With more the 60,600m² (652,300ft²) of floor space make the Louvre the one of the largest Museums in the world. As a result almost 10 million people visit each year to admire some of the 380,000 objects the museum has in its collection.
When people think of museums they normally think of stale, sterile almost hospital like structures, no in Paris. The Louvre is housed in the Louvre Palace, a fortress begun in the 12th century by the then King Phillip II and once residence of the King of France, today ruins of the original fortress are seen in the basements of the museum.
History of the Museum
In 1682 Louis XIV decided to move his residence to Versailles, leaving the Louvre to as a place to display his collection of Greek & Roman antiquities. Later several academies, notably the Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture (the Royal Academy of Painting & Sculpture), were occupied in the building, a situation that lasted up until the revolution more than 100 years later. During the French Revolution, the National Assembly decided that the Louvre should be used as a museum to display the nations masterpieces quoting the Louvre would; “be a place bringing together monuments of all the sciences and arts” On the 10 August 1793, on the first year anniversary of the Monarchs demise, the museum opened to the public with an exhibition of 537 paintings and 187 objects of art, most of which were confiscated from the Monarchy and the Church during the revolution. As the revolution swept through Europe French armies seized numerous works, particularly from the Vatican, giving them a new home in Paris. It remained open only for 3 years closing in 1796 due to structural problems with the building. The museum was re-opened on 14th July 1801, with the collection arranged chronologically and a new lighting system installed. Over the following centuries, starting with Napoleon Bonaparte, continuously expanded its collection with the Second French Empire (1852-70) under Napoleon III being a highlight with more than 20,000 pieces being added.
World War II
With the outbreak WWII the museum removed and hid most of the valuable pieces. On 27th August 1939, after two days of packing, truck convoys began to leave Paris and by 28th December the museum had been emptied of most works with exception of those that were too heavy or unimportant, that where left in the basement. The Mona Lisa was moved to Château de Chambord in the Loire Valley and when hostilities formally began most of the museums other paintings were moved there also. Sculptures such as the Venus de Milo and the Winged Victory of Samothrace where moved to the Château de Valençay, also located on the Loire. With the war finishing in France with its Liberation, the art began to return to Paris and the Louvre.
The Glass Pyramid
In 1983, President François Mitterand proposed the construction of a new entrance to the Louvre with Chinese-American architect Ming Pei awarded the project. His glass pyramid which was completed in 1989 has, whether you like it or not has proved to be an incredible success with attendances doubling since it`s completion.
For more information on Ming Pei’s Pyramid: http://www.bradleywdick.com/louvre-pyramid-modern-vs-classical
This portrait by Leonardo da Vince is today acclaimed as (are you ready for this); “the best known, the most visited, the most written about, the most sung about, the most parodied work of art in the world” Believed to be of Lisa Gherardini, it was painted between 1503-1506 although experts claim that Da Vinci continued to work on it as late as 1517. It was acquired by the French King François I, after Da Vinci had died in Amboise, France, and has been on permanent display in the Louvre since 1797. In 1852 it was valued at 90,000 francs (€13000) today it is estimated to be worth €800 million. A must see.
Venus de Milo
One of the most famous works from ancient Greece, was believed to have been sculptured between 130-100 BC and is believed to depict the goddess Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love and beauty. Standing 203cm (6ft 8in) it was discovered on the 8th August 1820 on the island of Milos (then under the control of the Ottoman Turks) in the Aegean Sea by a farmer, Yorgos Kentrotas, who showed a French Naval Officer Olivier Voutier where it was. The following year, with the help of the French Ambassador to Turkey, it was transported to Paris where it has been ever since.
A guided visit to the Louvre is included on: