From the dungeon of Philippe Auguste from around 1100 to the pyramid of Leoh Ming Pei in 1988, the Louvre has transformed, grown and inspired. TV5MONDE invites you to come relive the history of this iconic building. A focus on an architectural and artistic adventure that is eight centuries old.
From medieval castle to the largest museum in the world
With 360,000m2 of space of which 72,735 are galleries, the Louvre is the second largest European building and the largest museum in the world. Sponsored by Philippe Auguste around 1100, the building has not always had the shape we know today. Erected to defend Paris and counter invaders, it occupies a strategic position near the Seine, west towards Normandy.
The Louvre underwent a first notable enlargement without any defensive goal around 1230 during the reign of Saint-Louis, but it was Charles V who made it a royal residence and thus gave the palace a more administrative function.
In 1527, François I wanted to make the Louvre a modern palace in the spirit of the Renaissance and make it his main Parisian residence. The dungeon, which had become obsolete, was destroyed the following year and the western wing followed shortly thereafter. It was Henry II, the son of Francis I, who completed the work commissioned by his father.
After organising the recovery of the country ruined by the wars of religion, Henri IV launched major works on the Louvre to revive the economy. They begin in 1594, with the goal of connecting the Louvre Palace to the Tuileries which were built a few years earlier by Catherine de Medici. This long junction runs along the Seine for 450 meters and is 13 meters wide. The redevelopment plans of the Louvre take the name of The Grand Design.
Louis XIV, although occupied by the construction of the Palace of Versailles, also added his stamp to the building by redeveloping the facades of the square courtyard built by Francis I, including quadrupling its size and doubling the thickness of the building, the wing side Seine, and creating the facade of the wing in the Colonnade. But these works were abandoned with the courtyard not completed and the Colonnade lacking a roof due to the departure of Louis XIV and aristocrats for Versailles in 1678.
It was not until the 18th century and Louis XV that the Grand Design of Henri IV was completed. The idea of transforming the Louvre into a museum is then proposed but the project will not succeed before the Revolution. The Louvre then no longer belongs to the monarchy, it belongs henceforth to the people.
The inauguration of the Central Museum of the Arts of the Republic, future Louvre Museum, will take place on November 8, 1793. Only the collections of the King and the works seized from the emigrants or in the churches are then exhibited in the Great Gallery along the Seine. The museum, however, already has some iconic pieces, such as The Mona Lisa bought by Francis I at the death of Leonardo da Vinci.
But the construction of the Louvre is not finished, Napoleon I moved to the Palais des Tuileries and wishes to complete the Grand Design. For this, he asked architects Charles Percier and Pierre Fontaine to erect a second wing between the Palais des Tuileries and the Old Louvre. The project was completed around 1870, the two palaces formed one and the same set. In 1871, the Palace of the Tuileries is burned and destroyed, and the Grand Design of Henri IV will never again see the day.
The last phase of improvement of the Louvre is more recent. From 1981 to 1999, the Grand Louvre project was launched and modernized the museum. Amongst these works, is the famous Pyramid of Glass built in the middle of the court by Leoh Ming Pei between 1985 and 1988. Long criticized, it became the third most appreciated work of the Louvre behind the Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo.
The most famous exhibits of the Louvre
With more than 550,000 works, the Louvre Museum has a collection spanning nearly 10,000 years of history. With an average of 8 million visitors a year, it is also the most visited museum in the world.
28th July: Freedom guiding the people
Eugène Delacroix - 1831. A political painting, it highlights the overthrow of Charles X and the Bourbon kings. A turning point in French history and a second step towards the Republic. Delacroix is one of the most appreciated artists because he holds the record for visiting an exhibition at the Louvre, with an average of more than 5,000 people per day.
Around 140 AD This head is all that remains of a statue of nearly 2.6 meters.
The seated scribe
2600 - 2350 BC The seated or squatting scribe is the most famous statue of an unknown personage.
Aphrodite, or better known as the Vénus de Milo
Around 100 BC Discovered on the island of Melos in Greece. Although many believe that it is Aphrodite, often carved half-naked, we still do not know if it is this goddess is represented or if it is Amphirite, goddess of the sea venerated to Milo.
Winged Human-Headed Bull
721-705 BC Winged bulls with human heads protected the city of Khorsabad against enemies.
The raft of the Medusa
Théodore Géricault - 1824. The sinking of La Méduse, frigate of the Royal Navy to colonize Senegal, in 1816 inspired the painter for his work.
The Mona Lisa
Léonard de Vinci - 1519. Her iconic smile makes her the most famous portrait subject in the world. Around 1503, Francesco del Giocondo commissioned a portrait of his wife Lisa Gherardini known as Mona Lisa to the Italian artist. The Mona Lisa was probably never delivered, Leonardo da Vinci would have continued to work on the portrait for a long time and took it with him in France. At his death, the painting would have ended up in the collection of Francis I.
Jacques-Louis David - 1806-1807. Napoleon I wanted to send a political and symbolic message through this painting. Jacques-Louis David had to juggle between documentary and art, he will then create a monumental work of 6.21 x 9.79 meters.
Captive - The Rebel slave and the dying slave
Michelangelo Buonarrot known as Michelangelo - 1516. Destined for the tomb of Pope Julius II, the two sculptures were finally removed in 1542 from the final version. The unfinished works were donated to Roberto Strozzi, who will donate them to Francis I.
Hyacinthe Rigaud - 1701. Ordered by Louis XIV for the King of Spain, his grandson Philip V, the portrait was so adored at the court of the Sun King that it remained in his collection before entering the Museum centrail des arts of the Republic from its opening in 1793.