The Louvre

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Louvre, The


an architectural monument in Paris. Originally a royal palace, it later became a museum of art. It is now one of the most important art repositories in the world.

From the early 13th to the 14th century the Louvre was built on the former site of a castle. Between 1546 and 1574, P. Lescot built a new palace using Renaissance forms, which was embellished with the sculpture of J. Goujon. The Louvre was expanded by J. Lemercier, who built the west wing and part of the north wing (from 1624), L. Le Vau, who completed construction of the court (1661-64), and C. Perrault, who did the classical colonnaded east facade (1667-74). Beginning in 1661, C. Le Brun participated in the interior design and decoration (including the Galerie D’Apollon). The reconstruction and expansion of the Louvre, one of the most dominant architectural monuments in the historical center of Paris, continued into the 1850’s, when L. Visconti and H. Lefuel built the addition known as the New Louvre (subsequently a picture gallery).

In the second half of the 17th century the Louvre ceased to be a royal residence and was used primarily by the Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture. It also served as a repository for the royal art collections. In 1791, by a decree of the revolutionary Convention, the Louvre was converted into a national museum of art. It was opened to the public on Nov. 8, 1793. Its collections included former royal collections and the nationalized collections of various monasteries, churches, and prominent families. The collections were further augmented by works of art seized during Napoleon’s campaigns abroad, purchases from various countries, and numerous bequests. By the late 1960’s approximately 20,000 items were listed in the Louvre’s catalog of painting and sculpture.

The museum consists of six departments: Oriental antiquities, Greek and Roman antiquities, painting and drawing, sculpture (medieval, Renaissance, and modern), Egyptian antiquities, and decorative applied art. The collection of ancient Oriental art is one of the most important in the world. French art is particularly well represented in the Louvre, with works by L. Le Nain, N. Poussin, Philippe de Champagne, G. de La Tour, A. Watteau, L. David, E. Delacroix, G. Courbet, and other French masters. The picture gallery is one of the richest in the world.

The Louvre houses numerous world-famous art treasures, including the Victory of Samothrace (late fourth or second century B.C.), Venus of Milo (second century B.C.), Michelangelo’s statues of slaves, Leonardo da Vinci’s Virgin of the Rocks and Mono Lisa, Raphael’s portrait of B. Castiglione, Giorgione’s Concert champetre, Titian’s The Man With the Glove, Veronese’s The Marriage at Cana, J. van Eyck’s Madonna of Chancellor Rolin, P. P. Rubens’ Helena Fourment and Her Children, and Rembrandt’s Bathsheba.

In 1931 a broad reorganization of the collections was undertaken, and some of the museum’s rooms were reconstructed. At present, exhibition halls at the Louvre are organized chronologically and according to national school. However, large private collections that have been donated to the museum are exhibited separately. The Museum of Impressionism (Jeu de Paume) is administratively subordinate to the Louvre. The Orangerie of the Tuileries, an exhibition hall that houses a permanent exhibit of C. Monet’s Water Lilies, is also part of the Louvre.


Kalitina, N. N. Muzei Parizha. Leningrad-Moscow, 1967.
Blum, A. Le Louvre: Du Palais au Musee. Geneva, 1946.
Bazin, G. Le Louvre. Paris, 1960.
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