Palais du Louvre

The Louvre Palace (French: Palais du Louvre, IPA: ), on the Right Bank of the Seine in Paris, is a former royal palace situated between the Tuileries Gardens and the church of Saint-Germain l'Auxerrois. Its origins date back to the medieval period, and its present structure has evolved in stages since the 16th century.

The Louvre gets its name from a Frankish word leovar or leower, signifying a fortified place, according to the French historian Henri Sauval. It was the actual seat of power in France until Louis XIV moved to Versailles in 1682, bringing the government perforce with him. The Louvre remained the nominal, or formal, seat of government to the end of the Ancien Régime in 1789. Since then it has housed the celebrated Musée du Louvre as well as various government departments.

Description of the present-day palace
The complex

The present-day Louvre Palace is a vast complex of wings and pavilions on four main levels which, although it looks to be unified, is the result of many phases of building, modification, destruction and restoration. The Palace is situated in the right-bank of the River Seine between Rue de Rivoli to the north and the Quai François Mitterrand to the south. To the west is the Jardin des Tuileries and, to the east, the Rue de l'Amiral de Coligney (its most architecturally famous façade, created by Claude Perrault) and the Place du Louvre. The complex occupies about 40 hectares and forms two main quadrilaterals which enclose two large courtyards: the Cour Carrée ("Square Courtyard"), completed under Napoleon I, and the larger Cour Napoleon ("Napoleon Courtyard") with the Cour du Carrousel to its west, built under Napoleon III. The Cour Napoleon and Cour du Carrousel are separated by the street known as the Place du Carrousel.

The Louvre complex may be divided into the "Old Louvre": the medieval and Renaissance pavilions and wings surrounding the Cour Carrée, as well as the Grande Galerie extending west along the bank of the Seine; and the "New Louvre": those 19th Century pavilions and wings extending along the north and south sides of the Cour Napoleon along with their extensions to the west (north and south of the Cour du Carrousel) which were originally part of the long-gone Palais des Tuileries (Tuileries Palace).

Some 51,615 sq m (555,000 sq ft) in the palace complex are devoted to public exhibition floor space. The complex is so vast that one could visit every day for a week and still not be able to give more than a cursory look to each of the exhibits.

The "Old Louvre"

The Old Louvre occupies the site of the 12th-century fortress of King Philip Augustus, also called the Louvre. Its foundations are viewable in the basement level as the "Medieval Louvre" department. This structure was razed in 1546 by King Francis I in favor of a larger royal residence which was added to by almost every subsequent French monarch. King Louis XIV, who resided at the Louvre until his departure for Versailles in 1678, completed the Cour Carrée, which was closed off on the city side by a colonnade. The Old Louvre is a quadrilateral approximately 160 m (520 ft) on a side consisting of 8 ailes (wings) which are articulated by 8 pavillons (pavilions). Starting at the northwest corner and moving clockwise, the pavillons consist of the following: Pavillon de Beauvais, Pavillion de Marengo, Northeast Pavilion, Central Pavilion, Southeast Pavilion, Pavillon des Arts, Pavillon du Roi, and Pavillon Sully (formerly, Pavillon de l'Horloge). Between the Pavillon du Roi and the Pavillon Sully is the Aile Lescot ("Lescot Wing"): built between 1546 and 1551, it is the oldest part of the visible external elevations and was important in setting the mold for later French architectural classicism. Between the Pavillon Sully and the Pavillon de Beauvais is the Aile Lemercier ("Lemercier Wing"): built in 1639 by Louis XIII and Richelieu, it is a symmetrical extension of Lescot's wing in the same Renaissance style. With it, the last external vestiges of the medieval Louvre were demolished.

The "New Louvre"

The New Louvre is the name often given to the wings and pavilions extending the Palace for about 500 m (1,600 ft) westwards on the north (Napoléon I and Napoléon III following the quarter-mile-long Henry IV Seine Riverside Grande Gallerie) and on the south (Napoléon III) sides of the Cour Napoléon and Cour du Carrousel. It was Napoléon III who finally connected the Tuileries Palace with the Louvre in the 1850s, thus finally achieving the Grand Dessein "(Great Design") originally envisaged by King Henry IV of France in the 16th century. This consummation only lasted a few short years, however, as the Tuileries was burned in 1871 and finally razed completely in 1882.

The northern limb of the new Louvre consists (from east to west) of three great pavilions along the Rue de Rivoli: the Pavillon de la Bibliothèque, Pavillon de Rohan and Pavillon de Marsan. On the inside (court side) of the Pavillon de la Bibliothèque are three pavilions; Pavillon Colbert, Pavillon Richelieu and Pavillon Turgot; these pavilions and their wings define three subsidiary Courts, from east to west: Cour Khorsabad, Cour Puget and Cour Marly.

The southern limb of the New Louvre consists (from east to west) of five great pavilions along the Quai François Mitterrand (and Seine bank): the Pavillon de la Lesdiguieres, Pavillon des Sessions, Pavillon de la Tremoille, Pavillon des États and Pavillon de Flore. As on the north side, three inside (court side) pavilions (Pavillon Daru, Pavillon Denon and Pavillon Mollien) and their wings define three more subsidiary Courts: Cour du Sphinx, Cour Viconti and Cour Lefuel.

For simplicity, on museum tourist maps, the New Louvre north limb, the New Louvre south limb, and the Old Louvre are designated as the "Richelieu Wing", the "Denon Wing" and the "Sully Wing", respectively. This allows the casual visitor to avoid (to some extent) becoming totally mystified at the bewildering array of named wings and pavilions.

The Pavillon de Flore and the Pavillon de Marsan, at the westernmost extremity of the Palace (south and north limbs, respectively), were destroyed when the Third Republic razed the ruined Tuileries, but were subsequently restored beginning in 1874. The Flore then served as the model for the renovation of the Marsan by architect Gaston Redon.

A vast underground complex of offices, shops, exhibition spaces, storage areas, and parking areas, as well as an auditorium, a tourist bus depot, and a cafeteria, was constructed underneath the Louvre's central courtyards of the Cour Napoléon and the Cour du Carrousel for François Mitterrand's "Grand Louvre" Project (1981–2002). The ground-level entrance to this complex was situated in the centre of the Cour Napoléon and is crowned by the prominent steel-and-glass pyramid (1989) designed by the American architect I.M. Pei.

History
Medieval period

The Palais du Louvre was originally constructed as a fortress, built in the 12th century by king Philip II Augustus along with the City's first enclosure wall to defend the banks of the Seine river against invaders from the north. The fortress had at its center a cylindrical tower: the Donjon, or the Keep. (Archaeological discoveries of the original fortress are now part of the Medieval Louvre exhibit in the Sully wing of the museum.)

Philip Augustus' fortress of 1190 was not a royal residence but a sizable arsenal comprising a moated quadrilateral (seventy-eight by seventy-two meters) with round bastions at each corner, and at the center of the north and west walls. Defensive towers flanked narrow gates in the south and east walls. At the center of this complex stood a keep, the Grosse Tour (fifteen meters in diameter and thirty meters high). Two inner buildings abutted the outer walls on the west and south sides.

The Louvre was renovated frequently through the Middle Ages. Under Louis IX in the mid-13th century, the Louvre became the home of the royal treasury. The castle soon gained a dual function: in addition to its protective role, it became one of the residences of the king and the court, along with the Château de Vincennes, the Hotel Saint-Pol in Le Marais and the Conciergerie of the Île de la Cité.

The fortress was enlarged and beautified in the 14th century by Charles V, making it the most celebrated royal residence in Europe of its time. Charles V began the enlargement of the Louvre in 1358, but his work was ruined in the course of the Hundred Years War and demolished in the 16th century by King Francis I, to make room for a new structure built in the Renaissance style.

Renaissance period

Beginning in 1546, after returning from his captivity in Spain, King Francis I of France employed architect Pierre Lescot and sculptor Jean Goujon to remove the keep and modernize into a Renaissance style palace. Lescot had previously worked on the châteaux of the Loire Valley and was adopted as the project architect. The new plan consisted of a square courtyard, with the main wing separated by a central staircase, and the two wings of the sides comprising a floor. Lescot added a ceiling to King Henry II's bedroom (Pavillon du Roi) that departed from the traditional beamed style, and installed the Salle des Caryatides, which featured sculpted caryatids based on Greek and Roman works. Art historian Anthony Blunt refers to Lescot's work "as a form of French classicism, having its own principles and its own harmony". Francis acquired what would become the nucleus of the Louvre's holdings; his acquisitions included Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa.

The death of Francis I in 1547, however, interrupted the project. The architect Androuet du Cerceau also worked on the Louvre.

In 1564 Catherine de' Medici directed the building of a château to the west called the Palais des Tuileries, facing the Louvre and the surrounding gardens. The Palace closed off the western end of the Lourve courtyard. Catherine then took over the restoration of the entire palace. Her architect Philibert de l'Orme began the project, and was replaced after his death in 1570 by Jean Bullant.

House of Bourbon and After

The Bourbons took control of France in 1589. During his reign (1589–1610), Henry IV began his "Grand Design" to remove remnants of the medieval fortress, to increase the Cour Carrée's area, and to create a link between the Palais des Tuileries and the Louvre. The link was completed via the Grande Galerie by architects Jacques Androuet de Cerceau and Louis Métezeau.

More than a quarter of a mile long and one hundred feet wide, this huge addition was built along the bank of the Seine; at the time of its completion it was the longest building of its kind in the world. Henry IV, a promoter of the arts, invited hundreds of artists and craftsmen to live and work on the building's lower floors. (This tradition continued for another 200 years until Napoleon III ended it.)

In the early 17th century, Louis XIII razed the north wing of the medieval Louvre and replaced it with a continuation of the Lescot Wing. His architect, Jacques Lemercier, designed and completed the wing by 1639 (subsequently known as the Pavillon de l'Horloge, after a clock was added in 1857.)

The Richelieu Wing was also built by Louis XIII, the building first being opened to the public as a museum on November 8, 1793 during the French Revolution.Louis XIII (1610–1643) completed the wing now called the Denon Wing, which had been started by Catherine de Medici in 1560. Today it has been renovated, as a part of the Grand Louvre Renovation Programme.

In 1659, Louis XIV instigated a phase of construction under architects Le Vau and André Le Nôtre, and painter Charles Le Brun. Le Vau oversaw the decoration of the Pavillon du Roi, the Grand Cabinet du Roi, a new gallery to parallel the Petite Gallerie, and a chapel. Le Nôtre redesigned the Tuileries garden in the French style, which had been created in 1564 by Catherine de' Medici in the Italian style; and Le Brun decorated of the Galerie d'Apollon. A committee of architects proposed on Perrault's Colonnade; the edifice was begun in 1668 but not finished until the 19th century.

Commissioned by Louis XIV, architect Claude Perrault's eastern wing (1665–1680), crowned by an uncompromising Italian balustrade along its distinctly non-French flat roof, was a ground-breaking departure in French architecture. His severe design was chosen over a design provided by the great Italian architect Bernini, who had journeyed to Paris specifically to work on the Louvre. Perrault had translated the Roman architect Vitruvius into French. Now Perrault's rhythmical paired columns form a shadowed colonnade with a central pedimented triumphal arch entrance raised on a high, rather defensive base, in a restrained classicizing baroque manner that has provided models for grand edifices in Europe and America for centuries. The Metropolitan Museum in New York, for one example, reflects Perrault's Louvre design. In 1678 the royal residence moved to Versailles and the Palais du Louvre became an art gallery.

In 1806, the construction of the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel began, situated between the two western wings, commissioned by Emperor Napoleon I to commemorate his military victories, designed by architect Charles Percier, surmounted by a quadriga sculpted by François Joseph Bosio, and completed in 1808.

The Louvre was still being added to by Napoleon III. The new wing of 1852–1857, by architects Louis Visconti and Hector Lefuel, represents the Second Empire's version of Neo-baroque, full of detail. The extensive sculptural program includes multiple pediments and a series of 86 statues of famous men, each one labeled. These include:

  • historian Philippe de Commines, by Eugène-Louis Lequesne
  • naturalist Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon, by Eugène André Oudiné
  • chemist Antoine Lavoisier, by Jacques-Léonard Maillet
  • historian Jacques-Auguste de Thou, by Louis Auguste Deligand
  • philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau, by Jean-Baptiste Farochon
  • Marquis de Vauban, by Gustave Crauck

In 1871 the Tuileries Palace was destroyed in the upheaval during the suppression of the Paris Commune. The western end of the Louvre courtyard has remained open since, forming the Cour d'honneur. Continued expansion and embellishment of the Louvre continued through 1876.

The current Louvre Palace is an almost rectangular structure, composed of the square Cour Carrée and two wings which wrap the Cour Napoléon to the north and south. In the heart of the complex is the Louvre Pyramid, above the visitor's center. The museum is divided into three wings: the Sully Wing to the east, which contains the Cour Carrée and the oldest parts of the Louvre; the Richelieu Wing to the north; and the Denon Wing, which borders the Seine to the south.

In 1983, French President François Mitterrand proposed the Grand Louvre plan to renovate the building and move the Finance Ministry out, allowing displays throughout the building. American architect I. M. Pei was awarded the project and proposed a modernist glass pyramid for the central courtyard. The pyramid and its underground lobby were inaugurated on 15 October 1988. Controversial at first, it has become an accepted Parisian architectural landmark. The second phase of the Grand Louvre plan, La Pyramide Inversée (The Inverted Pyramid), was completed in 1993. As of 2002, attendance had doubled since completion.

Photo gallery
  • The Louvre Pyramid in the Cour Napoleon looking east.

  • Remains of the medieval foundations can still be seen underneath the museum.

Media

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