate, small art museums with a stellar collectionExplore famous paintings at the Albright-Knox. 

Art Institute of Chicago: Plan to see these famous paintings at the Art Institute -- and download an ebook about them.

Louvre Museum, (Paris): one of the largest art museums in the world! Know which Louvre paintings not to miss in this sortable ebook. 

Mauritshuis Museum: explore works by renowned Dutch painters

Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York City): download the ebook, Famous-Paintings-Metropolitan-Museum, to learn its must-see masterpieces. Or read the blog post, "Famous Paintings in the Metropolitan Museum". 

National Gallery (London): with 2300 famous paintings alone in its European painting section, discover highlights to see!  Art Paintings to See at the National Gallery.

Rijksmuseum (Amsterdam): 10 famous paintings not to miss

Washington, D.C. Art Museums: Explore forty famous paintings in Washington, DC in this article.

Whitney Museum of American Art.  Don't miss these 10 famous paintings at the Whitney.

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Cave Paintings: explore this prehistoric art in Spain and France.

Picasso's Las Meninas: 58 Picasso paintings inspired by Velazquez's Las Meninas

Ghent Altarpiece: the van Eyck masterpiece, one of the most famous artworks ever made. 

10 Famous Paintings at the Prado. Don't miss a one of these.

Survey of Renaissance Paintings: want to know what Renaissance paintings were all about? Start with 20 of its most famous painters in this sweeping survey! 

Discover more of readers' favorite art history blog posts. 

Female Artists

While we long for the time when artists are artists and genderless, that time isn't yet here.

These are a few of the female artists who've left lasting legacies in the history of painting:

Sofonisba AnguissolaThree Sisters Playing ChessPhillip II of Spain

Rosa Bonheur.  Plowing in the Nivernais.  Horse Fair.

Lavinia Fontana. Portrait of a Noblewoman.

Helen Frankenthaler. Color Field Painting and Mountains and Sea. 

Artemisia Gentileschi.  Judith Beheading Holofernes.  Self-Portrait as an Allegory of Painting.

Frida Kahlo.  Frida and Diego Rivera.  The Two Fridas.  The Love Embrace of the Universe. 

Angelica Kauffmann.  Self-Portrait Torn Between Music and Painting.  David Garrick.

Elisabeth Vigee-LeBrun.  Self-Portrait; Marie Antoinette and Her Children; Self-Portrait with Julie

Judith Leyster.  Self-Portrait.  The Proposition. 

Paula Modersohn-Becker. Self-Portrait with an Amber Necklace. Still Life with Goldfish. 

Berthe Morisot.  Refuge in Normandy.  The Cradle. 

Georgia O'Keeffe. Jack in the Pulpit Series. 

Survey of Female Artists

Art History Beyond Europe

A few forays into art outside Europe:

African Art and Bocio

African Mask of Idia


Japanese Woodblock Prints: The Great Wave

The Terracotta Warriors