The Louvre or the Louvre Museum (French (help·info)) is the world's largest museum and a historic monument in Paris, France. A central landmark of the city, it is located on the Right Bank of the Seine in the city's 1st arrondissement (district or ward). Nearly 35,000 objects from prehistory to the 21st century are exhibited over an area of 60,600 square metres (652,300 square feet). The Louvre is the world's second most visited museum after the Palace Museum in China.
The museum is housed in the Louvre Palace, originally built as a fortress in the late 12th century under Philip II. Remnants of the fortress are visible in the basement of the museum. Due to the urban expansion of the city, the fortress eventually lost its defensive function and, in 1546, was converted by Francis I of France into the main residence of the French Kings. 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 ancient Greek and Roman 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 collection was increased under Napoleon and the museum renamed the Musée Napoléon, but after Napoleon's abdication 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 bequests since the Third Republic. 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.
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, includes artifacts from the Nile civilizations which date from 4,000 BC to the 4th century AD. The collection, among the world's largest, overviews Egyptian life spanning Ancient Egypt, the Middle Kingdom, the New Kingdom, Coptic art, and the Roman, Ptolemaic, and Byzantine periods. 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, formed by Edmé-Antoine Durand, Henry Salt and Bernardino Drovet; 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.
Guarded by the Large Sphinx , the collection is housed in more than 20 rooms. Holdings include art, papyrus scrolls, mummies, tools, clothing, jewelry, games, musical instruments, and weapons. Pieces from the ancient period include the Gebel el-Arak Knife from 3400 BC, The Seated Scribe, and the Head of King Djedefre. Middle Kingdom art, "known for its gold work and statues", moved from realism to idealization; this is exemplified by the schist statue of Amenemhatankh and the wooden Offering Bearer. The New Kingdom and Coptic Egyptian sections are deep, but the statue of the goddess Nephthys and the limestone depiction of the goddess Hathor demonstrate New Kingdom sentiment and wealth.
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 (Iraq), 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. These finds formed the basis of the Assyrian museum, the precursor to today's department.
The museum contains exhibits from Sumer and the city of Akkad, with monuments such as the Prince of Lagash's Stele of the Vultures from 2450 BC and the stele erected by Naram-Sin, King of Akkad, to celebrate a victory over barbarians in the Zagros Mountains. The 2.25-metre (7.38 ft) Code of Hammurabi, discovered in 1901, displays Babylonian Laws prominently, so that no man could plead their ignorance. The 18th-century BC mural of the Investiture of Zimrilim and the 25th-century BC Statue of Ebih-Il found in the ancient city-state of Mari are also on display at the museum.
The Persian portion of Louvre contains work from the archaic period, like the Funerary Head and the Persian Archers of Darius I. This section also contains rare objects from Persepolis which were also lent to the British Museum for its Ancient Persia exhibition 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.
The archaic is demonstrated by jewellery and pieces such as the limestone Lady of Auxerre, from 640 BC; and the cylindrical Hera of Samos, circa 570–560 BC. After the 4th century BC, focus on the human form increased, exemplified by the Borghese Gladiator. The Louvre holds masterpieces from the Hellenistic era, including The Winged Victory of Samothrace (190 BC) and the Venus de Milo, symbolic of classical art. The long Galerie Campana displays an outstanding collection of more than one thousand Greek potteries. In the galleries paralleling the Seine, much of the museum's Roman sculpture is displayed. The Roman portraiture is representative of that genre; examples include the portraits of Agrippa and Annius Verus; among the bronzes is the Greek Apollo of Piombino.
The Islamic art collection, the museum's newest, spans "thirteen centuries and three continents". 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 14th century Mamluk period; and the 10th century Shroud of Saint-Josse from Iran. The collection contains three pages of the Shahnameh, an epic book of poems by Ferdowsi in Persian, and a Syrian metalwork named the Barberini Vase.
The sculpture department comprises work created before 1850 that does not belong in the Etruscan, Greek, and Roman department. 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. The collection was part of the Department of Antiquities but was given autonomy in 1871 under Louis Courajod, a director who organized a wider representation of French works. In 1986, all post-1850 works were relocated to the new Musée d'Orsay. The Grand Louvre project separated the department into two exhibition spaces; the French collection is displayed in the Richelieu wing, and foreign works in the Denon wing.
The collection's overview of French sculpture contains Romanesque works such as the 11th-century Daniel in the Lions' Den and the 12th-century Virgin of Auvergne. In the 16th century, Renaissance influence caused French sculpture to become more restrained, as seen in Jean Goujon's bas-reliefs, and Germain Pilon's Descent from the Cross and Resurrection of Christ. The 17th and 18th centuries are represented by Gian Lorenzo Bernini's 1640–1 Bust of Cardinal Richelieu, Étienne Maurice Falconet's Woman Bathing and Amour menaçant, and François Anguier's obelisks. Neoclassical works includes Antonio Canova's Psyche Revived by Cupid's Kiss (1787). The 18th and 19th centuries are represented by the French sculptor Alfred Barye.
The Objets d'art collection spans the time from the Middle Ages to the mid-19th century. The department began as a subset of the sculpture department, based on royal property and the transfer of work from the Basilique Saint-Denis, the burial ground of French monarchs that held the Coronation Sword of the Kings of France. 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.
The works are displayed on the Richelieu Wing's first floor and in the Apollo Gallery, named by the painter Charles Le Brun, who was commissioned by Louis XIV (the Sun King) to decorate the space in a solar theme. The medieval collection contains the coronation crown of Louis XIV, Charles V's sceptre, and the 12th century porphyry vase. The Renaissance art holdings include Giambologna's bronze Nessus and Deianira and the tapestry Maximillian's Hunt. From later periods, highlights include Madame de Pompadour's Sèvres vase collection and Napoleon III's apartments.
In September 2000, the Louvre Museum dedicated the Gilbert Chagoury and Rose-Marie Chagoury Gallery to display tapestries donated by the Chagourys, including a 16th-century six-part tapestry suite, sewn with gold and silver threads representing sea divinities, which was commissioned in Paris for Colbert de Seignelay, Secretary of State for the Navy.
The painting collection has more than 7,500 works from the 13th century to 1848 and is managed by 12 curators who oversee the collection's display. Nearly two-thirds are by French artists, and more than 1,200 are Northern European. The Italian paintings compose most of the remnants of Francis I and Louis XIV's collections, others are unreturned artwork from the Napoleon era, and some were bought. 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.
Exemplifying the French School are the early Avignon Pietà of Enguerrand Quarton; the anonymous painting of King Jean le Bon (c.1360), possibly the oldest independent portrait in Western painting to survive from the postclassical era;Hyacinthe Rigaud's Louis XIV; Jacques-Louis David's The Coronation of Napoleon; and Eugène Delacroix's Liberty Leading the People. Northern European works include Johannes Vermeer's The Lacemaker and The Astronomer; Caspar David Friedrich's The Tree of Crows; Rembrandt's The Supper at Emmaus, Bathsheba at Her Bath, and The Slaughtered Ox.
The Italian holdings are notable, particularly the Renaissance collection. The works include Andrea Mantegna and Giovanni Bellini's Calvarys, which reflect realism and detail "meant to depict the significant events of a greater spiritual world". The High Renaissance collection includes Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa, Virgin and Child with St. Anne, St. John the Baptist, and Madonna of the Rocks. Caravaggio is represented by The Fortune Teller and Death of the Virgin. From 16th century Venice, the Louvre displays Titian's Le Concert Champetre, The Entombment and The Crowning with Thorns.
The La Caze Collection, a bequest to the Musée du Louvre in 1869 by Louis La Caze, was the largest contribution of a person in the history of the Louvre. La Caze gave 584 paintings of his personal collection to the museum. The bequest included Antoine Watteau's Commedia dell'arte player of Pierrot ("Gilles"). In 2007, this bequest was the topic of the exhibition "1869: Watteau, Chardin... entrent au Louvre. La collection La Caze".
Some of the best known paintings of the museum have been digitized by the French Center for Research and Restoration of the Museums of France.
Prints and drawings
The prints and drawings department encompasses works on paper. 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.
Louvre Museum | eTips Inc.