The History of the
Louvre Museum – Part 2

A Royal Palace takes form

Louvre Museum. Although originally built as a fortress, to defend the Seine, it was never used in a military campaign.

In Part 1 we saw that within a couple of centuries of its construction the Louvre fortress was in the centre of Paris instead of at the edge.

That's because Paris had expanded far beyond the original city walls built during the reign of Philippe Auguste

Once Charles V moved the royal residence from Ile de la Cité to the Louvre in 1365, a two-hundred year period of improving the former fortress began, culminating in the improvements made by Francis I. As France's power and wealth grew, it was about time to create a true regal seat of government.

A Palace fit for a king

The Grand Gallery

The Louvre in the late 1500s was a mess, consisting of pieces of buildings began over the previous two hundred years, and a perpetual construction site.

In 1564 Catherine de Medici began work on a more comfortable royal mansion to the west of the Louvre, the Tuileries Palace. Under Charles IX and Henry IV a grander vision of the royal residence began to emerge, with plans for a gallery to connect the Louvre with the new Tuileries Palace.

The Grand Gallery was began by Henry IV in about 1595 but wasn't completed until the reign of Louis XV, about 50 years later.

The Grand Gallery

During that period, the 1600s, the Louvre grew and took shape. The main galleries were completed, Cour Carée was quadrupled in size, the Cour de Sphinx was completed, and the Pavilion de l'Horloge was begun at the western side of the Cour Carée. The decor and furnishings of the palace were provided by famous painters of the day, such as Poussin, Le Brun and Romanelli.

But work came to a screeching halt when Louis XIV, the Sun King, decided to move the royal residence to Versailles in 1674. The buildings adjacent to the Cour Carée were left unfinished and exposed to weather for nearly a century.

For the next decades the Louvre was used for a variety of purposes. A gallery of ancient sculptures. As home to Académie Française and the Royal Society of Painting and Sculpture. A definite art theme was developing.

A Palace for the Arts

Louvre Louis XV

Louvre Museum Paris France: It all started with exhibitions of art from the Royal Collection, held at Palais Luxembourg on the other side of the Seine. These exhibits, held between 1750 and 1785, were a huge success, and the Director of the King's Buildings began to think of another use for the abandoned royal palace.

But the royal plans came to another halt with the French Revolution. While Louis XVI lived under house arrest in the Tuileries Palace, the revolutionary Assemblée Nationale decided that the Louvre would become a shrine to the arts and sciences.

And so, the Musée Central des Arts de la République opened its doors in November 1793. Created as a training ground for artists of the time, admission was free, but only artists were allowed in during the week. The public was admitted only on Sundays.

From then on there was no stopping the Louvre. More of the building was opened for exhibits as the collection expanded.

Next. In Part 3 of the History of the Louvre Museum Paris France we go from Napoleon to today.

End of Part 2, Go to Part 3 »

History of the Louvre — Part 1 » History of the Louvre — Part 2 » History of the Louvre — Part 3 »

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