Musée du Louvre
This week my daughter Lorin was visiting me for the holidays. Lorin is working on her Masters in western European History so I had my own personal tour guide to museums, monuments, crypts and regions of France. Of course no historian’s trip to Paris is complete without a visit to the Louvre.
The Louvre was originally a medieval castle built in 1190 by Philip Auguste. At that time, Paris was the largest city in Europe and a wall was built around it to protect from Anglo-Norman threat. Most of this fortress was destroyed when the city of Paris began to expand, but was rediscovered in the 1980’s when the Louvre was remodeled with I.M. Pei’s famous “pyramids”.
The Louvre became the residence of French kings following the reign of Charles V until Louis XIV decided to live at the Palace of Versailles instead. It has seen many additions and renovations through the years. François I ordered the construction of new buildings in 1546. He wanted to bring to France the Renaissance-style that he had seen during his visits to Italy. In addition, dissatisfied with its lack of comfort, and with the noise and smell of the city, Henri II’s widow Catherine de Médicis ordered the building of a new residence in what became known as the Tuileries palace. The Palais des Tuileries was later burned during the revolution.
From the late 1600’s through the 1700’s, the Académie des Inscriptions et Belles Lettres and the Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture held their “salons” here amidst the royal collection of art, sculpture, and antiquities. During the French Revolution, the National Assembly decreed that the Louvre should be used as a museum to display the nation’s masterpieces.
The collection at the Louvre contains over 380,000 objects and displays 35,000 works of art and is divided into eight curatorial departments: Egyptian Antiquities; Near Eastern Antiquities; Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities; Islamic Art; Sculpture; Decorative Arts; Paintings; Prints and Drawings.
Of course, visitors usually make a bee-line to see the Mona Lisa, as did I on my first visit. However, over subsequent visits, I have to say that my favorite pieces of art are:
And the incredible architecture of 1000 years!