The Louvre. Museum in Paris, France

The Louvre

Museum in Paris, France

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The Louvre

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Mona Lisa
	- The Louvre
Mona Lisa - The Louvre. Photo by Jay Kleeman
The Louvre used to be a palace in Paris, France, but is now one of the world’s most famous museums. It is also one of the largest museums in the world and a historic monument. It is one of the major landmarks in Paris and is located on the right bank of the River Seine (Wikipedia Article) in the heart of the city.

The museum (Musée du Louvre) has a collection of more than a million works of art, 35,000 of which are on display in three wings of the former palace. Some of the most famous artworks in the Louvre are the Venus of Milo, the Dying Slave by Michelangelo, the Nike of Samothrace, and the Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci. The Louvre is the most visited museum in the world and receives almost ten million visitors per year.

History

The building that now houses the museum used to be the Louvre Palace. It was a fortress built in the late 12th century by the order of Philip II. Some remains of that fortress are still visible in the basement of the current building. The original building went through several reconstructions and expansions until it got its present-day form.

Louis XIV moved his household to the Palace of Versailles in 1682 and left the Louvre as a place to display his royal collection. In 1692, this collection already included several ancient Roman and Greek sculptures. From 1692, the Louvre was occupied by two major art institutions: the Académie des Inscriptions at Belles-Lettres, and the Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture, respectively literature, paintings, and sculptures. These institutions held their first salons as early as 1699. They stayed at the Louvre for a century, and during the French Revolution, it was decided that the Louvre was to be used as a public art museum and the private royal collection was opened to the public.

Le Louvre variation1 - The Louvre
Le Louvre variation1 - The Louvre. Photo by Adrien Sifre


Dying Slave - The
	Louvre
Dying Slave - The Louvre. Photo by Dennis Jarvis
The Louvre Museum officially opened in 1793. It started off with 537 paintings, which used to belong to the royal family or to the church. The collection was increased greatly by Napoléon (Wikipedia Article), although it has to be said that most artworks were stolen by his armies. After he abdicated, those works were returned to their owners. The museum’s collections grew under the rule of Louis XVIII and Charles X and by donations and gifts.

Now, the collection is so large that it had to be divided into eight different departments: Egyptian Antiquities, Near Eastern Antiquities, Greek, Etruscan and Roman Antiquities, Sculpture, Islamic Art, Paintings, Decorative Arts, and Prints and Drawings.

The Three Wings

The Louvre Museum is made up of three large wings.

Sully Wing

The oldest wing is the Sully Wing. The lower floor of this wing is where visitors can see some remains of the former medieval fortress. The ground and first floors hold the enormous antiquity collections of the Louvre. There are no less than 30 rooms with Egyptian artifacts and sculptures; a highlight is the statue of Pharaoh Ramesses II. This wing is also the location of the world-famous Venus of Milo, or statue of Aphrodite (Wikipedia Article). The second floor is home to French prints, drawings, and paintings.

Denon Wing

The most crowded wing by far is the Denon Wing. This museum’s star attraction is located on its first floor: the Mona Lisa by da Vinci. The wing has several other masterpieces too though, such as the Consecration of Emperor Napoleon I by Jacques Louis David, and the Wedding Feast at Cana by Veronese. Another major highlight in this wing is the Winged Victory of Samothrace, a classic, Greek, marble statue. The ground floor holds the collection of Roman and Etruscan antiquities and a collection of sculptures dating from the Renaissance to the 1800s. Additionally, there are eight rooms with items from the Americas, Asia, Africa, and Oceania. The lower floor is home to sculptures from medieval Europe.

Richelieu Wing

The third wing of the Louvre is the Richelieu Wing, where visitors can admire European paintings from the Middle Ages through the 19th century on the second floor. These fabulous collections include paintings by van Eyck, Vermeer, Rubens, and Rembrandt. The ground and lower floors are filled with the Louvre’s huge sculpture collection.

Denon Wing (1st floor) - The
	Louvre
Denon Wing (1st floor) - The Louvre. Photo by SpirosK photography

Collections

 - The
	Louvre
The Louvre. Photo by unknown
The Louvre's 35,000 objects that are on display are divided between eight different collections.

The Greek, Roman and Etruscan Collection

The Greek, Roman and Etruscan Collection features artefacts and works of art from the Mediterranean, covering a period from the Neolithic through the 6th century AD. This collection is among the oldest of the museum. Some of the works were collected by King Francis I, who started to royal collections. First the collection's focus was marble sculptures - a fine example is the Venus of Milo. Later, during Napoléon's reign, important pieces such as the Apollo Belvedere were added, but returned to their legal owners after his fall. In the 1800s, the collection was expanded with vases and bronzes, such as the Durand Collection and the Borghese Vase. Highlights of the collection are the Lady of Auxerre, a limestone statue dating from 640 BC; the Hera of Samos from 560 BC; and the Borghese Gladiator. Additional masterpieces are the classic Venus of Milo and the Winged Victory of Samothrace. There is a gallery that exhibits more than a thousand potteries from Ancient Greece. The galleries that line the Seine River hold most of the Louvre's Roman sculptures.

Pendant of Osorkon II -
	The Louvre
Pendant of Osorkon II - The Louvre. Photo by unknown

The Egyptian Antiquity Collection

The Egyptian Antiquity Collection is one of the largest of its kind in the world and consists of more than 50,000 items. These items date back to the Nile civilizations from about 4,000 BC to the 4th century AD. This great collection features Ancient Egypt, the Middle Kingdom, the New Kingdom, the Roman, Ptolemaic and Byzantine periods in Egypt and Coptic art. With origins in the royal collection, the department was expanded after Napoleon went on a trip with Dominique Vivant, who would become the director of the Louvre. The Egyptian Antiquity Department was created by Charles X after the Rosetta Stone had been translated. The collection grew steadily, mainly through donations. Now, it is spread out across twenty rooms, guarded by the Large Sphinx, one of the museum's highlights. Interesting artefacts include jewelry, clothing, papyrus rolls, mummies and weapons.

Near Eastern Antiquity Collection

Another department featuring the ancient world is the Near Eastern Antiquity Collection. This one covers the early civilizations in the Near East before Islam. The collection is split up into three different geographic areas, being the Levant, Persia and Mesopotamia. It is a fascinating collection, with exhibits on Sumer and the city of Akkad. A true highlight is the 2450 BC Stele of Vultures. Another one is the Code of Hammurabi, a 2.25-meter-high stone that displays the Babylonian Laws. From Persia come several objects found among the ruins of Persepolis.

Islamic Art

Islamic Art forms a whole other collection, the newest one in the Louvre. This collection includes textiles, clothing, metalware, glassware, ceramics, miniatures, carpets and ivory and span a period of about 1,300 years. It consists of 5,000 items. Highlights are the Pyxide d'al-Mughira, the Baptistery of Saint-Louis and three pages of the Shahnameh, an epic Persian poem book.

Sculptures - The
	Louvre
Sculptures - The Louvre. Photo by unknown

The Sculpture Collection

The Sculpture Collection holds all sculptures that don't belong in the Greek, Roman and Etruscan Collection. It mainly contains works from the Romanesque and Renaissance periods. Major highlights include Daniel in the Lion's Den from the 11th century, and the 12th century Virgin of Auvergne. Younger sculptures include works by Jean Goujon, Gianlorenzo Bernini, Antonio Canova and Etienne Maurice Falconet.

The Decorative Arts Collection

The Decorative Arts Collection consists of all kinds of jewelry, pottery, glass, carpets, etcetera from the Middle Ages up until the 1850s. The artefacts are on display in the first floor of the Richelieu Wing. Treasures include 15th- and 16th-century gold jewelry and maiolicas from the Campana collection, the coronation crown of Louis XIV, the scepter of Charles V and several bronze artworks and stained glass windows.

The Prints and Drawings Collection

All kinds of paperworks can be seen in the Prints and Drawings Collection. This collection originated with the 8,600 works of the royal collection and was increased through donations and purchases. It is divided into three sections: the Cabinet du Roi, 14,000 royal copper printing plates, and the impressive Edmond de Rothschild collection, which features 3,000 drawings, 5,000 books and 40,000 prints.

 - The
	Louvre
The Louvre. Photo by unknown

The Painting Collection

The main collection of the Louvre, however, is the Painting Collection. It holds more than 7,500 pieces, dating from the 13th to the 19th century, and is curated by twelve collection overseers. About 1,200 paintings are by Northern European artist; the rest are by French painters. King Francis I started the collection with paintings by Raphael and Michelangelo. He was also the one who invited Leonardo da Vinci to his court. This already magnificent collection became the center of the Louvre after the French Revolution. It is now one of the finest collections of paintings in the world, including works by Hyacinthe Rigaud, Johannes Vermeer, David Friedrich, Rembrandt van Rijn, Giovanni Bellini, Jan van Eyck, Caravaggio, Leonardo da Vinci and many, many more.

Sully Wing - The Louvre
Sully Wing - The Louvre. Photo by unknown

Visiting the Louvre

The Louvre is open every day of the week, except on Tuesdays. Opening hours are from 9 AM to 6 PM on Mondays, Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, and from 9 AM to 9.45 PM on Wednesday and Sundays. From October to March, the Louvre is free to visit on the first Sunday of each month.

Similar Landmarks

The Louvre is one of the world’s most brilliant museums and there are not many that come close. There are a few that do though. The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, the Smithsonian in Washington D.C., the British Museum in London, the Prado in Madrid, and the Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg are other outstanding art museums.

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Author: bramreusen. Last updated: Feb 26, 2015

Pictures of The Louvre

Le Louvre variation6 - The Louvre
Le Louvre variation6 - The Louvre. Photo by Adrien Sifre

France-000192 - Louvre Museum - The Louvre
France-000192 - Louvre Museum - The Louvre. Photo by Dennis Jarvis

Venus De Milo - Louvre - The Louvre
Venus De Milo - Louvre - The Louvre. Photo by Scott MacLeod Liddle

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