There are countless beautiful things to see at the Musèe de Louvre in Paris, France, so much so that after my first visit I had to go back for more. The marble floors, natural lighting shining on the statues, and various awe inspiring, majestic, and timeless objects resulted in many moments of reflection. I had never seen anything so beautiful and with every corner I turned there was a new discovery and a new object to appreciate and analyze. However, there were so many things to see that we decided another visit was not just desired, but necessary.
We visited the Louvre again two days later since Leonardo da Vinci’s widely known and reclaimed masterpiece, The Mona Lisa, was on the top of my list of things to see. I had missed out on seeing it the first visit because the Louvre had closed before I was able to see it. In many ways I had waited all my life for this moment. I was about to see something that warranted so much attention and publicity throughout the world, and I was anxious and eager to see it. As we entered the art portion of the museum, I followed the large quantity of people scrambling to find their way around the many corridors while taking pictures, as they observed the paintings lined up along the walls with anticipation and excitement. As I maneuvered around the Louvre I followed all the signs that would take us to her- The Mona Lisa.
As we quickly entered the room we saw a large group crowded around the famous painting. When we slowly drew closer to the crowd we noticed that they were behind a rope and a bit far from the painting. It was her—the Mona Lisa I had been dreaming about—but it wasn’t like my dream at all. The painting looked like a miniature version of what I was used to seeing online or in the movies; it seemed far removed from the people admiring it, especially since it was covered with glass which created even more distance between the spectators and the painting. I was not even going to attempt to get closer, because at five feet three inches tall, I would not be able to see anything other than the back of everyone’s head who was observing the painting in front of me.
I was unmoved and unnerved. I felt like something was wrong; I had pictured something grand something—significant. However, it was small, far away, and covered by glass, it—had no meaning. I took a picture of the renowned work of art with my camera phone from where I stood in the aisle. I then turned and walked away feeling empty and cheated, and wondered if I was the only one of the hundreds of people who approached the painting who felt that way. Similarly, in Harriet Beecher Stowe’s letter “Sunny Memories to Foreign Lands” she echoes the same sentiments I felt about some of the art at the Louvre which she describes to be “nothing of that overwhelming, subduing nature that I had conceived” (99). While she does change her mind later and finds artifacts worthy of her reverence, I could not help but relate her sentiments to my lack of emotion when I saw the painting.
Unaffected and annoyed, I continued on along to look at more paintings, and then we found a section on French Romanticism. There I found the profundity I had been searching for. The paintings were captivating with layer upon layer of symbolism; they were real and raw, and had been positioned carefully around the room. Unlike The Mona Lisa, they were enormous and the effect of the images was undistorted by glass covering the surface, completely open to be admired by the multitude of individuals at the Louvre.
We were lost in contemplation and explored the paintings for hours trying to unpack the images before us. Although like Harriet Beecher Stowe I was a bit uninspired at the beginning of my visit, I had found the depth of feeling I was looking for in the unexpected. When looking for things to do in Paris it is important to explore all of the must see areas of the city, but being open to explore something new and obscure is equally as beneficial. Sometimes when you are disoriented because you are going in a different direction than you planned, just remember that it is not the incorrect path but a new one that can help you uncover something new and unnoticed and make it your own.