The Louvre or the Louvre Museum (French: Musée
du Louvre) is one of the world's largest museums and a historic monument in Paris,
France. A central landmark of the city, it is located on the Right Bank of the
Seine in the 1st arrondissement (ward). 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, receiving more than 9.7
million visitors in 2012.
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. 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. 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 bequests
since the Third Republic. 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
The Musée du Louvre contains more than 380,000 objects and displays 35,000 works
of art in eight curatorial departments.
The painting collection has more than 7,500 works from the 13th century to 1848
and is managed by 12 curators who oversee the collection's display. Nearly
two-thirds are by French artists, and more than 1,200 are Northern European. The
Italian paintings compose most of the remnants of Francis I and Louis XIV's
collections, others are unreturned artwork from the Napoleon era, and some were
bought. The collection began with Francis, who acquired works from Italian masters
such as Raphael, Michelangelo and several works of Giambattista Pittoni like the
Christ grants Keys of Paradise to St Peter, Continence of Scipio, Suzanne et
les vieillards, Tombeau allégorique de l'archevêque John Tillotson
(1630–1694), Bacchus and Ariadne, Mars and Venus, Sacrifice of Polyxena at the
Tomb of Achilles, Dido founds Carthage and brought Leonardo da Vinci to his
court. After the French Revolution, the Royal Collection formed the nucleus of the
Louvre. When the d'Orsay train station was converted into the Musée d'Orsay in
1986, the collection was split, and pieces completed after the 1848 Revolution were
moved to the new museum. French and Northern European works are in the Richelieu
wing and Cour Carrée; Spanish and Italian paintings are on the first floor of the
Exemplifying the French School are the early Avignon Pietà of Enguerrand
Quarton; the anonymous painting of King Jean le Bon (c.1360), possibly the oldest
independent portrait in Western painting to survive from the postclassical era;
Hyacinthe Rigaud's Louis XIV; Jacques-Louis David's The Coronation of Napoleon; and
Eugène Delacroix's Liberty Leading the People. Northern European works include
Johannes Vermeer's The Lacemaker and The Astronomer; Caspar David
Friedrich's The Tree of Crows; Rembrandt's The Supper at Emmaus,
Bathsheba at Her Bath, and The Slaughtered Ox.
The Italian holdings are notable, particularly the Renaissance collection. The
works include Andrea Mantegna and Giovanni Bellini's Calvarys, which reflect
realism and detail "meant to depict the significant events of a greater spiritual
world". The High Renaissance collection includes Leonardo da Vinci's Mona
Lisa, Virgin and Child with St. Anne, St. John the Baptist, and
Madonna of the Rocks. Caravaggio is represented by The Fortune
Teller and Death of the Virgin. From 16th century Venice, the Louvre
displays Titian's Le Concert Champetre, The Entombment and
The Crowning with Thorns.
The La Caze Collection, a bequest to the Musée du Louvre in 1869 by Louis La
Caze, was the largest contribution of a person in the history of the Louvre. La
Caze gave 584 paintings of his personal collection to the museum. The bequest
included Antoine Watteau's Commedia dell'arte player of Pierrot ("Gilles"). In
2007, this bequest was the topic of the exhibition "1869: Watteau, Chardin...
entrent au Louvre. La collection La Caze".
Some of the best known paintings of the museum have been digitized by the French
Center for Research and Restoration of the Museums of France.