On this date in 1793 the Louvre Museum (Musée du Louvre) in Paris, brainchild of the French Revolution, opened to the public. Nowadays it is the world’s largest art museum. The Louvre is a central landmark of the city, located on the Right Bank of the Seine in the city’s 1st arrondissement. Approximately 38,000 objects from prehistory to the 21st century are exhibited over an area of 72,735 square meters (782,910 square feet). In 2018, the Louvre was the world’s most visited art museum, receiving 10.2 million visitors.
The museum is housed in the Louvre Palace, originally built as the Louvre castle in the late 12th to 13th century under Philip II. Remnants of the fortress are visible in the basement of the museum. Due to urban expansion, the fortress eventually lost its defensive function, and in 1546 Francis I converted it into the main residence of the French Kings. The building was extended many times to form the present Louvre Palace. In 1682, Louis XIV chose the Palace of Versailles for his household, leaving the Louvre primarily as a place to display the royal collection, including, from 1692, ancient Greek and Roman sculpture. In 1692, the building was occupied by the Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres and the Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture, which in 1699 held the first of a series of salons. The latter Académie remained at the Louvre for 100 years. During the French Revolution, the National Assembly decreed that the Louvre should be used as a museum to display the nation’s masterpieces.
When the museum opened on 10th August 1793 it showed an exhibition of 537 paintings, the majority of the works being royal and confiscated church property. Because of structural problems with the building, the museum was closed in 1796 until 1801. The collection was increased under Napoleon and the museum was renamed Musée Napoléon, but after Napoleon’s abdication in 1814 many works seized by his armies were returned to their original owners. The collection was further increased during the reigns of Louis XVIII and Charles X, and during the Second French Empire the museum gained 20,000 pieces. Holdings have grown steadily through donations and bequests since the Third Republic. The collection is divided among eight curatorial departments: Egyptian Antiquities; Near Eastern Antiquities; Greek, Etruscan and Roman Antiquities; Islamic Art; Sculpture; Decorative Arts; Paintings; Prints and Drawings.
My son and I spent a week in Paris 14 years ago (when he was 14), and we spent a good part of every day at the Louvre. He got in free because he was an EU citizen under 18, but I had to pay. It was worth it. First day we just wandered hither and yon, unable to take in its vastness. We made the obligatory stop to see the Mona Lisa, taking 25 minutes to get close to the front so that we could see it (it’s small). The fact that this one painting out of the tens of thousands on display was crushed with humanity was depressing. Apparently, it’s common knowledge that the Mona Lisa is “the best painting in the world.” Absurd!!! All you have to do is walk up a few stairs to the next floor and you find yourself in gallery after gallery wallpapered with priceless masterpieces – virtually deserted.
On that first day, we got lost and by accident stumbled into a display of Greek and Roman bronzes when we were trying to find the exit to get some lunch. Next day we made a beeline for that display and he was enchanted. After that, we selected a wing per day, but barely scratched the surface, even so. If you spent just one minute in front of each piece in the permanent collection – not allowing time for movement between rooms, and staying 24 hours per day – it would take a month to see everything. Meanwhile you would have no time to eat, sleep, or go to the toilet. It is vast. I can understand why people return again and again and again – more than I can fathom why people return to Disney World.
There are several cakes called Louvre Cake although they do not have much of a connexion with the Louvre itself. They are variations on a theme (lots of chocolate), and are all both sumptuous and appetizing. As befits a place noted for its images, I will give you a small gallery to drool over. Recipes are extra.