While looking for post topics for today, I found out that today is the anniversary of the opening of the Louvre as a public museum in 1793. Since I visited there on my recent trip (and got hopelessly lost in their majorly twisty corridors, but that’s another story…), I thought it would be fun to find out more about its development from palace to vast museum! (FYI, the Louvre contains more than 380,000 objects, ranging from the 6th century BC to the 19th century, with 35,000 on display in more than 650,000 square feet. It averages 15,000 visitors a day, and employs more than 2000. In 1986, with the completion of the Musee d’Orsay, objects from after 1848 were moved there and the collection was split)
The Louvre started in the 12th century, as a fortress built by Phillipe II. Remnants of the fortress are still visible in below-ground galleries. The building was then extended several times, until in 1674 Louis XIV moved his court to the Palace of Versailles, leaving the Louvre mainly as a place to display some of the royal collections. During the Revolution, the National Assembly decreed the former palace a museum of the people (“a place for bringing together monuments of the arts and sciences”). It opened with an exhibit of 537 paintings, most of them seized from royal and Church property.
The public was given free access three days a week, but the building was closed in 1796 due to “structural deficiencies,” and not re-opened until 1801, with displays now arranged chronologically and organized with new columns and lighting.
Under Napoleon, the collections expanded greatly, thanks to works sent back from Egypt, Spain, Austria, Holland, and Italy. After his defeat at Waterloo, many former owners sought their return, which the Louvre’s administrators were, er, reluctant to comply with. In response, many of the restored foreign powers sent diplomats to seek out these works and secure their return. (An echo of this was seen just before World War II, when, on August 27, 1939, a long truck convoy left Paris taking countless objects and paintings to new hiding spots. By December, the museum was entirely cleared except for items too heavy or “insignificant” to be moved. In 1945, the art came back).
The Louvre is best known for objects such as the Venus de Milo, Nike of Samothrace, the Apollo Belvedere, Michelangelo’s “Slaves” sculptures, David’s Coronation of Napoleon (I stood in front of this for a long time studying the gowns!), Delacroix’s Liberty Leading the People, Vermeer’s The Lacemaker, and of course Mona Lisa.
Some good sources to read more about the Louvre are Andrew McClellan’s Inventing the Louvre; Bette Wynn Oliver’s From Royal to National: The Louvre Museum and the Bibliotheque National; and Alain Nave’s Treasures of the Louvre.
What are some of your favorite museums, or works of art? What would you do if you were lost in the Louvre???
And be sure and join us tomorrow, as we discuss the Harlequin Historicals anthology One Candlelit Christmas, just as the holiday season gets started!
(And also don’t forget that the Harlequin Historical Undone stories are only .89 at eharlequin for November!! Check The Good The Bad The Unread for reviews of all 4 stories…)
Great post, Amanda. I wouldn’t mind getting lost in the Louvre or any other museum. I tend to do that anyway! The Mona Lisa was a favorite of mine. I spent an entire day in the Van Gogh museum when I visited Amsterdam. It was the year of the 100th anniversary of his death and they had called most of his paintings home for the exhibit. They also had letters and diaries of Van Gogh and his brother.
The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam is another great place to get lost. It is HUGE! There is a complete Viking ship in the basement. And Rembrandt’s The Night Watch is AMAZING!
I loved the British Museum. The Elgin Marbles and all of the Egyptian artifacts (The Rosetta Stone!)
The National Gallery in London is another favorite of mine. The paintings just transport you back in time.
Yes, I am a museum GEEK!
“Yes, I am a museum GEEK!”
LOL–welcome to the club, Louisa! 🙂 I didn’t MIND getting lost in the Louvre, I am very easily distracted and would have happily moved in to live there (especially if I could set up house in the newly-restored Napoleon III apartments). But there was somewhere I had to be at a certain time that day, drat it all. (BTW, the Orangerie in the Tuileries Gardens is beautiful, and small! A great place to head after the Louvre)
I have never been to Amsterdam, but it is definitely on my list. I love the British Museum–there is definitely something for everyone there! I’m very fond of the Met and the Chicago Art Institute, too.
I love the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. I’d actually like to move in there and never come out.
Closer to home, the Farnsworth Museum in Rockport, Maine has three generations of Wyeth paintings which are fabulous. I spent a lot of my youth at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Guggenheim in NYC.
My youngest daughter got an anthropology degree with a minor in museum education, and it was atreat to go with her to visit different museums around the state for her projects. There just are never enough seats to contemplate everything, though. Old age is creeping up!
I basically love almost any museum!
I visited the Louvre in April 1972 and the Rijksmuseum in September 1971- both were incredible.
I think the museum which “blew me away” the most was the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, Russia.
The Philadelphia Museum of Art is one of my favorites- and not because it’s here at home.
I could spend a year at the Smithsonian.
I love museums too–just wish I could visit them *alone* more often. My family just can’t understand why I need to read every caption under every exhibit…don’t know why that is!
One you have not mentioned is the Musee D’Orsay. I love the building itself and the collection of impressionist paintings is amazing.
“I love the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. I’d actually like to move in there and never come out.”
LOL–I would like that, too. I would sleep in the Great Bed of Ware every night. 🙂
Elena, I also visited the Orsay on my trip! It was a gorgeous place, though everyone kept crowding around things I wanted to see (like Renoir’s “Moulin Gallette”). Sigh–so rude. :))
The Louvre is marvellous indeed. My favourite spot in the entire museum is the small room, almost an alcove, there the Louis-Leopold Boilly paintings hand. I adore them.
I look forward to returning to the V&A in a week or so–the Jewellery collection is on display again in a new specially-designed space, after being closed for several years. It’s an important stop on my annual pilgrimage and I’m so impatient to gaze upon all its glories again!
Maggie, I love the Farnsworth, too! And the lovely little museum in Ogunquite, right on the sea….
Thanks to everyone for adding so much to my already-massive travel wish list… 🙂
I found the Louvre totally overwhelming. To my tired feet, to my bursting brain, and my overload level. No matter how beautiful a particular them in painting is, you fail to appreciate it as much after the seventh dozen example.
I liked the Prada in Madrid and the Uffizi in Florence much better. Gorgeous, but managable.
I just went to the Met, which I have yet to see all of, and might never in my lifetime. I love that place.
“You are lost in a maze of twisty corridors, all alike.”
Sorry, probably no one else ever played Zork (or Adventure, its predecessor). 🙂
Great post, Amanda! And sorry I’m so late to the party (I blame the play I was in.)
I’ve only been to the Louvre once, and that was before I knew anything about art (hmm…I don’t mean to say that I do know anything about art now, but let’s just say I knew even less then…I was all “I’ve heard of Picasso! He was the guy who cut off his ear, right?”)
And I’ve wanted to revisit Paris, and see the Louvre again (among other things), for a long time now…but your post has upped that longing! Hmm…maybe in the spring, Todd and I can go…
As far as favorite museums…I never was that crazy about the British Museum (crowded, and not my period) or the V&A (costumes are great, but I never wanted to look at an iron railing again.)
I much prefer the British National Gallery & National Portrait Gallery, the Wallace Collection, the Frick Museums in Pittsburgh and New York, and the Huntington out here. (No coincidence that the Wallace, Huntington, & Fricks all lean toward French or British art of the 18th or early 19th centuries, my favorite periods…)