Over in the Denon wing, on the first floor, the second area of the Louvre devoted to painting is dominated by the staggering Italian collection. The first two rooms house frescoes including two exquisite Botticelli allegories painted for the Villa Lemmi near Florence. Next, the high-ceilinged Salon Carré (room 3), used to exhibit paintings since the first "salon" of the Royal Academy in 1725, displays the so-called Primitives, with works by Giotto, Cimabue and Fra Angelico, as well as one of Uccello's bizarrely theoretical panels of the Battle of San Romano. To the west of the Salon, the famous Grande Galerie, originally built under Catherine de Médici's orders to link the Louvre and Tuileries palaces, stretches into the distance, parading all the great names of the Italian Renaissance Mantegna, Filippo Lippi, Raphael, Coreggio, Titian. Leonardo da Vinci's Virgin of the Rocks and Virgin and Child with St Anne are on display here, untroubled by crowds, while his Mona Lisa is expected to return to the Salle des États (room 6), on the right, late in 2003, along with Paolo Veronese's huge Marriage at Cana. If you want to catch La Jioconde as she's known to the French without the usual swarm of snap-happy admirers for company, go first or last thing in the day. The Mannerists kick in about halfway along the Grande Galerie, with a wonderfully weird St Anne with Four Saints by Il Pontormo and a Pietà by Rosso Fiorentino; the later part of the Galerie dwindles in quality and breadth as it moves towards the eighteenth century.
Venetian painting is largely relegated to the far end of Denon, with Piazzetta's large Assumption of 1735 and twelve Guardi scenes of festivities celebrating the accession of Doge Alvise Mocenigo IV. Adjacent, the relatively small but worthwhile Spanish collection has a few gems, notably Murillo's tender Beggar Boy, and the Marquise de Santa Cruz amongst the Goya portraits. From room 32, stairs lead down to the ground floor and the temporary section on the art of Africa, Asia Oceania and the Americas.