Le Louvre Museum - the Louvre Paris France

Le musee du louvre in Paris is one of the largest and most famous art museums in the world. The Louvre covers more than 40 acres on the north bank of the Seine River in Paris. The Louvre was built as a residence for the kings of France, but today it exhibits some of the world's greatest art treasures.

The Louvre has about 8 miles (13 kilometres) of galleries and contains more than a million works of art. The Louvre has especially fine collections of Egyptian, Greek, Asian, and Roman art. It also has an outstanding collection of paintings and sculptures of the 1800's as well as decorative art. The most famous works in the Louvre include the Greek sculptures Venus de Milo and Winged Victory and Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa.

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Le Louvre

Its original intent was as a fortress for the Kings of France. Items discovered during digs of this site include a parade helmet belonging to Charles VI. This was reconstructed from 169 fragments which were found. It was placed in show in the Salle Saint-Louis or Sully Wing.

Picture of the louvre art gallery

In 1528, the 'Grosse Tour' was destroyed to make way for a luxury palace, one that would rival Renaissance Italy. In 1546, Francis I started the principal transformations and hired the French architect Pierre Lescot to direct construction. During the reigns of Henri II and Charles IX, Jean Goujon, a French sculptor, decorated the palace and its grounds with statues inspired by Greek and Roman models.

Catherine de Medicis soon started a new palace to compete with the Louvre called the Tuileries. Her death left it incomplete and allowed future monarchs to redesign the whole area. Henri IV was just the man to do it as he developed the idea of the 'Grand Dessein' or Grand Design to join the two palaces together to form a gigantic palace. All future additions and modifications would be based on his idea, but he only got as far as the 'Grande Gallerie,' presently the most popular area of the museum and over 1,300 feet (400 meters) long.

A perspective shot of the louvre

The completion of the 'Cour Carree' in 1670 ended the expansion. Typical of Louis XIV, the 'Cour Carree' was grandiose being four times the size of the former Renaissance courtyard. In 1678, Louis XIV moved the royal court to a new palace at Versailles. The project was basically left incomplete for almost the whole of the 18th Century, although a few attempts were made to finish the task.

Once royal interest departed a new use for the building had to be developed. Interestingly, the first art galleries were never intended for public viewing, as they were private royal collections. The initial notion of an art museum appeared in 1747. In 1793, during the French Revolution, the revolutionary government opened the Louvre as a public museum to display works from the captured royal collection and property seized from the Church. The revolutionary wars were bountiful periods as conquered European states and cities were pillaged of their artefacts and the Louvre collections grew quickly forcing a reorganisation of the museum.

THE Paris Art Gallery

Being a lover of grand projects, construction on the museum resumed under Napoleon I in 1803. The North Wing was extended along the rue de Rivoli. The fall of Napoleon resulted in a loss of many pieces of art as they were returned to their rightful owners. But, a new acquisitions policy quickly stepped in to restore the losses, some of which were the Egyptian works by Champollion in 1824, the Spanish collection of Louis Philippe and the Assyrian antiquities in 1847. From 1815 to 1871, more of the museum was opened to the public and new areas such as the Etruscans, Ancient Greece and Ancient Orient were added. The architects Visconti and Lefuel finally completed the 'Grand Dessein' in 1857. Unfortunately, a fire during the Commune in 1871 burnt down the Tuileries.

In 1882, the remains of the Tuileries were destroyed and Lefuel surprisingly chose to rebuild part of it as seen in the 'Pavillons de Flore and Marsan' blocks. In 1934, the great staircase now adorned with the Winged Victory of Samothrace was added and in 1953, the ceiling of Henri II's antechamber was adorned with a painted composition The present museum took shape from these changes, but the great enemy of museums, Space, came calling and most of 1848 collections were transferred to the Musee d'Orsay in 1986. This move led to the last and most famous and controversial renovation and expansion. On the orders of President F. Mitterand, architect I. M. Pei began his work in 1984. His idea was the Glass Pyramid in the middle of the 'Cour Carree.' Surrounded by fountains, the pyramid allows sunlight to come in on the underground floor. The first sections opened to the public in 1989.

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