The museum's extensive collection of French Sculpture is arranged on the lowest two levels of the Richelieu wing, with the more monumental pieces housed in two grand, glass-roofed courtyards. Many sculptures removed from the park at Marly grace the Cour Marly, notably the four triumphal equestrian statues known as the Marly Horses, two by Coysevox for Louis XIV, at the top of the stairs, and two by Costou for Louis XV, on the tall plinths to the side of the courtyard. Cour Puget has Pierre Puget's dynamic Milon de Crotone as its centrepiece, the lion's claws tearing into Milon's apparently soft flesh and the entire piece writhing around its skilfully diffused axis.
The surrounding rooms trace the development of sculpture in France from painful Romanesque Crucifixions through to the nineteenth century and the lofty public works of David d'Angers. Among the startlingly realistic Gothic pieces, you can't miss the Burgundian Tomb of Philippe Pot, borne by hooded mourners known as pleurants. The Italian influence is strongly felt in Michel Colombe's relief of St George Slaying the Dragon, but there is something distinctively French in the strangely liquid bas reliefs sculpted by Jean Goujon in the 1540s, at around the same time as he was working on Lescot's facade for the Cour Carré. Towards the end of the course you may find yourself crying out for an end to all the gracefully perfect nudes and grandiose busts of noblemen. The charming vignette of François Rude's Neapolitan Fisherboy provides some respite, but the only real antidote is Rodin and you'll have to leave the Louvre to see any of his works.
Alternatively, make for the smaller, more intense Italian sculpture section in the long Galerie Mollien (room 4), on the ground floor of Denon. Here you'll find such bold masterpieces as two of Michelangelo's writhing Slaves, the anonymous Veiled Woman and Canova's irresistible Cupid and Psyche. Immediately below, in the old stables on the lower ground floor (room 1), are the earlier Italians, notably Duccio's virtuoso Virgin and Child Surrounded by Angels. Adjacent are some severely Gothic Virgins from Flanders and Germany (rooms AC) and the Tactile Gallery, where you can run your hands over copies of some of the most important sculptures from the collection.