Starting from the Sully end of the Denon wing, three rooms of fragile frescoes by Botticelli, Fra Angelico and Luini, and 13th- to 15th-century Florentine paintings on wood by Cimabue, Giotto, Fra Angelico and Lippi, open the Italian department, before you move into the long, skylit Grande Galerie. To the right, the Salle des Sept Mètres has highlights of the Sienese school, including Simone Martini’s Christ Carrying the Cross and Piero della Francesca’s Portrait of Sigismondo Malatesta. Now that the Mona Lisa (pictured) has moved, there is no need to bowl along the Grande Galerie at speed in your haste to see her, missing the wonders on either side.
Most notably, about a quarter of the way along on the left are Leonardo’s Virgin of the Rocks, Virgin and Child with Saint Anne and Saint-Jean Baptiste, which form part of the Northern Italian section, along with Bellini’s Calvary and Portrait of a Man and Raphael’s Portrait of Dona Isabel de Requesens. The first turning on the right after the da Vincis leads into the Salle de La Joconde, whose toffee-coloured brushed concrete walls provide a suitably golden setting for Veronese’s lavish Wedding at Cana, his Crucifixion and Sainte Famille and other Venetian masterpieces such as Lotto’s Adulterous Woman and red-robed Christ Carrying the Cross, Tintoretto’s Suzanne Bathing and Bassano’s earthy canvases. Don’t miss the exquisite Titians hidden behind the Mona Lisa on her stand-alone wall.
A trip back down the Passage de Mollien, containing 16th-century cartoons, frames Giorgio Vasari’s Annunciation, revealing how much better it is to stand back and look at these paintings. In between the two in the Grande Galerie are Arcimboldo’s famous Four Seasons, various Bronzinos and Caravaggios, plus works by Albani, Carracci and Reni. A small Spanish section takes in Christ on the Cross Adored by Two Donors by El Greco and his contemporary Jusepe de Ribera’s Club Foot.