Once home to the kings of France, the Louvre Museum now houses one of the richest museums in the world. On the site of the current museum, a fortress was built between 1190 and 1202, at the behest of Philip Augustus. The structure was enlarged by Charles V (1337-1380), who built a library there and also used it as an occasional residence.
Later, under the reign of Francis I (1494-1547), the old stronghold was demolished and replaced by a new palace designed by Pierre Lescot. Later under the reign of Louis XIV, the Colonnade was added (1677-1670).
THE BIRTH OF THE MUSEUM
French rulers began to collect works of art from all over Europe in the 16th century. Over the centuries, the collection became increasingly imposing and important. The museum was inaugurated in 1793 when the Grande Galerie was transformed into a public museum, where the royal collection was exhibited. The museum was continually enriched with new works of art.
During the Napoleonic period the countries conquered by Napoleon’s army were plundered of their treasures. After Napoleon’s fall, some of these works were returned to their rightful owners, but many remained in France. In the nineteenth century the Louvre was also enriched with important works of Egyptian, Greek and Roman antiquity. The museum spanned all four wings from the Cour Carrée.
Under the Second Empire the wing of the Denon pavilion was erected. Around 1980 on the occasion of the bicentenary of the French Revolution, the exterior of the Louvre was characterized by the construction of a huge glass pyramid, consisting of 675 glasses and 21.65 meters high, located in the courtyard of the Louvre, the Cour Napoléon. The work was designed by the Chinese architect Ieoh Ming Pei. The pyramid is a skylight that covers the museum’s underground entrance.
The Musée du Louvre now houses 35,000 masterpieces of human art divided into 8 departments: Near Eastern Antiquities. Egyptian Antiquities. Greek, Etruscan and Roman antiquities. Islamic art. Sculptures. Decorative arts. Painting. Prints and Drawings. The works are exhibited on 60,000 square meters of exhibition space dedicated to permanent collections.
THE COLLECTION OF THE LOUVRE MUSEUM
ANTIQUITIES OF THE NEAR EAST
The Near East Antiquities Department hosts artistic pieces dating back to the first human settlements (about 10,000 years ago) in the Tigris and Euphrates valleys until the advent of Islam. Pieces of the Sumerian, Babylonian, Assyrian, Hittite and Persian civilizations stand out. Among the most famous works: the Stele of the Victory of Narâm-Sin (c. 2770 BC), the Stele of the Vultures (c. 2450 BC) and finally the Code of Laws of Hammurabi (1792-1750 BC).
The Department of Egyptian Antiquities presents works of civilization born along the Nile valley from 4000 BC to the Christian period (4th century AD). Among the most important works: the Sitting Scribe (Old Kingdom), the Sarcophagus of Ramses III (1198-1166 BC) and finally the bas-relief in painted limestone of Seti I (1318-1298 BC).
GREEK, ETRUSCAN AND ROMAN ANTIQUITIES
The Department of Greek, Etruscan and Roman Antiquities houses works from the classical civilizations of the Mediterranean basin since the 4th millennium BC. until the 6th century AD. Among the most famous works: the Nike of Samothrace (early 2nd century BC), the Venus of Milo (late 2nd century BC), the Venus of Arles (5th-4th century BC) and finally the Borghese Gladiator (early 1st century BC).
The Department of Islamic Art presents thousands of works for a period of thirteen centuries produced in the three continents (Europe, Asia, Africa) where Islamic art developed.
The Sculpture Department houses pieces of Medieval, Renaissance, and Modern art. Among the most important works are undoubtedly the Prisons of Michelangelo and the Nymph of Fontainebleau by Benvenuto Cellini.
The Department of Decorative Arts presents a varied heritage of works, from the Middle Ages to the 19th century, of jewelery, upholstery, ivory, bronze, ceramics and furniture.
The Department of Painting hosts paintings from every European school from the 13th century to 1848. Among the artists present there are works by Giotto, Cimabue, Paolo Uccello, Fra Angelico, Ghirlandaio, Mantegna, Botticelli, Caravaggio, Leonardo da Vinci, Correggio, Raffaello, Rembrandt, Rubens, Vermeer, Murillo, Durer, Delacroix, van Dyck, Goya. The most famous work is undoubtedly the Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci.
PRINTS AND DRAWINGS
The Prints and Drawings Department presents miniatures, pastels, prints and drawings.
USEFUL INFORMATION TO VISIT THE LOUVRE MUSEUM IN PARIS
HOURS: The museum is open from 9 to 18 every day, except Tuesdays and the following holidays 1 January, 1 May, 15 August and 25 December. On Wednesday and Friday evening the museum is open until 9:45 pm.
TICKETS: The entrance ticket costs € 8.50. Admission is free on the first Sunday of the month.
HOW TO GET THERE: To reach the Louvre Museum you can use the Palais Royal – Musée du Louvre metro station.