Louvre in Paris
The Musée du Louvre – in English, the Louvre Museum or simply the Louvre – is one of the world's largest museums, the most visited art museum in the world and a historic monument. A central landmark of Paris, it is located on the Right Bank of the Seine in the 1st arrondissement (district). Nearly 35,000 objects from prehistory to the 19th century are exhibited over an area of 60,600 square metres (652,300 square feet).
The museum is housed in the Louvre Palace (Palais du Louvre) which began as a fortress built in the late 12th century under Philip II. Remnants of the fortress are visible in the basement of the museum. The building was extended many times to form the present Louvre Palace. In 1682, Louis XIV chose the Palace of Versailles for his household, leaving the Louvre primarily as a place to display the royal collection, including, from 1692, a collection of antique sculpture. In 1692, the building was occupied by the Académie des Inscriptions et Belles Lettres and the Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture, which in 1699 held the first of a series of salons. The Académie remained at the Louvre for 100 years. During the French Revolution, the National Assembly decreed that the Louvre should be used as a museum, to display the nation's masterpieces.
The museum opened on 10 August 1793 with an exhibition of 537 paintings, the majority of the works being royal and confiscated church property. Because of structural problems with the building, the museum was closed in 1796 until 1801. The size of the collection increased under Napoleon and the museum was renamed the Musée Napoléon. After the defeat of Napoléon at Waterloo, many works seized by his armies were returned to their original owners. The collection was further increased during the reigns of Louis XVIII and Charles X, and during the Second French Empire the museum gained 20,000 pieces. Holdings have grown steadily through donations and gifts since the Third Republic. As of 2008, the collection is divided among eight curatorial departments: Egyptian Antiquities; Near Eastern Antiquities; Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities; Islamic Art; Sculpture; Decorative Arts; Paintings; Prints and Drawings.
Medieval, Renaissance, and Bourbon palace
The museum opened on 10 August 1793, the first anniversary of the monarchy's demise. The public was given free access on three days per week, which was "perceived as a major accomplishment and was generally appreciated". 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 a "sign of popular sovereignty". 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. In 1815 Louis XVIII finally concluded agreements with Italy for the keeping of pieces like Veronese's Marriage of Cana which was exchanged for a large Le Brun or the repurchase of the Albani collection.
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 and created the department of Egyptian antiquities curated by Champollion, increased by more than 7,000 works with the acquisition of the Durand, Salt or second Drovetti collections. 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 Galérie.
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.
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. In early 1945, after the liberation of France, art began returning to the Louvre.
Grand Louvre and the Pyramids
By 1874, the Louvre Palace had achieved its present form of an almost rectangular structure with the Sully Wing to the east containing the square Cour Carrée and the oldest parts of the Louvre; and two wings which wrap the Cour Napoléon, the Richelieu Wing to the north and the Denon Wing, which borders the Seine to the south. In 1983, French President François Mitterrand proposed, as one of the Grands Projets of François Mitterrand the Grand Louvre plan to renovate the building and relocate the Finance Ministry, allowing displays throughout the building. Architect I. M. Pei was awarded the project and proposed a glass pyramid to stand over a new entrance in the main court, the Cour Napoléon. The pyramid and its underground lobby were inaugurated on 15 October 1988. The second phase of the Grand Louvre plan, La Pyramide Inversée (The Inverted Pyramid), was completed in 1993. As of 2002, attendance had doubled since completion.
The Musée du Louvre contains more than 380,000 objects and displays 35,000 works of art in eight curatorial departments with more than 60600 m2 dedicated to the permanent collection. The Louvre exhibits sculptures, objets d'art, paintings, drawings, and archaeological finds. By 2006, government funds had dipped from 75 percent of the total budget to 62 percent. In 2008, the French government provided $180 million of the Louvre's yearly $350 million budget; the remainder came from private contributions and ticket sales.
The Louvre employs a staff of 2,000 led by Director Henri Loyrette, who reports to the French Ministry of Culture and Communications. Under Loyrette, who replaced Pierre Rosenberg in 2001, the Louvre has undergone policy changes that allow it to lend and borrow more works than before.
In March 2007, the Louvre announced that a Louvre museum would be completed by 2012 in Abu Dhabi. A 30-year agreement, signed by French Culture Minister Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres and Sheik Sultan bin Tahnoon Al Nahyan, will establish the museum in downtown Abu Dhabi in exchange for €832,000,000 (US$1.3 billion). The Louvre Abu Dhabi, designed by the French architect Jean Nouvel and the engineering firm of Buro Happold, will occupy 24000 m2 and will be covered by a roof shaped like a flying saucer. France agreed to rotate between 200 and 300 artworks during a 10-year period; to provide management expertise; and to provide four temporary exhibitions a year for 15 years. The art will come from multiple museums, including the Louvre, the Georges Pompidou Centre, the Musée d'Orsay, Versailles, the Musée Guimet, the Musée Rodin, and the Musée du quai Branly.
The Louvre is involved in controversies that surround cultural property seized during World War II by the Nazis and under Napoleon I. After Nazi occupation, 61,233 articles on more than 150,000 seized artworks returned to France and were assigned to the Office des Biens Privés. In 1949 it entrusted 2130 remaining unclaimed pieces (including 1001 paintings) to the Direction des Musées de France in order to keep them under appropriate conditions of conservation until their restitution, and meanwhile classified them as MNRs (Musees Nationaux Recuperation or, in English : National Museums of Recovered Artwork). Some 10 % to 35 % of the pieces are believed to come from Jewish spoliations and until the identification of their rightful owners, which declined at the end of the 1960s, they are registered indefinitely on separate inventories from the museums collections.
They were exhibited in 1946 and shown all together to the public during four years (1950–1954) in order to allow rightful claimants to identify their properties, then stored or exposed, according to their interest, in several French museums including the Louvre. From 1951 to 1965, about 37 pieces were restituted. Since November 1996, the partly illustrated catalogue of 1947–1949 has been accessible online and completed. In 1997, Prime Minister Alain Juppé initiated the Mattéoli Commission, headed by Jean Mattéoli, to investigate the matter and according to the government, the Louvre is in charge of 678 pieces of still unclaimed artworks by their rightful owners. During the late 1990s the comparison of the American war archives, which had not been done before, with the French and German ones as well as two court cases which finally settled some of the heirs' rights (Gentili di Giuseppe and Rosenberg families) allowed more accurate investigations. Since 1996, the restitutions, according sometimes to less formal criteria, concerned 47 more pieces (26 paintings, with 6 from the Louvre including a then displayed Tiepolo), until the last claims of French owners and their heirs ended again in 2006.
According to Serge Klarsfeld, since the now complete and constant publicity which the artworks got in 1996, the majority of the French Jewish community is nevertheless in favour of the return to the normal French civil rule of prescription acquisitive of any unclaimed good after another long period of time and consequently to their ultimate integration into the common French heritage instead of their transfer to foreign institutions like during World War II.
Napoleon's campaigns acquired Italian pieces by treaties, as war reparations, and Northern European pieces as spoils as well as some antiquities excavated in Egypt, though the vast majority of the latter were seized as war reparations by the British army and are now part of collections of the British Museum. On the other hand, the Dendera zodiac is, like the Rosetta stone, claimed by Egypt even though it was acquired in 1821, before the Egyptian Anti-export legislation of 1835. The Louvre administration has thus argued in favor of retaining this item despite requests by Egypt for its return. The museum participates too in arbitration sessions held via UNESCO's Committee for Promoting the Return of Cultural Property to Its Countries of Origin. The museum consequently returned in 2009 five Egyptian fragments of frescoes (30 cm x 15 cm each) whose existence of the tomb of origin had only been brought to the authorities attention in 2008, eight to five years after their good-faith acquisition by the museum from two private collections and after the necessary respect of the procedure of déclassement from French public collections before the Commission scientifique nationale des collections des musées de France.
The Musée du Louvre contains more than 380,000 objects and displays 35,000 works of art in eight curatorial departments.
The department, comprising over 50,000 pieces, The department's origins lie in the royal collection, but it was augmented by Napoleon's 1798 expeditionary trip with Dominique Vivant, the future director of the Louvre. After Jean-François Champollion translated the Rosetta Stone, Charles X decreed that an Egyptian Antiquities department be created. Champollion advised the purchase of three collections, the Durand, Salt and Drovetti; these additions added 7,000 works. Growth continued via acquisitions by Auguste Mariette, founder of the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. Mariette, after excavations at Memphis, sent back crates of archaeological finds including The Seated Scribe.
Near Eastern antiquities
Near Eastern antiquities, the second newest department, dates from 1881 and presents an overview of early Near Eastern civilization and "first settlements", before the arrival of Islam. The department is divided into three geographic areas: the Levant, Mesopotamia, and Persia (Iran) . The collection's development corresponds to archaeological work such as Paul-Émile Botta's 1843 expedition to Khorsabad and the discovery of Sargon II's palace. This section is also contains rare objects from Persepolis which were also lent to British Museum for its Ancient Persia exihibition in 2005.
Greek, Etruscan, and Roman
The Greek, Etruscan, and Roman department displays pieces from the Mediterranean Basin dating from the Neolithic to the 6th century. The collection spans from the Cycladic period to the decline of the Roman Empire. This department is one of the museum's oldest; it began with appropriated royal art, some of which was acquired under Francis I. Initially, the collection focused on marble sculptures, such as the Venus de Milo. Works such as the Apollo Belvedere arrived during the Napoleonic Wars, but these pieces were returned after Napoleon I's fall in 1815. In the 19th century, the Louvre acquired works including vases from the Durand collection, bronzes such as the Borghese Vase from the Bibliothèque nationale. These exhibits, comprising ceramics, glass, metalware, wood, ivory, carpet, textiles, and miniatures, include more than 5,000 works and 1,000 shards. Originally part of the decorative arts department, the holdings became separate in 2003. Among the works are the Pyxide d'al-Mughira, a 10th century ivory box from Andalusia; the Baptistery of Saint-Louis, an engraved brass basin from the 13th or 14 century Mamluk period; and the 10th century Shroud of Josse from Iran. The Louvre has been a repository of sculpted material since its time as a palace; however, only ancient architecture was displayed until 1824, except for Michelangelo's Dying Slave and Rebellious Slave. Initially the collection included only 100 pieces, the rest of the royal sculpture collection being at Versailles. It remained small until 1847, when Léon Laborde was given control of the department. Laborde developed the medieval section and purchased the first such statues and sculptures in the collection, King Childebert and stanga door, respectively. Among the budding collection's most prized works were pietre dure vases and bronzes. The Durand collection's 1825 acquisition added "ceramics, enamels, and stained glass", and 800 pieces were given by Pierre Révoil. The onset of Romanticism rekindled interest in Renaissance and Medieval artwork, and the Sauvageot donation expanded the department with 1,500 middle-age and faïence works. In 1862, the Campana collection added gold jewelry and maiolicas, mainly from the 15th and 16th centuries. From later periods, highlights include Madame de Pompadour's Sèvres vase collection and Napoleon III's apartments. The collection began with Francis, who acquired works from Italian masters such as Raphael and Michelangelo, and brought Leonardo da Vinci to his court. After the French Revolution, the Royal Collection formed the nucleus of the Louvre. When the d'Orsay train station was converted into the Musée d'Orsay in 1986, the collection was split, and pieces completed after the 1848 Revolution were moved to the new museum. French and Northern European works are in the Richelieu wing and Cour Carrée; Spanish and Italian paintings are on the first floor of the Denon wing. The origins of the collection were the 8,600 works in the Royal Collection (Cabinet du Roi), which were increased via state appropriation, purchases such as the 1,200 works from Fillipo Baldinucci's collection in 1806, and donations. The department opened on 5 August 1797, with 415 pieces displayed in the Galerie d'Apollon. The collection is organized into three sections: the core Cabinet du Roi, 14,000 royal copper printing-plates, and the donations of Edmond de Rothschild, which include 40,000 prints, 3,000 drawings, and 5,000 illustrated books. The holdings are displayed in the Pavillon de Flore; due to the fragility of the paper medium, only a portion are displayed at one time. Parallel to the Jeu de Paume is the Orangerie, home to the famous Waterlilly paintings by Monet.
The Louvre is slightly askew of the axe historique (Historic Axis), a roughly eight-kilometre (five-mile) architectural line bisecting the city. It begins on the east in the Louvre courtyard and runs west along the Champs-Élysées. In 1871, the burning of the Tuileries Palace by the Paris Commune revealed that the Louvre was slightly askew of the Axe despite past appearances to the contrary. The Louvre can be reached by the Palais Royal – Musée du Louvre Métro or the Louvre-Rivoli stations.
There are three entrances: the main entrance at the pyramid, an entrance from the Carrousel du Louvre underground shopping mall, and an entrance at the Porte des Lions (near the western end of the Denon wing).
Under the main entrance to the museum is the Carrousel du Louvre, a shopping mall operated by Unibail-Rodamco. Among other stores, it has the first Apple Store in France, and a McDonald's restaurant, the presence of which has created controversy.
The use of cameras and video recorders is permitted inside. Use of flashes is forbidden.
- American Friends of the Louvre
- Centre de recherche et de restauration des musées de France
- List of museums in Paris
- Musée de la Mode et du Textile
- Official site of the Louvre Museum (in English)
- Another site about the Louvre
- Virtual reality gallery with fullscreen panoramas of the Louvre
- "A Closer Look" series – multimedia features focusing on masterpieces from the Louvre (Louvre official web site)