The Louvre houses one of the world's most comprehensive collections from ancient civilisations through the 19th century. Here are Egyptian, Oriental, Greek, Etruscan, and Roman antiquities, sculpture, paintings and objets d'art. Articles in gold not only highlight the craftsmanship of successive civilisations but, among the paintings, are those which also tell us the story of gold. The Moneylender and His Wife painted in Antwerp in 1514 by Quentin Massys shows the face of business as the money-lender in his office has gold coin spread out before him in precisely the decade when the first gold was coming into Europe from the Americas. And Jacques Louis David's famous historical painting of The Coronation of Napoleon in 1802 includes a bevy of five noble women adorned with garland diadems, necklaces, earrings, and jewelled belts reminiscent of Greek ornaments of the 4th century BC; a perfect study in jewellery style.
Among the Louvre's most prized gold treasures are three small Egyptian statues in gold, lapis lazuli and glass mounted on a single base of the gold Osiris and his family from around 850 BC. Nearby is a statue in bronze, inlaid with gold, electrum and silver of the consort of the god Amun, also dating from 850 BC. Even older are a pale yellow electrum vase from before 1200 BC, depicting two-headed winged monsters carrying gazelles, that was found at Malik in northern Iran, and a wonderful gold plate with a hunting scene from Ugarit in Syria, made around 1300 BC.
The skill of Etruscan goldsmiths by 400 BC is seen in a pendant of the head of the river god Achelous, whose wavy hair is in gold filigree and full beard in gold granulation. The Roman era is evoked by a gold medallion portrait of the Emperor Constantine, with a gold coin in the centre, from 321 AD.
The objets d'art, gathered together from royal and princely collections, include the elegant gold sceptre of Charles V of France, set with pearls and gems that was made around 1370 AD. While the helmet of Charles IX of France, from 1570, is a formidable headgear of iron that has been gold-plated with enamel inlays. More stylish is the crown of the Empress Eugene from 1855 that is made of gold, set with 2,490 diamonds and 56 emeralds. See also Musée des Arts Décoratifs in an adjoining wing of the Louvre.
Musée du Louvre
75058 Paris cedex 01
Tel. +33 1 40 20 50 50
+33 1 40 20 51 51 (Voice server - French, English, Spanish, German, Italian)
+33 1 40 20 53 17 (Information Desk)
Fax +33 1 40 20 54 42
Minitel 3615 Louvre
Wednesday to Monday 9 - 18.00 (Wednesday 21.45)