The Louvre Today
Over seven million people visited the Louvre museum in 2005. Covering an area of some 40 hectares right in the heart of Paris, the Louvre offers almost 60,000 square meters of exhibition rooms dedicated to preserving items representing 11 millennia of civilization and culture, bridging the very old and the very new.
Architect Pei’s pyramid, surrounded by fountains, marks the entrance to the newly added wing of the museum. At road level, the Jardin du Carrousel has been redesigned, and the terrace covering the former Avenue du Général-Lemonnier will form a continuous area linking up the Jardin des Tuileries, which has also been completely restored.
It was President François Mitterrand who took the decision to transfer the offices of 5,000 civil servants of the Ministry of Finance from the north wing of the Louvre palace to Bercy (in the east of Paris). This liberated 22,000 m² of exhibition area, and initiated the second stage of the project. The Richelieu Wing was inaugurated by President Mitterrand on 18th November 1993, the date of the Louvre museum’s bicentenary.
The Richelieu Wing houses the following collections: French sculptures, around two roofed courtyards (cour Marly and cour Puget); and the first part of the itinerary of Oriental Antiquities and Islamic Art, notably with the cour Khorsabad. The first floor is dedicated to Objets d’art; the second floor includes Flemish and Dutch paintings, that benefit from a new natural lighting system. On the same floor starts the itinerary of French paintings. Two cafes and various documentation rooms are also available to the public.
From 1995 to 1997, numerous galleries have been refurbished in the Denon Wing and Sully Wing. In October 1997, the Sackler Wing of Oriental Antiquities opened. Later that year, 10,000 square meters were inaugurated including the expanded Egyptian Antiquities, Roman Egypt, Coptic Egypt, Italian Paintings and Drawings areas.
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Location: Pyramide – Cour Napoleon, A.P. 34, 36 quai du Louvre, 75001 Paris
|Palais Royal-Musee du Louvre|
|21, 27, 39, 48, 68, 69, 72, 76, 95|
Open: Museum: 9 a.m.-6 p.m. – Pyramid: 9 a.m.-10 p.m. – Museum late night opening: Monday (Richelieu Wing) and Wednesday: until 9.45 p.m.
Closed: Tuesday, certain bank holidays.
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The Louvre in History
Tracing its architectural origins back to the 12th century fortress of Philippe Auguste, the stunning Louvre palace stands along the right bank of the Seine. Since the Middle Ages, its development has been marked by both the major events of French history and the succession of architects and decorators who have left their mark on it.
The medieval fortress from which the present day palace originates was built by King Philippe Auguste at the end of the 12th century. The restoration work on the Cour Carree and the excavation work necessary for construction of the I. M. Pei pyramid and the Carrousel area allowed archaeological digs. Visitors can now walk along the moats of the medieval fortress under the Cour Carrée and pass around the base of the dungeon to get to the salle Saint-Louis (13th century). A visit to the carpark has its own appeal – you can walk along the so-called Charles V moats.
In 1528, François Ier had the “grand tower” destroyed, and decided in 1546 to transform the former fortress into a luxury residence. The transformation, which was supervised by Pierre Lescot, continued under Henri II and Charles IX, involved two new wings which occupy two sides of the former fortress. Jean Goujon decorated the facade and the great hall of this Renaissance wing.
To the west, in a place known as the Tuileries, Catherine de Médicis had a huge palace built, which she left incomplete. As soon as he arrived in Paris in 1594, Henri IV had the Louvre and Tuileries connected to form a gigantic palace. This was the “Grand Dessein” or Grand Design, of which he had the first stage completed, the Grande Galerie.
Under Louis XIII and Louis XIV, the architects Le Mercier and subsequently Le Vau built the “Cour Carrée”, four times the size of the former Renaissance courtyard. To the East, facing the city, a committee of architects, led by Perrault, planned the “colonnade”. Poussin, Romanelli and Le Brun decorated the apartments and the “galeries”. But this golden age enjoyed by the Louvre came to an abrupt end in 1678, when Louis XIV chose Versailles as his centre of power. The double palace remained incomplete for a long time. During the entire 18th century, new projects contributed to the “Grand Dessein” of the Bourbons.
Nearby, in the Tuileries – Orangerie Museum
Location: Jardin des Tuileries, Place de la Concorde
|Concorde on the 1, 8, 12 lines|
Set in the southwest end of the Tuileries Gardens is the Orangerie Museum. The collection is made up of 144 paintings, predominantly by André Derain. There are also around 24 Renoirs, and about 24 of Soutines, fourteen Cezannes, a dozen by Picasso and Matisse, and some by Henri Rousseau, Utrillo, Modigliani, Marie Laurencin Van Dongen, Sisley, Soutine and Monet (Monet’s water lillies at the Orangerie).
The collection was given to France by Jean Walter and Paul Guillaume, on the stipulation that the works must always be exhibited together. It is very much a reflection of the fine and eclectic tastes of these two art mavens.
Don’t neglect to visit the basement Oval Rooms, where Monet’s Waterlily series is on permanent display.
This jewel of a museum doesn’t require marathon endurance to see it all and then return to your favorites for a second look.