The Louvre Museum is a history museum located in Paris, France. It’s one of the world’s largest and most-visited museums. The Louvre houses over 7,000 artworks from around the ancient world and has been open since 1793.
The museum today comprises four buildings:
- Richelieu wing, dating largely from 1806
- Sully wing, 1838-1848
- Denon wing, 1899-1938
- Pavillon de la Bibliothèque which is a part of Centre Georges Pompidou modern art center with two floors for books and magazines.
The Louvre was originally named the Musée du Louvre after its founder. It was founded by Louis XIV in 1692 with 48 paintings from the royal collection, 93 statues, 5,000 engravings and drawings, 2,839 books, and all sorts of objects too many to mention. The museum’s origins date back to 1672 when French nobleman Jean-Baptiste Colbert became its first keeper.
Curators have long noticed the lack of presentation of objects dating from ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia. Missionary Pierre-Francois-Michel Belaval began collecting Egyptian antiquities in 1742–1754 that are now on display at the Louvre. He began to acquire objects of art during his journey in Egypt. Jean-Baptiste Colbert, Louis XIV’s finance minister, approved the foundation of the Louvre in 1671.
After the Louvre was looted during the French Revolution it was closed for eight years under the direct orders of Robespierre. Under the reign of Napoleon Bonaparte, it reopened as a museum in 1801 displaying Egyptian artifacts which had been previously seized from British troops. Many works were also unearthed during this time including statues, temple reliefs, and cuneiform tablets, and storerooms filled with artifacts from ancient Lebanon and other parts of the Middle East. This ancient Egyptian collection is now found in the Louvre’s Egyptian galleries.
The first director of the Louvre, Jean-Baptiste Colbert, oversaw its development and made it possible for artists to work and study in the museum. Under his reign, four wings were constructed: the Richelieu wing (1801–1806), Sully wing (1838–1848), Denon wing (1847–1895) and the Pavillon de la Bibliothèque (1903-1914). More than 200 building workers died during the construction of the Sully Wing. The Louvre was expanded by Denon during this period.
A new ‘Gallery of Decorative Arts’ was installed in the Sully wing in 1885. It was later divided into two separate museums: the Museum of Decorative Arts (which contains Greek, Roman, Egyptian and Chinese art) and the Musee des Arts Décoratifs (which contains French arts from the late 17th century to 1914). This arrangement is best known today by the public for its exotic animal exhibits.
French architect Ieoh Ming Pei was responsible for designing an underground gallery in 1970. It connects the main building with its earlier 18th century pavilions via a series of pedestrian walkways lined with shops and restaurants.
The Louvre was once home to the Cixi artifacts from China including zodiac fish, lacquerware, and porcelains. It is now home to a large collection of Chinese art known as the ‘Ming and Qing collections’. Since the museum’s founding, many new rooms and exhibitions have been added. The most recent addition is a curving passageway known as the Grand Gallery that connects several of the main halls.
The Louvre is now home to over 7,000 objects from ancient Egyptian antiquities such as mummies, carved wooden sarcophagi, and coffins as well as artifacts from ancient Greece, Rome, and Mesopotamia. The statue of the Egyptian boy-king, Tutankhamun, is housed in Room X (the ‘Karnak Room’). The ceiling of this famous room has an entire Horus falcon painted on it. The collection includes many works bequeathed to the museum by Belgian King Leopold II including two full-body mummies (the first discovered after the discovery of the Tomb of Rekh-ma-Imsety); a limestone sculpture depicting Isis nursing Horus; and a papyrus scroll telling the story of Horus’s birth.