Louvre is the biggest and grandest museum
and art gallery in all of France, if not
the entire world. The Louvre also constitutes
the point of departure of the great East-West
view, which crosses the Arc du Carrousel,
the obelisk in the Place de la Concorde,
the Arc de Triomphe on the Champs-Elysées,
and extends right out to the new Arc de
Starting its life as a fortress in 1190,
it grew to become a palace in 1870. A
truly colossal building, it has extended
across the right bank of the Seine for
hundreds of years, and is impossible to
miss. Since the Middle Ages the Louvre
has seen war and famine, revolution and
riot. During all of its history it development
has been unlike any other building, each
stage marked by both the major events
of French history and the succession of
architects and decorators who have left
their mark on it and the rest of Europe.
France’s greatest King, Louis the
XIV (known as The Sun King) added expensively
to the Louvre; architects Le Mercier and
Le Vau were commissioned to build the
"Cour Carrée", four times
the size of the former Renaissance courtyard.
Poussin, Romanelli and Le Brun decorated
the apartments and the galleries. This
was stopped of course when Louis XIV decided
to move his construction to the grand
palave of Versailles.
Napoleon himself added to the Louvre’s
collections by his wars (in fact, in 1803
the museum was proclaimed the “Musée
Napoléon”). Inside its walls
can be found the plunder of dozens of
civilizations both modern and ancient.
The museum is famous for its enormous
collection of Greek, Roman, and Egyptian
antiquities, and for its superb old masters,
a collection especially rich in works
by Rembrandt, Rubens, Titian, and Leonardo.
Its most famous sculptures include the
Nike and the Venus of Milo.
Today’s modern Louvre is the grandmother
of all tourist attractions. In 1984 excavations
began for the expansion of the Louvre
underground. It was decided that the area
was to be bathed in natural light, so
in 1993 a glass pyramid (designed by I.
M. Pei, opened in 1989), was constructed
to sit atop the entrance to this new space.