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The Louvre is one of the greatest and most famous museums in the world. It has around five million visitors a year.

According to Lonerly Planet's guidebook about France, some people decide to stay away from this place, because it is too big:

"The Louvre may be the most actively avoided museum in the world. Daunted by the richness and sheer size of the place (the side facing the Seine is some 700 meters long and it is said it would take nine months just to glance at every piece of art here), both local people and visitors often find the prospect of an afternoon at a smaller museum more inviting."

[Nicola Williams and others, Lonely Planet France, 7th edition, 2007, page 126]

I understand the point. The Louvre is incredibly big. It is easy to get lost in there, even if you have a floor plan and you try to follow the signs on the walls. But the answer is not to avoid it. If you do, you will miss out. You will never see any of the treasures they have. The solution is to prepare your visit, to make a choice. Find out what small fraction of the huge collections you want to see, and then go for it - ignoring everything else.

How to prepare for a visit? Use the guidebook entitled "The Louvre," written by two German authors, Gabriele Bartz and Eberhard König, and published by the German publishing house Könemann (replaced first by Tandem and later by H. F. Ullmann). It is a volume in the popular series called "Art & Architecture."

The book opens with a historical introduction explaining how the Louvre was built and how it came to be one of the greatest museums in the world.

The main section of the book is a presentation of the most important items of the four main departments of the museum:

* Antiquities
* Sculptures
* Paintings
* Decorative Arts

Each department comprises several collections. The department of paintings, for instance, has an Italian, a Spanish, a French, an English and a Dutch collection. The department of antiquities has an Egyptian collection; a Greek, Roman and Etruscan collection; and an Oriental collection including Assyrian, Babylonian, Phoenician and Persian items.

The book ends with an appendix where you will find a glossary, a timeline, a bibliography, brief biographies of the artists mentioned, and an index of the works of art mentioned.

The book is illustrated from the beginning to the end. There are more than 600 colour illustrations, pictorial maps and floor plans.

Scattered throughout the book there are more than ten sidebars on more general topics. The sidebars are printed on green pages and are sometimes written by a guest writer.

The Louvre is a museum of art, as Bartz and König explain on page 44:

"The museum still does not devote itself to everyday things, but sees itself as a treasure house of arts and crafts, even if it does exhibit a few objects from everyday life of submerged cultures alongside those that were created specifically as art, or are regarded today as works of art."

Although its collections are huge, The Louvre does not cover the whole world. In fact, as Bertz and König point out, the perspective is quite limited: France, Western Europe and the Mediterranean world including "the fertile crescent" which stretches from the Egyptian Nile over the land of two rivers (Mesopotamia) to the Persian Gulf.

Bartz and König do not present every item in the museum. For each department, for each collection, they present the most important items. When you prepare your visit, you can see a picture of your chosen item and read about it. But not only that: using the floorplans, you can also find out where your chosen item is placed. Once you get to the museum, you will know exactly where to go: what wing, what floor and what room. In this way this book is extremely useful. It is handy, too. The size is so small you can take it with you when you visit the museum.

I like this book, but I have to mention a few few minor flaws:

(1) On page 21, the authors explain that the north wing is named after Cardinal Richelieu (1585-1642) and that the south wing is named after Dominique-Vivant Denon (1747-1825) who was appointed director of the museum by Napoleon. But what about the east wing, the Sully wing? What is the origin of this name? They never tell us. It is named after Maurice de Sully, who was a bishop in Paris around 1200 and responsible for the construction of the Notre Dame Cathedral.

(2) Francois Mitterrand, president of France 1981-1995, is mentioned several times. When his name appears in the text, it is always spelled correctly, with a double R (pages 28, 30, 31). But when it appears in a caption, it is always misspelled, with a single R (pages 29 and 30). Why?

(3) On pages 52-53, the authors present "The Louvre in a nutshell." Here they tell us when the museum closes, which is good to know, but they forget to tell us what time it opens. The answer is 9 am.

(4) They also fail to tell us that there is free access to the museum on the first Sunday of every month. Many people seem to know this. When I was there on a Sunday, it was very crowded. When I returned the next day, the situation was quite different: I almost had the whole place to myself.
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0Comment| 4 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 29 August 2008
I purchased this volume for a trip with a school party (GCSE & A level) that included the Musée d'Orsay and the Louvre.

The book, although weighty, is ideally shaped to live in a handbag, manbag, or even a roomy pocket (although in that case, get the Louvre one as well and balance yourself so as not to look like Quasimodo...).

The pictures are clear, the notes are superb, and I certainly wouldn't have been without it. Hundreds of pictures, hundreds of pages. All for £7 or so. Brilliant.
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on 4 May 2011
the quality is great. pictures with explanations. and the size is perfect! its a lil bigger than a CD case, which is totally convenient to read and portable too!
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on 21 April 2014
This book is very usefull if you are planning to visit the Louvre. Great to find out what you will see and plenty of info to read about so you can fully appreciate the expierence when you get there.
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on 6 March 2015
A well illustrated guide in good condition but somewhat dated
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on 11 February 2010
I had hoped this would be a little more useful when wandering around the Louvre itself but this is mostly a picture book and has no detail of the exhibits, and nothing on the physical stucture of the Louvre itself, so it's pretty useless for that purpose!

A good little record of the art in the Louvre though, and nice to have on a shelf to reflect on the time you enjoyed at this amazing museum.
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