From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
"Leaving the Salon Carré, we enter the Great Gallery, until lately 1320 ft. long, and about 42 ft. wide. This and the other rooms in the Louvre contain about 560 pictures of the Italian schools, 20 Spanish, 620 German and Flemish, and 660 French ; total about 1860. The paintings in the Great Gallery are arranged in schools : 1. Italian and Spanish ; 2. German and Flemish. The French have been removed to the new buildings. In each school the arrangement is generally chronological, and the most remarkable pictures will be found in the order in which they are here noticed."--Handbook for Visitors to Paris (1879) John Murray
"The world—and even the world of artists—is full of people who can go to the Louvre, walk rapidly, without so much as a glance, past rows of very interesting, though secondary, pictures, to come to a rapturous halt in front of a Titian or Raphael—one of those that would have been most popularized by the engraver’s art; then they will go home happy, not a few saying to themselves, 'I know my Museum.'" --The Painter of Modern Life (1863) by Charles Baudelaire, tr. Mayne
The Louvre Museum in Paris, France, is the most visited and one of the oldest, largest, and most famous art galleries and museums in the world. The building was previously a royal palace, and is famous for holding several of the world's most prestigious works of art, such as the Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo.
With a record 8.3 million visitors received in 2006, the Louvre is widely seen as the most visited culture and art museum in the world. It is also the most visited monument in Paris.
Medieval, Renaissance, and Bourbon palace
The Louvre Palace (Palais du Louvre) which houses the museum was begun as a fortress by Philip II in the 12th century, with remnants of this building still visible in the crypt. It is not known if this was the first building on that spot, but it is possible that Philip modified an existing tower. The etymology of the name Louvre is also uncertain: it may refer to the structure's status as the largest in late 12th century Paris (from the French L'Œuvre, masterpiece), its location in a forest (from the French rouvre, oak), or, according to Larousse, a wolf-hunting den (via Latin: lupus, lower Empire: lupara).
The Louvre Palace was altered frequently throughout the Middle Ages. In the 14th century, Charles V converted the building into a residence and in 1546, Francis I renovated the site in French Renaissance style. Francis acquired what would become the nucleus of the Louvre's holdings, his acquisitions including Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa. After Louis XIV chose Versailles as his residence in 1682, constructions slowed; however, the move permitted the Louvre to be used as a residence for artists.
By the mid-18th century there were an increasing number of proposals to create a public gallery with Lafont Saint-Yenne publishing, in 1747, a call for the royal collection's display. In 1750, Louis XV agreed and sanctioned the display of some of the royal collection in the Louvre. A hall was opened for public viewing on Wednesdays and Saturdays and contained Andrea del Sarto's Charity and works by Raphael. Under Louis XVI, the royal museum idea became policy. The comte d'Angiviller broadened the collection and in 1776 proposed conversion of the Grande Galerie—which contained maps—into the "French Museum". Many proposals were offered for the Louvre's renovation into a museum, however none was agreed on. Hence the museum remained incomplete until the French Revolution.
During the French Revolution the Louvre was transformed into a public museum. In May 1791, the Assembly declared that the Louvre would be "a place for bringing together monuments of all the sciences and arts". On 10 August 1792, Louis XVI was imprisoned and the royal collection in the Louvre became national property. Because of fear of vandalism or theft, on 19 August, the National Assembly pronounced the museum's preparation as urgent. In October, a committee to "preserve the national memory" began assembling the collection for display.
The museum opened tentatively on 10 August 1793, the first anniversary of the monarchy's demise. That same year on November 8, the public was given free access on three days per week, to wide acclaim. The collection showcased 537 paintings and 184 objects of art. Three quarters were derived from the royal collections, the remainder from confiscated émigrés and Church property (biens nationaux). To expand and organize the collection, the Republic dedicated 100,000 livres per year. In 1794, France's revolutionary armies began bringing pieces from across Europe, such as Laocoön and His Sons and the Apollo Belvedere, to establish the Louvre as a museum and as an icon of popular sovereignty.
The early days were hectic; artists lived in residence, and the unlabelled paintings hung disorganized and close to one another. The building itself closed in May 1796 because of structural deficiencies. It reopened on 14 July 1801, arranged chronologically and with new lighting and columns.
Under Napoleon I, a northern wing paralleling the Grande Galerie was begun, and the collection grew through successful military campaigns. Following the Egyptian campaign of 1798–1801, Napoléon appointed the museum's first director, Dominique Vivant Denon. In tribute, the museum was renamed the "Musée Napoléon" in 1803, and Spanish, Austrian, Dutch, and Italian works were acquired as spoils. After the French defeat at Waterloo, the former owners sought their return. The Louvre's administrators were loath to comply and hid many works in their private collections. In response, foreign states sent emissaries to London to seek help, and many pieces were returned, even some that had been restored by the Louvre.
Restoration and Second Empire
During the Restoration (1814–30), Louis XVIII and Charles X between them added 135 pieces at a cost of 720,000 francs. This was less than the amount given for rehabilitation of Versailles, and the Louvre suffered relative to the rest of Paris. After the creation of the French Second Republic in 1848, the new government allocated two million francs for repair work and ordered the completion of the Galerie d'Apollon, the Salon Carré, and the Grande Galerie. On 2 December 1851, President Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte staged a coup d'état, ushering in the Second French Empire. Between 1852 and 1870, the French economy grew; the museum added 20,000 new pieces to its collections, and the Pavillon de Flore and the Grande Galerie were remodelled under architects Louis Visconti and Hector Lefuel.
Third Republic and World Wars
During the French Third Republic the Louvre acquired new pieces mainly via donations and gifts. The Société des Amis du Louvre donated the Pietà of Villeneuve-lès-Avignon, and in 1863 an expedition uncovered the sculpture Winged Victory of Samothrace in the Aegean Sea. This piece, though heavily damaged, has been prominently displayed since 1884. More than 7,000 works arrived after the acquisition of the Campana, Durand, Salt, and Drovetti collections. The 389 item Collection Lacaze, included Rembrandts, such as Bathsheba at Her Bath.
Museum expansion slowed after World War I, and the collection did not acquire many significant new works; exceptions were Georges de La Tour's Saint Thomas and Baron Edmond de Rothschild's (1845–1934) 1935 donation of 4,000 engravings, 3,000 drawings, and 500 illustrated books. During World War II the museum removed most of the art and hid valuable pieces. On 27 August 1939, after two days of packing, truck convoys began to leave Paris. By 28 December, the museum was cleared of most works. In early 1945, after the liberation of France, art began returning to the Louvre.
The Musée du Louvre contains more than 380,000 objects and displays 35,000 works of art in eight curatorial departments with more than Template:Convert dedicated to the permanent collection. The Louvre exhibits sculptures, objets d'art, paintings, drawings, and archaeological finds. It is the world's most visited museum, averaging 15,000 visitors per day, 65 percent of whom are tourists. In popular culture, the Louvre was a point of interest in the book The Da Vinci Code and the 2006 film based on the book. The museum earned $2.5 million by allowing filming in its galleries.
- American Friends of the Louvre
- Centre de recherche et de restauration des musées de France
- List of museums in Paris
- List of works in the Louvre
- Musée de la Mode et du Textile
- Paris syndrome