With a huge collection that spans from ancient civilization to the mid-19th century, Musee du Louvre or Louvre Museum, popularly known as Le Louvre, the national museum and art gallery of France, is the world’s largest art museum and a central landmark of the city of Paris. The museum is housed in a part of the imposing Louvre Palace, originally built as the Louvre Castle in the late 12th century by Phillip II Augustus, close to the River Seine. Over time, the castle progressively lost its importance until Francois I converted it into the primary royal residence of the French Kings in 1546, which was expanded by almost all the subsequent monarchs. However, the Louvre lost its importance as the royal residence when Louis XIV moved his court to the Palace of Versailles in 1682, leaving the Louvre mainly as a place to display the royal collection.
In 1692, the building was occupied by the Royal Academy of Inscription and Literature as well as by the Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture and was housed there for a century. However, the idea of using the Louvre as a public museum was conceived in the 18th century. During the reign of Louis XVI, the idea of a royal museum became a policy, when the Compte d’Angiviller, a forerunner of a minister of fine arts in charge of the royal building works, helped to build and plan the Grande Galerie and continued to procure works of art. During the French Revolution, the Revolutionary government opened the Musee Central des Arts in the Grande Galerie in the Louvre Palace as a museum on 10 August 1793, the first anniversary of the monarchy’s demise, with a collection of 537 paintings.
However, it was closed in May 1796, due to structural deficiencies of the building and reopened on 14 July 1801, complete with columns and new lighting arrangements. During the rule of Napoleon, the collection grew through successful his military campaigns, and along with the constructions of the Cour Carree, one of the main courtyards of the Louvre Palace, construction of a northern wing paralleling the Grande Galerie also began. Following his Egyptian campaign, Napoleon renamed the museum, Musee Napoleon in 1802 and enlarged its collection by acquisitions from Egypt, Belgium, Italy, Austria, and Spain. While in 1848, the new government of the French Second republic ordered the completion of the Gallerie d’Apollon, the Salon Carre, and the Grande Galerie, between 1852 and 1870, under Napoleon III, the Pavillon de Flore and the Grande Galerie were remodelled.
Unfortunately, Le Louvre had to face a major hazard when during the suppression of the Paris Commune, the Tuileries Palace was set on fire on 23 May 1871, by the men under Jules Bergeret, the former chief military commander of the Commune. The fire that burned for forty-eight hours wrecked the interior of the palace and spread to the museum next to it. Although the museum was saved, the library of the museum and some of the adjoining halls were destroyed. Nevertheless, by 1874, the Louvre Palace had achieved its present form of an almost rectangular structure, which is a vast complex of buildings forming two main quadrilaterals and enclosing two large courtyards. However, in the 1980s and 1990s, the Louvre underwent a major remodeling when a vast underground complex of offices, shops, exhibition spaces, storage and parking areas, an auditorium, even a cafeteria were constructed below the central courtyard of the Louvre. After completion, the underground complex was opened in 1989.
The new-age Louvre Pyramid with a height of 70 feet was made of 70 triangles and 603 diamond-shaped glass pieces installed one by one on a structure made of 86,182 kg (190,000 lbs) of steel and 95,254 kg (210,000 lbs) aluminium, and crowning the new underground entrance into the museum, was opened in the same year.
However, the Pyramide Inversee or the Inverted pyramid, a skylight for the underground shopping Mall, the upturned base of which can be seen from outside, was completed in 1993.
Today, proudly displaying numbers of famous artwork and artifacts representing 11, 000 years of human civilization and culture, Le Louvre can rightly boast to be the largest art museum in the world. While it contains more than 380,000 pieces of art that include sculptures, paintings, drawings, artifacts, and archaeological finds, it displays 35,000 works of art in eight curatorial departments with around 652,300 square feet (60,600 sq m) dedicated to the permanent collection. According to the Louvre website, the eight departments are: Egyptian Antiquities, Etruscan, Greek and Roman Antiquities, Near Eastern Antiquities, Islamic Art, Decorative Arts, Sculpture, Paintings, Prints and Drawings.
After the French Revolution, the Royal Collection formed the nucleus of the rich painting collection of Le Louvre. The huge collection includes more than 7,500 works of different ages, spanning from the 13th century to 1848, and created by the European artists of repute, nearly two-thirds of which are by French artists, and more than 1,200 are Northern European. While the Northern European collection includes The Lacemaker and The Astronomer by Johannes Vermeer, and Rembrandt’s Bathsheba at Her Bath (Ref - Bathsheba Bath), The Supper at Emmaus, and The Slaughtered Ox, the Italian holdings are notable, particularly the Renaissance collection. Apart from Mona Lisa (Ref-https://www.tutorialathome.in/passionate-painting/mona-lisa), the famous work by Leonardo da Vinci, the painting collection of Le Louvre also includes his Virgin and Child, St John the Baptist, and Madonna of the Rocks. The Italian painter Caravaggio is represented by his Death of the Virgin and The Fortune Teller, and Titian, by his Le Concert Champetre, The Crowning with Thorns, and The Entombment.
Until 1847, the sculpture department of Le Louvre included only 100 pieces, and the rest of the royal sculpture collection was held at Versailles. Apart from the exception of two works of Michelangelo, The Dying Slave, and The Rebellious Slave, it displayed only ancient architecture initially. Today, along with the ancient sculptures like the armless beauty of the Venus de Milo (Ref - Venus De Milo), and Winged Victory, the ancient Greek sculpture known as the Nike of Samothrace, it also exhibits Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss (Ref - Psyche Revived Cupids Kiss Sculptures), the astounding piece created by the 18th century sculptor Antonio Canova, Eugene Delacroix’s Liberty Leading the People, depicting the bare-breasted goddess of Liberty leading a change in the French Revolution, and many more.
The department of Egyptian Antiquities of Le Louvre, comprising more than 50,000 pieces, is housed in more than 20 rooms and guarded by the Large Sphinx of 2000 BC. It includes mummies and several papyrus scrolls, clothing and jewelry, musical instruments, tools, and weapons. However, the Islamic art collection, the museum's newest, was originally part of the decorative arts department, which became separate in 2003. Later, an interior courtyard beneath an undulating gold-coloured roof made of glass and steel was enclosed and open in 2012, to house the museum’s expanding collection of Islamic art. It exhibits ceramics, glass, metal-ware, wood, ivory, carpet, textiles, and miniatures, including three pages of the Shahnameh, an epic book of poems in Persian by Ferdowsi.
To visit Le Louvre in Paris, a world of arts housed in an imposing medieval palace, an iconic landmark of the city of Paris, in an experience of a lifetime.