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Musée du Louvre, Paris
 
 
           
 
Courtyard of the Louvre
Evening view, courtyard of the Louvre and I.M. Pei pyramid. (Photographer: Benh Lieu Song.)

Louvre {loov'-ruh} — a French palace and the national art museum of France.

Located in Paris, the Louvre is one of the largest palaces in the world and, as a former residence of the kings of France, one of the most illustrious. It exemplifies traditional French architecture since the Renaissance, and it houses a magnificent collection of ancient and Western art.

Louvre ground floor diagram
Ground floor diagram, Louvre Museum

The Palace

The first Louvre was a fortress built at the beginning of the 13th century by Philip II Augustus to defend the Seine below Paris against the Normans and English. It consisted of a thick cylindrical donjon (dungeon) surrounded by towered walls. This château, enlarged and embellished by Charles V in the 14th century, was sacrificed in the 16th century at the end of the reign of Francis I in order to make room for a new Renaissance structure of the same size. Only the west wing and part of the south wing of the projected palace, conceived by the architect Pierre Lescot and decorated with sculptures by Jean Goujon, were finished.

In 1564 Catherine de Médicis had her architect, Philibert Delorme, build a little château in a neighboring field to the west called the Tuileries. It was then decided to create a grandiose royal residence by joining the Louvre and the Palais des Tuileries by a series of buildings. The most important is the Grande Galerie built along the Seine in the reign of Henry IV.

       
Evening view of I.M. Pei pyramid, looking toward Tuileries
Dusk view of I.M. Pei's pyramid in Louvre courtyard, with Arc du Carrousel in near background. Notice the Place de la Concorde, Arc de Triomphe de l'Etoile, and the Grande Arche de la Défense in far upper right background.
© Jonathan F. Yorck —
All Rights Reserved
 
 

In the 17th century Louis XIII and his minister Richelieu extended Lescot's west wing northward by adding the majestically domed Pavillon de l'Horloge (clock pavillion) by Jacques Lemercier and recreating Lescot's building beyond it. Under Louis XIV and his minister Colbert, the Cour Carrée, a great square court, was constructed by Louis Le Vau. The east façade of the east wing was later given a classical colonnade by Le Vau and Claude Perrault. The royal apartments were sumptuously decorated by Charles Le Brun and others, as the Galerie d'Apollon still bears witness. The Louvre was abandoned as a royal residence when Louis XIV moved the court to Versailles in 1682.

After the Revolution of 1789, Napoleon I, later kings, and Napoleon III lived in the Tuileries. The Louvre was used for offices and a museum. Along the Rue de Rivoli, Napoleon I began a wing parallel to that of Henry IV along the Seine. Napoleon III finished the wing, thus closing the great quadrilateral.

A few years later, during the uprising of the Paris Commune in 1871, the Tuileries was burned. Paradoxically, the disappearance of the Tuileries, which had originally brought about the extension of the Louvre, opened the admirable perspective that now stretches from the Arc du Carrousel west through the Tuileries Gardens and the Place de la Concorde to the Place Charles de Gaulle.

       
  Salon Carre in the Louvre Museum
Le Salon Carré, en 1865,
au Musée du Louvre

by Giuseppe Castiglione
Canvas - H 0,69 m ; L 1,03 m
(27"H x 40.5"W)
 

In the late 1980s the Louvre embarked upon an aggressive program of renovation and expansion. When the first plans by the Chinese-American architect Ieoh Ming Pei were unveiled in 1984, they included a glass pyramid in the central courtyard that would serve as the museum's main entrance. Despite drawing protests before the fact, since its opening in 1989 the pyramid has proven remarkably effective in accommodating the large numbers of visitors, and has even become a relatively beloved landmark of the city. In November 1993, to mark its 200th anniversary, the museum unveiled the Richelieu wing in the quarters that had been vacated, grudgingly, by the Ministry of Finance in 1989. This expansion, which completed the museum's occupancy of the palace complex, added 230,000 square feet (21,390 sq meters) to the existing 325,000 square feet (30,225 sq meters) of exhibition space, and allowed it to put an additional 12,000 works of art on display in 165 new rooms.

The Museum

In 1793, during the Revolution, the first state museum was opened in the Louvre, consisting of the former royal collections of painting and sculpture. It was enriched temporarily by loot from the Napoleonic wars and then permanently by purchases and gifts, including archaeological finds. More and more specialized divisions were created.

       
Grande Galerie in the Louvre Museum
Projet d'aménagement de la Grande
Galerie du Louvre, vers 1789?

by Hubert Robert, 1796
Musée du Louvre
 
 

The present Louvre departments include Oriental (ancient Mesopotamian) antiquities; Egyptian antiquities; Greek and Roman antiquities; sculpture from the Middle Ages to modern times; furniture and objets d'art; and paintings representing all the European schools. A section of the museum is devoted to Islamic art.

Universally famous ancient works of art in the Louvre include a statuette of the Sumerian ruler Gudea, a stele bearing Hammurabi's code, an Egyptian painted stone statue of a scribe sitting cross-legged, the Venus de Milo, and the Victory of Samothrace. Among outstanding later works are two marble Slaves by Michelangelo, the treasure of the abbey of St. Denis, and the French crown diamonds. Important paintings include the Pietà of Avignon, Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa, Veronese's immense Wedding at Cana (which was badly damaged in 1992 while being installed in the newly renovated galleries), and Watteau's Embarkation for Cythera.

The school of the Louvre trains curators in history of art and archaeology. Special exhibits are indicated in the Revue du Louvre.

Archaeological Discoveries

Traces of the medieval fortress from which the present day palace originates have been uncovered. Restoration work on the Cour Carrée and the excavation required for construction of the pyramid and the Carrousel area enabled archeological digs to be undertaken, and for the various phases of occupation of the palace and its quarters to be seen.

The architectural structures of the basement will henceforth be included in the visit tours. Thus, it is possible to walk along the moats of the medieval fortress under the Cour Carrée, to pass around the base of the dungeon to get to the Salle Saint-Louis (13th century), or — when going to the underground carpark — to walk along the so-called Charles V Moats.

Amongst the items discovered during these digs, one of the most remarkable is a parade helmet belonging to Charles VI, which was reconstituted from the one hundred and sixty-nine fragments which were found scattered about. It is on display in the Salle Saint-Louis (Sully Wing).

Admission

For those who plan to visit many monuments and museums during your séjour à Paris, Discover France offers the "Museums and Monuments Card" (Carte Musées et Monuments), valid for unlimited visits and priority access to approximately 70 locations in — and near — Paris. It can also be purchased at the Paris Tourist Office (127, avenue des Champs-Elysées), at its reception offices in certain Paris train stations, at the Eiffel Tower, in the major Métro stations, or at most of the 70 attractions. Cards are available in denominations valid for either one, three, or five consecutive days.

Location: Rue de Rivoli, 75001 Paris. Métro: Palais Royal - Musée du Louvre.
Phone: 01-40-20-53-17 (or 01-40-20-51-51 for recorded information).
Admission: 7.50€ adults; 5.00€ after 3pm and all day Sunday,
free the first Sunday of the month and for children 17 and under.
Hours: Mon. (certain rooms only) and Wed. 9am - 9:45 pm; Thurs.-Sun. 9am - 6 pm.
Museum is closed on Jan. 1, May 1, Nov. 11 and Dec. 25.
Call 01-40-20-57-60 for information on group tours.
Most famous works: Mona Lisa (da Vinci), Venus de Milo, Winged Victory of Samothrace.
Web site: http://www.louvre.fr


Pierre Pradel, Inspecteur-Général du Musée du Louvre.
Source: Encyclopedia Americana, © 2003 Grolier Publishing Company, Inc. — All rights reserved.
Bibliography and recommended reading: Robert W. Berger, The Palace of the Sun: The Louvre of Louis XIV (Pa. State Univ. Press 1993). Emile Biasini and Jean Lebrat, The Grand Louvre: A Museum Transfigured 1981-1993 (Nichols Pub. 1989). Annie Caubet and Marthe Bernus-Taylor, The Louvre: Near Eastern Antiquities (Scala Bks. 1991). Sir Lawrence Gowing, Paintings in the Louvre (Stewart Tabori & Chang 1987). Michel Laclotte, Treasures of the Louvre (Abbeville Press 1993). Andrew McClellan, Inventing the Louvre: Art, Politics, and the Origins of the Modern Museum in 18th-Century Paris (Cambridge 1994). Alain Pasquier, The Louvre: Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities (Scala Bks. 1991).

RETURN TO PARIS MUSEUMS


Image sources: "Evening view, courtyard of the Louvre and I.M. Pei pyramid", photographer: Benh Lieu Song (24 February 2007), from Wikimedia Commons, reproduced under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License. "Le château du Louvre au XIVe siècle", by the Limbourg brothers (Paul, Hermann and Jean), from Les Très Riches Heures du duc de Berry (calendar, month of October). "Palais des Tuileries", by Philippe Benoist (1813 - 1905), from Discover France Art Boutique (source: Art.com). "Projet d'aménagement de la Grande Galerie du Louvre, vers 1789?", by Hubert Robert, 1796, exhibited at Musée du Louvre, from L'histoire par l'image. "Dusk view of I.M. Pei's pyramid in Louvre courtyard, with Arc du Carrousel in near background", © Jonathan F. Yorck (photographer), from European Travel/Summer 1998. "Tuileries Pavillon de l'Horloge" (Clock Pavillion), photographer unknown, from Les Amis du Château de La Punta and The Siege and Commune of Paris, 1870-1871 at the Charles Deering McCormick Library of Special Collections, Northwestern University Library. "Evening view of the Cour Carrée at the Louvre Museum", photographer: Benh Lieu Song (2 April 2009), from Wikimedia Commons, reproduced under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 License. "La Prise du Palais des Tuileries, Cour du Carrousel, 10 août 1792", by Jean Duplessi-Bertaux, 1793, exhibited at Musée National du Château de Versailles, from L'histoire par l'image. "Palace of the Tuileries [1871], showing extent of damage to one of the façades, with two soldiers standing guard", from The Siege and Commune of Paris, 1870-1871 at the Charles Deering McCormick Library of Special Collections, Northwestern University Library. "Ieoh Ming Pei, Architect of the Louvre's Modernization Project", © Musée du Louvre, from The Pyramid. "Le Salon Carré, en 1865, au Musée du Louvre", by Giuseppe Castiglione (1829-1908), from The Louvre, Palace and Museum. "Winged Victory of Samothrace", c. 190 BC, exhibited at Musée du Louvre, © Rev. Francis Sullivan, S.J. (photographer), from Ancient Greek Sculpture, Digital Archive of Art, a web site created by Prof. Jeffery Howe at Boston College. "Mona Lisa", known in France as "La Joconde", by Leonardo da Vinci, exhibited at Musée du Louvre, from WebMuseum Paris, a site created by Nicholas Pioch. "Base of the dungeon, evidence of the medieval fortress under the Cour Carrée", from Royal Origins, History of the Louvre. Copyrights are attributed to their respective sources — All Rights Reserved.

 
 

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