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Beyond the Mona Lisa: Interesting & Unusual Art in the Louvre

I didn’t expect to be overly impressed by the Mona Lisa the first time I visited the Louvre.

I’d heard that it was small and constantly surrounded by crowds of tourists, so I set my expectations accordingly.

But here was something I didn’t expect: while the Mona Lisa was tucked away down several maze-like hallways, the entire museum had signs pointing visitors toward it. It seemed that many people rushed with a single focus from sign to sign. They were not looking at anything else. Their only goal was to find the Mona Lisa, snap a photo, and make a hasty exit.

Of course, if you are visiting the Louvre, you will want to see its most famous piece – but we encourage you to keep exploring from there. Neither of us have any specific passion for art and we aren’t very studious museum-goers, but I still believe the Louvre can spark your curiosity and interest if you seek out the more unusual pieces.

These are the paintings, drawings, and other works of art I found the most intriguing, beautiful, or pleasantly weird:

The Seasons by Giuseppe Arcimboldo

These creepy, otherworldy portraits feel like a dark fairy tale. Scratch below the seasonal imagery and they are also depicting men of the royal house of Habsburg. The painter sought to both romanticize them and offer an ironic political commentary.

Monkey as Painter and Monkey as Antiquarian by Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin

These playful paintings may have a few tongue-in-cheek things to say about humanity – especially when we start to feel a bit too self-important.

Three Monkeys Stealing Fruit by Frans Snyders

Here’s a much more humorous take on the cliche fruit-in-a-basket drawing. Also, maybe I have a thing for strange monkeys in my artwork?

My Friends, Let Us Not Refuse a Clever Guest by Pierre-Jean Mariette

During a great feast, several guests are suddenly uprooted by their tables and shot up into the air. Typical dinner party problems – we’ve all been there! This drawing was inspired by a comedic Italian play.

The Gift of the Heart

Ah, courtly love. I am a sucker for a romantic fairy tale scene, but I also like that the coloring is so dark – almost sinister.

Corinthian Aryballos in the Shape of an Owl

Basically just a really cute owl! Oh, and he used to hold perfume.

Have you been to the Louvre? Did you find anything that captured your eye, made you think, or made you laugh? Share it with us below.