Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Day 39 The Louvre Palace

When we were last in Paris in 2002 we spent one day in the Louvre and realized that not only did our feet ache after a day of touring, but one day was positively insufficient to see the exhibits.

Covering an area of 60,600 square metres (652,300 square feet) the Musée du Louvre or the Louvre Museum is one of the central landmarks of the city of Paris. Actually the museum is housed in the Louvre Palace (Palais du Louvre) which began as a fortress built in the late 12th century under Philip II and remnants of the fortress are still visible. Within the facility are contained nearly 35,000 objects from the 6th millennium BC to the 19th century AD.

When Louis XIV moved to the Palace of Versailles he left the Louvre Palace as primarily a place to display the royal collection, including, from 1692, a collection of antique 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 confiscated church and royal property. Because of structural problems with the building, the museum was closed in 1796 until 1801. The size of the collection increased under Napoleon when the museum was renamed the Musée Napoléon. After his defeat at Waterloo, many works seized by Napoleon's 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 Empire the museum gained 20,000 pieces. Holdings have grown steadily through donations and gifts since the Third Republic, except during the two World Wars. 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; and Prints and Drawings. You can see why one needs more than one day to explore this extravagant exhibit.

The Louvre website is accessed here.

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