In the Egyptian Wing at the Louvre

'Egypt! Egypt!'

eMail from Linda Thalman, via the Internet:

Dear Ric,

Paris:- Monday, 29. December 1997:- Driving to Paris at 8:30 on a Monday morning would not normally be a good idea if you want to avoid the entire Ile-de-France crush of traffic heading into Paris.

But today, conveniently falling between Christmas and New Year's, we sailed non-stop into Paris from our southern suburb, heading for the Louvre's underground parking lot and a visit to the new Egyptian wing.

Arriving at 9:05 we only had to queue for ten minutes to get through the security check and another ten for tickets.

By noon the lines slithered around the Pyramid outdoors and up and down the halls of the underground mall leading to the Louvre from the Palais-Royal métro station. All of Paris seemed to have decided to see the newly opened displays in the Sully Wing on this beautiful morning.

Officially referred to as the Egyptian Antiquities collection, it is a magnificent display, created by Jean-François Champollion. This department illustrates the art of ancient Egypt from two different viewpoints: a chronological circuit, found in rooms 20 to 30 on the first floor, which covers a span from the earliest times to Cleopatra; and a thematic circuit, in rooms one to 19 on the ground floor, which illustrates certain aspects of Egyptian civilization.

Jewelry, games, furniture, pottery, sculpture, papyrus, sarcophagi - but only one mummy - musical instruments, hieroglyphs on ancient stones and more: are all simply exquisite. Most everything was well lighted and most of the time there was enough room to move around the glass cases or pieces despite a continual stream of visitors.

Descriptions of the pieces were, unfortunately, in small print and only in French. We didn't rent one of the carry-around with-you recordings in English - which are available in other languages too - for 30 francs, but maybe one should if your knowledge of French is lacking in museum-speak vocabulary.

You can also buy tickets in advance which should avoid having to queue to enter, but you'll still have to go through the security check before reaching the main hall.

I think the Louvre is now the second biggest museum in the world, after the Hermitage in Saint Petersburg. In any case, no matter what one sets out to see at the Louvre, you'll need hours if not days or weeks to see it all. Don't miss it!

Entry tickets are 45 francs. There is a reduced rate of 26 francs after 15:00 and on Sundays entry costs 26 francs. The Louvre is free for persons under 18 and the unemployed. There is no entry charge on the first Sunday of the month.

Open every day except Tuesdays and certain public holidays, from 9:00. to 18:00, and on Wednesdays until 21:45.

The Louvre has a Web site , with text in French, English, Spanish and Japanese.

Best, Linda
I Will Really Try Not to Miss the Louvre Some Day
Bonjour Linda,

Paris:- Sunday, 4. January 1998:- On Monday, a week earlier than your visit, Le Parisien reported that 30,000 had trooped through the just-opened Egyptian wing. The paper said the room with the sarcophaguses looked like a métro quai at rush-hour.

The paper mentioned that an exhibition of Italian paintings was also inaugurated the same weekend. The paper said it was deserted and that Raphaël, Caravage, Annibale Carracci and Titan felt not only lonely, but jealous.

First, I looked through every scrap of information I have here and then I actually consulted Lines at the Pyramid the Louvre's Web site. The Italians are indeed in the Denon wing - but there is no mention of any new show of them being inaugurated.

The Louvre has a horde of Italian paintings and the Denon wing is scheduled for its own upgrading over the next two years - but Le Parisien's point is well-taken. New shows or attractions draw monster crowds. If there is some special object you want to study in peace, just pick a time when there is a 'grand opening' elsewhere in the museum - and maybe you can have the 'Mona Lisa' all to yourself.

Now back to Egypt: on Sunday, 28. December, the Sphinx at Giza finally had its scaffolding removed, after a seven-year restoration project.

I saw this reported by TV-news but my kids were making so much noise I couldn't hear the audio portion of the report. The video portion didn't show any outrageous restorations, so I didn't know what the story was about.

Since all the other hoopla was about the Louvre's new Egyptian wing that week, I had the sneaking idea the TV-report was about France buying the Sphinx, to place it in the Tuleries. This is untrue; and I for one am glad we will have to make do with the 'Grand Louvre' without the Sphinx overlooking it and its glass Pyramid.

Regards, Ric

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