Musée du Louvre
the Richelieu wing (2005)
Louvre is located in Paris
Location within Paris
Established 1792
Location Musée du Louvre,
75001 Paris, France
Type Art museum, Design/Textile Museum, Historic site

9.7 million (2012)[1]

Director Jean-Luc Martinez
Curator Marie-Laure de Rochebrune
Public transit access
Website www.louvre.fr

The Louvre or the Louvre Museum (French: Musée du Louvre, pronounced: ) is one of the world's largest museums and a historic monument. A central landmark of Paris, France, it is located on the Right Bank of the Seine in the 1st arrondissement (district). Nearly 35,000 objects from prehistory to the 21st century are exhibited over an area of 60,600 square metres (652,300 square feet). The Louvre is the world's most visited museum, and received more than 9.7 million visitors in 2012.[1]

The museum is housed in the Louvre Palace, originally built as a fortress in the late 12th century under Philip II. Remnants of the fortress are visible in the basement of the museum. The building was extended many times to form the present Louvre Palace. In 1682, Louis XIV chose the Palace of Versailles for his household, leaving the Louvre primarily as a place to display the royal collection, including, from 1692, a collection of ancient Greek and Roman sculpture.[2] In 1692, the building was occupied by the Académie des Inscriptions et Belles Lettres and the Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture, which in 1699 held the first of a series of salons. The Académie remained at the Louvre for 100 years.[3] During the French Revolution, the National Assembly decreed that the Louvre should be used as a museum to display the nation's masterpieces.

The museum opened on 10 August 1793 with an exhibition of 537 paintings, the majority of the works being royal and confiscated church property. Because of structural problems with the building, the museum was closed in 1796 until 1801. The collection was increased under Napoleon and the museum renamed the Musée Napoléon, but after Napoleon's abdication many works seized by his armies were returned to their original owners. The collection was further increased during the reigns of Louis XVIII and Charles X, and during the Second French Empire the museum gained 20,000 pieces. Holdings have grown steadily through donations and gifts since the Third Republic. As of 2008, the collection is divided among eight curatorial departments: Egyptian Antiquities; Near Eastern Antiquities; Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities; Islamic Art; Sculpture; Decorative Arts; Paintings; Prints and Drawings.


  • History 1
    • 12th–20th centuries 1.1
      • Medieval, Renaissance, and Bourbon palace 1.1.1
      • French Revolution 1.1.2
        • Opening
      • Napoleon I 1.1.3
      • Restoration and Second Empire 1.1.4
      • Third Republic and World Wars 1.1.5
      • Grand Louvre Pyramids 1.1.6
    • 21st century 1.2
    • Administration 1.3
      • Satellite museums 1.3.1
        • Lens
        • Abu Dhabi
      • Conservation 1.3.2
    • Controversies 1.4
  • Collections 2
    • Egyptian antiquities 2.1
    • Near Eastern antiquities 2.2
    • Greek, Etruscan, and Roman 2.3
    • Islamic art 2.4
    • Sculpture 2.5
    • Decorative arts 2.6
    • Painting 2.7
    • Prints and drawings 2.8
  • Location, access and facilities 3
  • Gallery 4
  • See also 5
  • Notes and references 6
    • Works cited 6.1
  • External links 7


12th–20th centuries

Medieval, Renaissance, and Bourbon palace

The only portion of the medieval Louvre still visible[4]

The Louvre Palace, which houses the museum, was begun as a fortress by Philip II in the 12th century, with remnants of this building still visible in the crypt.[4] Whether this was the first building on that spot is not known; it is possible that Philip modified an existing tower.[5] According to the authoritative Grand Larousse encyclopédique, it derives from an association with wolf hunting den (via Latin: lupus, lower Empire: lupara).[5][6] In the 7th century, St. Fare, an abbess in Meaux, left part of her "Villa called Luvra situated in the region of Paris" to a monastery.;[7] this territory probably did not correspond exactly to the modern site, however.

The Louvre Palace was altered frequently throughout the Middle Ages. In the 14th century, Charles V converted the building into a residence and in 1546, Francis I renovated the site in French Renaissance style.[8] Francis acquired what would become the nucleus of the Louvre's holdings, his acquisitions including Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa.[9] After Louis XIV chose Versailles as his residence in 1682, constructions slowed; however, the move permitted the Louvre to be used as a residence for artists.[8][10][11]

By the mid-18th century there was an increasing number of proposals to create a public gallery, with the art critic La Font de Saint-Yenne publishing, in 1747, a call for a display of the royal collection'.[12] On 14 October 1750, Louis XV agreed and sanctioned a display of 96 pieces from the royal collection, mounted in the Galerie royale de peinture of the Luxembourg Palace. A hall was opened by Le Normant de Tournehem and the Marquis de Marigny for public viewing of the Tableaux du Roy on Wednesdays and Saturdays, and contained Andrea del Sarto's Charity and works by Raphael; Titian; Veronese; Rembrandt; Poussin or Van Dyck, until its closing in 1780 as a result of the gift of the palace to the comte de Provence by the king in 1778.[13] Under Louis XVI, the royal museum idea became policy.[12] The comte d'Angiviller broadened the collection and in 1776 proposed conversion of the Grande Galerie of the Louvre – which contained maps – into the "French Museum".[13] Many proposals were offered for the Louvre's renovation into a museum; however, none was agreed on. Hence the museum remained incomplete until the French Revolution.[13]

French Revolution

During the French Revolution the Louvre was transformed into a public museum. In May 1791, the Assembly declared that the Louvre would be "a place for bringing together monuments of all the sciences and arts".[13] On 10 August 1792, Louis XVI was imprisoned and the royal collection in the Louvre became national property. Because of fear of vandalism or theft, on 19 August, the National Assembly pronounced the museum's preparation as urgent. In October, a committee to "preserve the national memory" began assembling the collection for display.[14]

Antonio Canova's Psyche Revived by Cupid's Kiss was commissioned in 1787, donated in 1824.[15]

The museum opened on 10 August 1793, the first anniversary of the monarchy's demise. The public was given free access on three days per week, which was "perceived as a major accomplishment and was generally appreciated".[16] The collection showcased 537 paintings and 184 objects of art. Three quarters were derived from the royal collections, the remainder from confiscated livres per year.[13] In 1794, France's revolutionary armies began bringing pieces from Northern Europe, augmented after the Treaty of Tolentino (1797) by works from the Vatican, such as Laocoön and His Sons and the Apollo Belvedere, to establish the Louvre as a museum and as a "sign of popular sovereignty".[17][19]

The early days were hectic; privileged artists continued to live in residence, and the unlabelled paintings hung "frame to frame from floor to ceiling".[17] The structure itself closed in May 1796 due to structural deficiencies. It reopened on 14 July 1801, arranged chronologically and with new lighting and columns.[17]

Napoleon I

Under Napoleon I, a northern wing paralleling the Grande Galérie was begun, and the collection grew through successful military campaigns.[20] Following the Egyptian campaign of 1798–1801, Napoléon appointed the museum's first director, Dominique Vivant Denon. In tribute, the museum was renamed the "Musée Napoléon" in 1803, and acquisitions were made of Spanish, Austrian, Dutch, and Italian works, either as spoils or through treaties such as the Treaty of Tolentino.[21] After the French defeat at Waterloo, the works' former owners sought their return. The Louvre's administrators were loath to comply and hid many works in their private collections. In response, foreign states sent emissaries to London to seek help, and many pieces were returned, even some that had been restored by the Louvre.[21][22] In 1815 Louis XVIII finally concluded agreements with Italy for the keeping of pieces such as Veronese's Wedding at Cana which was exchanged for a large Le Brun or the repurchase of the Albani collection.

Restoration and Second Empire

The Venus de Milo was added to the Louvre's collection during the reign of Louis XVIII.

During the Restoration (1814–30), Louis XVIII and Charles X between them added 135 pieces at a cost of 720,000 francs and created the department of Egyptian antiquities curated by Champollion, increased by more than 7,000 works with the acquisition of antiquities in the Edmé-Antoine Durand, the Egyptian collection of Henry Salt or the second collection former by Bernardino Drovetti. This was less than the amount given for rehabilitation of Versailles, and the Louvre suffered relative to the rest of Paris. After the creation of the French Second Republic in 1848, the new government allocated two million francs for repair work and ordered the completion of the Galerie d'Apollon, the Salon Carré, and the Grande Galérie.[23] In 1861, Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte bought 11,835 artworks including 641 paintings, Greek gold and other antiquities of the Campana collection. During the Second French Empire, between 1852 and 1870, the French economy grew; by 1870 the museum had added 20,000 new pieces to its collections, and the Pavillon de Flore and the Grande Galérie were remodelled under architects Louis Visconti and Hector Lefuel.[23]

Third Republic and World Wars

During the Baron Edmond de Rothschild's (1845–1934) 1935 donation of 4,000 engravings, 3,000 drawings, and 500 illustrated books.[18]

Generalfeldmarschall Gerd von Rundstedt seen with the Venus de Milo, while visiting the Louvre with the curator Alfred Merlin, October 7, 1940.

During World War II the museum removed most of the art and hid valuable pieces. When Germany occupied the Sudetenland, many important artworks such as the Mona Lisa were temporarily moved to the Château de Chambord. When war was formally declared a year later, most of the museum's paintings were sent there as well. Select sculptures such as Winged Victory of Samothrace and the Venus de Milo were sent to the Château de Valençay.[25] On 27 August 1939, after two days of packing, truck convoys began to leave Paris. By 28 December, the museum was cleared of most works, except those that were too heavy and "unimportant paintings [that] were left in the basement".[26] In early 1945, after the liberation of France, art began returning to the Louvre.[27]

Grand Louvre Pyramids

By 1874, the Louvre Palace had achieved its present form of an almost rectangular structure with the Sully Wing to the east containing the square Cour Carrée and the oldest parts of the Louvre; and two wings which wrap the Cour Napoléon, the Richelieu Wing to the north and the Denon Wing, which borders the Seine to the south.[28] In 1983, French President François Mitterrand proposed, as one of his Grands Projets, the Grand Louvre plan to renovate the building and relocate the Finance Ministry, allowing displays throughout the building. Architect I. M. Pei was awarded the project and proposed a glass pyramid to stand over a new entrance in the main court, the Cour Napoléon.[29] The pyramid and its underground lobby were inaugurated on 15 October 1988; the pyramid was completed in 1989. The second phase of the Grand Louvre plan, La Pyramide Inversée (The Inverted Pyramid), was completed in 1993. As of 2002, attendance had doubled since completion.[30]

The Louvre Palace and the Pyramid (by night)
The Louvre Palace and the Pyramid (by day)

21st century

The Louvre Museum with its Glass Pyramid

The Musée du Louvre contains more than 380,000 objects and displays 35,000 works of art in eight curatorial departments with more than 60,600 square metres (652,000 sq ft) dedicated to the permanent collection.[31] The Louvre exhibits sculptures, objets d'art, paintings, drawings, and archaeological finds.[18] It is the world's most visited museum, averaging 15,000 visitors per day, 65 percent of whom are foreign tourists.[30][32]

After architects Mario Bellini and Rudy Ricciotti had won an international competition to create its new galleries for Islamic art, the new 3,000 sq m[33] pavilion eventually opened in 2012, consisting of ground- and lower-ground-level interior spaces topped by a golden, undulating roof (fashioned from almost 9,000 steel tubes that form an interior web) that seems to float within the neo-Classical Visconti Courtyard in the middle of the Louvre’s south wing.[34] The galleries, which the museum had initially hoped to open by 2009, represent the first major architectural intervention at the Louvre since the addition of I.M. Pei’s glass pyramid in 1989.[35]


Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa is the Louvre's most popular attraction.
Restoration workshops in the Louvre.

The Louvre is owned by the French government; however, since the 1990s it has become more independent.[32][36][37][38] Since 2003, the museum has been required to generate funds for projects.[37] By 2006, government funds had dipped from 75 percent of the total budget to 62 percent. Every year, the Louvre now raises as much as it gets from the state, about €122 million. The government pays for operating costs (salaries, safety and maintenance), while the rest - new wings, refurbishments, acquisitions - is up to the museum to finance.[39] A further €3 million to €5 million a year is raised by the Louvre from exhibitions that it curates for other museums, while the host museum keeps the ticket money.[39] As the Louvre became a point of interest in the book The Da Vinci Code and the 2006 film based on the book, the museum earned $2.5 million by allowing filming in its galleries.[40][41] In 2008, the French government provided $180 million of the Louvre's yearly $350 million budget; the remainder came from private contributions and ticket sales.[36]

The Louvre employs a staff of 2,000 led by Director Hellenistic era, including The Winged Victory of Samothrace (190 BC) and the Venus de Milo, symbolic of classical art.[60] The long Galerie Campana displays an outstanding collection of more than one thousand Greek potteries. In the galleries paralleling the Seine, much of the museum's Roman sculpture is displayed.[59] The Roman portraiture is representative of that genre; examples include the portraits of Agrippa and Annius Verus; among the bronzes is the Greek Apollo of Piombino.

Casket, ivory and silver, Muslim Spain, 966

Islamic art

The Islamic art collection, the museum's newest, spans "thirteen centuries and three continents".[62] These exhibits, comprising ceramics, glass, metalware, wood, ivory, carpet, textiles, and miniatures, include more than 5,000 works and 1,000 shards.[63] Originally part of the decorative arts department, the holdings became separate in 2003. Among the works are the Pyxide d'al-Mughira, a 10th century ivory box from Andalusia; the Baptistery of Saint-Louis, an engraved brass basin from the 13th or 14th century Mamluk period; and the 10th century Shroud of Saint-Josse from Iran.[56][62] The collection contains three pages of the Shahnameh, an epic book of poems by Ferdowsi in Persian, and a Syrian metalwork named the Barberini Vase.[63]

Tomb of Philippe Pot, governor of Burgundy under Louis XI, by Antoine Le Moiturier


Yombe-sculpture, 19th century

The sculpture department comprises work created before 1850 that does not belong in the Etruscan, Greek, and Roman department.[64] The Louvre has been a repository of sculpted material since its time as a palace; however, only ancient architecture was displayed until 1824, except for

  • Official website
  • Virtual reality gallery with fullscreen panoramas of the Louvre
  • Louvre's location

External links

  • Alderson, William T.; Alexander, Edward (1996). Museums in motion: an introduction to the history and functions of museums. Walnut Creek, Calif: Published in cooperation with the American Association for State and Local History [by] AltaMira Press.  
  • Ahlund, Mikael (2000). Islamic art collections: an international survey. Richmond, Surrey, England: Curzon.  
  • Bowkett, Stephen; Porter, Tom (2004). Archispeak: an illustrated guide to architectural terms. London: Spon Press.  
  • Carbonell, Bettina (2004). Museum Studies: An Anthology of Contexts. Blackwell Pub.  
  • Edwards, Henry Sutherland (1893). Old and New Paris: Its History, Its People, and Its Places. Paris: Cassell and Co. Retrieved 30 April 2008. 
  • Hannan, Bill and Lorna (2004). Art for Travellers:France. Northampton, Massachusetts: Interlink Books.  
  • Lasko, Peter (1995). Ars Sacra, 800–1200. Yale University Press.  
  • McClellan, Andrew (1999). Inventing the Louvre: Art, Politics, and the Origins of the Modern Museum.... Berkeley: University of California Press.  
  • Merryman, John Henry (2006). Imperialism, art and restitution. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.  
  • Mroue, Haas (2003). Frommer's Paris from $90 a Day. Frommer's.  
  • Miltoun, Francis (1910). Royal Palaces and Parks of France. L.C. Page & Co. 
  • Lunn, Martin (2004). Da Vinci code Decoded. New York: Disinformation.  
  • Nave, Alain (1998). Treasures of the Louvre. Barnes & Noble Publishing.  
  • Nora, Pierre; Lawrence D. Kritzman (1996). Realms of Memory. New York: Columbia University Press.  
  • Oliver, Bette Wyn (2007). From Royal to National: The Louvre Museum and the Bibliothèque Nationale. Lexington Books.  
  • Rickman, Gregg (1999). Swiss Banks and Jewish Souls. Transaction Publishers.  
  • Rogers, Elizabeth A. (2001). Landscape design: a cultural and architectural history. New York: Harry N. Abrams.  
  • Sturdy, David (1995). Science and social status: the members of the Académie des sciences 1666–1750. Woodbridge, Suffolk, U.K.: Boydell Press.  

Works cited

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  2. ^ "Louvre Website- Chateau to Museum, 1672 and 1692". Louvre.fr. Retrieved 21 August 2011. 
  3. ^ "Louvre Website- Chateau to Museum 1692". Louvre.fr. Retrieved 21 August 2011. 
  4. ^ a b Mignot, p. 32
  5. ^ a b Edwards, pp. 193–94
  6. ^ In Larousse Nouveau Dictionnaire étymologique et historique, Librairie Larousse, Paris, 1971, p. 430: ***loup 1080, Roland (leu, forme conservée dans à la queue leu leu, Saint Leu, etc.); du lat. lupus; loup est refait sur le fém. louve, où le *v* a empêché le passage du *ou* à *eu* (cf. Louvre, du lat. pop. lupara)*** the etymology of the word louvre is from lupara, feminine (pop. Latin) form of lupus.
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  21. ^ a b Alderson, p.25
  22. ^ Mignot, p. 69. According to Mignot, Mantegna's Calvary, Veronese's The Wedding at Cana|The Marriage of Cana, and Rogier van der Weyden's Annunciation were not returned.
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  24. ^ a b Mignot, pp. 70–71
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  35. ^ http://www.academia.edu/2781939/Structural_Innovation_and_the_Stakes_of_Heritage_The_Bellini-Ricciotti_Louvre_Dpt_of_Islamic_Arts
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  41. ^ Lunn, p. 137
  42. ^ (French)Un archéologue prend la direction du Louvre, Le Monde du 03/04/2013.
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  46. ^ Victoria Stapley-Brown (November 10, 2014), Designers chosen for Louvre’s €60m storage outpost The Art Newspaper.
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  49. ^ Merryman, abstract
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  52. ^
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  56. ^ a b Mignot, pp. 119–21
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  61. ^ Hannan, p.252
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  63. ^ a b Ahlund, p. 24
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  67. ^ a b