Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Louvre

The Louvre, in its various architectural facades, has dominated central Paris since the late 12th century. In 1190, Paris was Europe's biggest city. King Philippe Auguste (1180-1223) added a fortress on the banks of the Seine to the existing ramparts to protect the capital from an Anglo-Norman threat. This fortress was known as the Louvre.

As Paris began to expand during the next two centuries, the Louvre became enclosed within the city, losing its original defensive function.

In 1364 Raymond du Temple, Charles V's architect, began work on facelifting the fortress into a plush royal residence, boasting ornately decorated rooms with sculptures, tapestries and beautifully carved windows.

From 1527 and the reign of Francois I, the medieval Louvre began to transform into a Renaissance palace.

The construction of the Tuileries Palace some 500 metres away led to an ambitious plan to link the two buildings. This is where the Grand Galerie came into being. In 1566, Charles XI began to take the plan to task by building the ground floor of the Petite Galerie. It served as a starting point connecting the Louvre to the Tuileries via a long corridor.

Henry IV built the Grand Galerie between 1595 and 1610, providing the desired link between the royal apartments of the Louvre, to the Tuileries Palace. The work on the Grand Galerie interior was completed fifteen years later.

The reigns of Louis XIII, Louis XIV and Louis XV resulted in the Louvre that we see today, however it slipped into a period of dormancy. A number of projects were started, only to be abandoned shortly afterwards.

In 1791, the revolutionary Assemblee Nationale decreed that the "Louvre and the Tuileries together will be a national palace to house the king and for gathering together all the monuments of the sciences and the arts. On August 10th, 1793, the Museum Central des Arts opened to the public for free viewing. The collections of art and sculpture gradually spread over the entire building during the late 18th and 19th centuries.

The Tuileries burned down in May 1871 and were eventually demolished after lengthy disputes, in 1883. Thus began the birth of the modern Louvre. It no longer acted as the seat of power, and was devoted almost entirely to culture. The museum began to take over the entire huge complex of buildings.

President Francois Mitterand began the Grand Louvre Project consisting of a complete reorganization of the museum, on September 26th, 1981. The glass pyramid built by I. M. Pei was inaugurated on March 30th, 1989. It serves as an entrance to the large reception hall located beneath, which Robert Langdon used in "The Da Vinci Code."

In 1993 the renovated Richlieu wing opened, the biggest expansion in the museum's history.

The Louvre now enjoys some 6 million visitors every year, admiring its truly universal scope of collections amassed through the centuries. It is the most visited museum in the world. Almost 380,000 objects and 35,000 works of art from pre-history to the 19th century are exhibited, covering an area of 652,300 square feet ( 60,600 square metres). The curator is one Marie-Laure de Rochebrune. The Louvre currently employs a staff of 2,000, led by Director Henri Loyrette.

The museum earned a staggering $2.5million for allowing filming for "The Da Vinci Code" in its galleries. It is most famous for Leonardo Da Vinci's "Mona Lisa" painting in the Salle Des Etats, highly detailed in Dan Brown's book, "The Da Vinci Code."

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