[loo'vr'] one of
the largest art museums and palaces in the world
Located in Paris, France, The
Louvre covers more than 40 acres on the north
bank of the River Seine. The museum has about
275,000 works of art, including about 5,000
Important Events in
the History of the Louvre
Philippe Auguste built the first Louvre
as a Gothic fort about 1200. It was a sizable
arsenal comprising a moated quadrilateral with
round bastions at each corner, and at the center
of the north and west walls. Defensive towers
flanked narrow gates in the south and east walls.
At the center of the complex stood the massive
keep, the Grosse Tour. Two inner buildings
abutted the outer walls on the west and south
In the mid-14th century, Paris
spread far beyond Philippe Auguste's original
wall. With the onset of the Hundred Years' War,
further defenses were needed, so Etienne Marcel,
provost of the merchants of Paris, instigated the
construction of an earth rampart, which was
continued and developed under Charles V. The new
defenses encompassed the neighborhoods on the
right bank of the Seine. Enclosed within the
expanding city, the Louvre lost its defensive
In 1364, Raymond du Temple,
architect to Charles V, began transforming the
old fortress into a splendid royal residence.
Apartments around the central court featured
large, elaborately carved windows. A majestic
spiral staircase served the upper floors of the
new buildings, and a pleasure garden was created
at the north end. The sumptuous interiors were
decorated with sculptures, tapestries, and
After the death of Charles VI,
the Louvre remained unoccupied for a century
until 1527, when François I decided to take up
residence in Paris. Francois I, who had been a
prisoner of war in Italy, decided to build a
palace more splendid than the great palaces of
Italy. In 1546, Pierre Lescot designed a building
in the classical Renaissance manner. The Grosse
Tour was demolished, affording more light and
space. Jean Goujon, a Frenchman, did the
sculpture. From then on, every French king of
importance added buildings to the Louvre.
By the second half of the 16th
century the Louvre was a mixture of new
buildings, work in progress, and half-ruined
structures over 200 years old. Dissatisfied with
its lack of comfort, and with the noise and smell
of the city, Henri II's widow Catherine de
Médici ordered the building of a new residence a
short distance to the west. Plans for the
Tuileries palace were drawn up by Philibert
Delorme in 1564, but work was discontinued a few
In 1566, Charles IX began
building the ground floor of the Petite Grande, a
small wing intended to serve as a starting point
for a long corridor connecting the Louvre to the
Henri IV built the Grand
Galerie between 1595 and 1610. The long passage
provided a direct link from the royal apartments
in the Louvre to the Tuileries palace, ending
with the Pavillon de Flore. To avoid excessive
monotony along its length, two architects were
hired -- Louis Métezeau for the east end and
Jacques II Androuet du Cerceau for the west.
During the same period, the Galerie des Rois
(King's Gallery) was built on top of the Petite
In 1625, after over ten years
of inactivity, Louis XIII decided to resume
construction work and carry out the Grand Dessein
(Grand Design) envisaged by Henri IV. Louis XIII
ordered the demolition of part of the north wing
of the medieval Louvre and its replacement by a
continuation of the Lescot wing, with identical
decoration and detail.
Between 1655 and 1658, Anne of
Austria, the queen mother and regent during Louis
XIV's childhood, created a suite of private
apartments on the ground floor of the Petite
Galerie. The six interconnecting rooms comprised
a large salon, anteroom and vestibule, a private
sitting room, a bedchamber, and a petit cabinet
overlooking the Seine. The decoration was carried
out by the Italian Romanelli (frescoes and
ceiling) and Anguier (stucco).
In 1660, Louis Le Vau was
appointed to oversee the completion of the
Louvre. This entailed a new façade for the
Petite Galerie, the completion of the north wing
of the Cour Carrée, and, between 1661 and 1663,
the extension of the south wing. On February 6,
1661, fire ravaged the upper story of the Petite
Galerie. While Le Vau oversaw the reconstruction
work, Louis XIV commissioned Charles Le Brun to
execute decorative paintings evoking the passage
of the sun represented by the Roman sun god
Apollo. The decoration was left unfinished, but
includes three ceiling panels by Le Brun and a
number of large-scale stucco sculptures.
In 1665, a committee that included the
physician Claude Perrault designed the Colonnade,
a monumental façade with a peristyle of double
columns occupying the upper story. Perrault
continued working on his design until 1680, but
building was stopped in 1672, when Louis XIV
moved to Versailles.
In 1692, Louis XIV ordered the creation
of a gallery of antique sculpture in the Salle
des Caryatides. In the same year, the Académie
Française, the Académie des Inscriptions et
Belles Lettres and the Académie Royale de
Peinture et Sculpture all moved into the vacant
palace. In 1699, the latter held the first of a
long series of salons, drawing large crowds.
As work progressed at
Versailles, Jean-Baptiste Colbert, controller
general of finances, ordered a halt to work at
the Louvre. The buildings of the Cour Carrée
were left unroofed and exposed to the elements,
and remained so for nearly a century.
In 1756, Louis XV ordered the
resumption of construction work at the Louvre.
The wings begun under Louis XIV were partially
completed, and the north, east and south sides of
the Cour Carrée were finally roofed. At the same
time, buildings at the foot of the Colonnade were
demolished, as were a complex of ancillary
buildings in the Cour Carrée.
In 1791, the National Assembly
decreed that the Louvre and the Tuileries
together "will be a national palace to house
the king and for gathering together all the
monuments of the sciences and the arts."
The Museum Central des Arts
opened its doors on August 10, 1793. Under the
authority of the Minister of the Interior, its
first governors were the painters Hubert Robert,
Fragonard and Vincent, the sculptor Pajou, and
the architect de Wailly. Admission was free, with
artists given priority over the general public,
who were admitted on weekends only. The works,
mostly paintings from the collections of the
French royal family and aristocrats who had fled
abroad, were displayed in the Salon Carrée and
the Grande Galerie.
On November 9, 1800, Napoleon Bonaparte inaugurated the Musée des Antiques in
the former apartments of Anne of Austria on the
ground floor of the Petite Galerie. Here,
visitors could admire pieces from the Vatican,
the Capitoline museum, and Florence, as well as
the collections of the French royal family.
Through the treaties of
Tolentino and Campo Formio, France acquired
numerous works of art from the Vatican and the
Venetian republic. These were enriched by spoils
from Napoleon I's conquests. In 1803, the museum
was renamed the Musée Napoléon. Enlargement and
embellishment of the palace was entrusted to the
architect Fontaine. A new monumental staircase
served the Salon Carrée and the Grande Galerie.
The façades facing the Cour Carré were
homogenized, and staircases were raised at each
end of the Colonnade, whose central pavilion
received a bronze door and a tympanum. A new
north wing progressed from the Tuileries toward
the Louvre along the rue de Rivoli. The Arc de Trimophe du Carrousel, a
small triumphal arch decorated with reliefs and
statues celebrating French military victories,
was inaugurated in 1808. After the fall of the
empire in 1815, each nation reclaimed its
treasures and the museum was disbanded.
In 1824, the Musée de
Sculpture Moderne was created in the Galerie
d'Angouléme on the ground floor of the Cour
Carrée's west wing. Five rooms decorated by
Fontaine displayed sculptures from the Musée des
Monuments Français, as well as from Versailles.
Jean-François Champollion discovered
the principles of hieroglyphic writing and
published articles on the Rosetta Stone and the
translation of hieroglyphics into Greek. On May
15, 1826, he became the first curator of the
Louvre's new Department of Egyptian Antiquities.
In 1827, the Musée Charles X
was inaugurated on the first floor of the Cour
Carrée's south wing. Its collections included
Egyptian antiquities, ancient bronzes, Etruscan
vases, and Medieval and Renaissance decorative
arts. In the same year, the Musée de la Marine
was installed on the first floor and, later, the
second floor of the Cour Carrée's north wing.
Spanish art was revealed to the
French public with the opening of
Louis-Phillipé's Spanish gallery. The collection
of over 400 paintings was exhibited in the Louvre
from 1838 to 1848.
On May 1, 1847, Europe's first
museum of Assyrian art was inaugurated in two
galleries in the north wing of the Cour Carrée.
It was the result of shipments of material made
by Paul-Emile Botta, who served as French consul
Three new important new galleries
featuring major decorative schemes were completed
under the Prince-President Louis-Napoléon. In
1848, Félix Duban was commissioned to restore
the Galerie d'Apollon. The decoration was
completed in 1851 with the installation of the
central ceiling panel by Delacroix. Duban also
restored the Salle des Sept-Cheminés (Hall of
Seven Chimneys), with its impressively decorated
ceiling, and the Salon Carrée.
The fascination with exotic
worlds, and especially with the scientific study
of traditional crafts and folk art, led in 1850
to the creation of the Musée Mexicain on the
ground floor of the Cour Carrée, together with
the Algerian and ethnographic museums on the
second floor of the Pavillon de Beauvais, in the
north wing of the Cour Carrée.
On February 15, 1852,
Louis-Napoleon opened the Musée des Souverains
on the first floor of the Colonnade. The museum
displayed treasures from France's royal
dynasties, from Childeric I to Napoleon.
The Louvre's collections were
considerably enriched during the Second Empire,
thanks in large part to the acquisition of the
collections of the Marquis Campana in 1861, which
consisted of 11,385 paintings, objets d'art,
sculptures, and antiquities. The collection
became the Musée Napoléon III in 1863. A number
of those items still form a major part of the
Louvre's collections of Greek pottery and
Etruscan antiquities displayed in the Galerie
During the Franco-Prussian War
in 1870, the French used the Grand Gallery as a
In May 1871, during the last
days of the Paris Commune, the Communards set
fire to several Paris buildings, including the
Tuileries palace. The fire gutted the palace
buildings and threatened the Louvre. The ruins of
the Tuileries were demolished in 1883.
Restoration of the Flore and
Marsan pavilions began in 1874. The width of the
north wing along the rue de Rivoli was doubled.
Excavations led by the French
archaeologist Marcel Dieulafoy at Susa, in Iran,
yielded a number of important discoveries, which
were put on display in new rooms at the Louvre in
1888. This new collection represented a major
addition to the recently created Department of
Near Eastern Antiquities.
The museum's holdings in
Islamic art were considerably enriched in 1912 by
the bequest of Baroness Delort de Glécon. In
1922, a gallery devoted to the Islamic East was
opened in the dome of the Pavillon de l'Horloge.
In 1926, France's Director of
National Museums, Henri Verne, launched an
ambitious plan to extend the exhibition space at
the Louvre. Work began in 1930 and continued
during and after World War II.
The Cour du Sphinx was given a glazed roof for
the display of antique sculpture, while new rooms
of European sculpture in Flore wing, and of
objets d'art and paintings in the Cour Carrée
were opened. The galleries of Egyptian and Near
Eastern galleries were completely refurbished.
At the outbreak of war in
September 1939 the museum's collections were
evacuated, with the exception of the heaviest
pieces, which were protected with sandbags. For
safety reasons, many works were moved several
times during the war. Although mostly empty but
for plaster casts, the Louvre reopened under the
Occupation, in September 1940.
In 1961, the Pavillon de Flore
was vacated by the French Finance Ministry.
On September 26, 1981, President
Françoise Mitterand announced a plan to restore
the Louvre palace in its entirety to its function
as a museum. The Finance Ministry, which still
occupied the Richelieu wing, was transferred to
new premises, and the Grand Louvre project, which
would entail a complete reorganization of the
museum, was launched.
On November 2, 1983, the
Etablissement Public du Grand Louvre was given
overall control of the project. The extension and
modernization of the Louvre were entrusted to the
Chinese-American architect I.M. Pei.
The glass Pyramid built by I.M.
Pei was inaugurated on March 30, 1989.
On January 1, 1993, the Louvre
became an Etablissement Public linked to the
Ministry of Culture. The same year, the renovated
Richelieu wing was opened, representing the
biggest single expansion in the museum's history.
Glazed roofs over three inner courtyards created
new spaces for the display of monumental
sculpture, the departments of paintings and
decorative arts expanded their exhibition space,
and rooms were set aside for the collection of
Islamic art. The Galeries du Carrousel opened
The Louvre's official website
World War II
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