LouvreApprox. Time: 4 hours
Activity Level: Easy to Moderate

The Musée du Louvre, the former home of the kings of France, has for two centuries been one of the largest museums in the world. Its collections are distributed into 7 departments: Oriental antiques, Egyptian antiques, Greek, Etruscan and Roman antiques; Paintings, Sculptures and Objets d'Art from the Middle Ages to 1850. Still in its development stage, the Grand Louvre project shall only be totally finished in 1997. The first stage of the project was finished in 1989 (opening of the new access via the glass pyramid designed by I.M. Pei and discovery of the vestiges of the medieval Louvre). In 1993, the Richelieu wing was opened. It exhibits French sculptures, objets d'art, paintings from the Northern schools and French paintings up to the seventeenth century, oriental antiques and the art of Islam. The Carrousel du Louvre, was inaugurated in parallel. This is a large underground complex with stores, car parks and areas for exhibitions and prestigious events. In October 1994, new rooms presenting foreign sculptures were inaugurated. During the last phase of the project many rooms will be redeveloped in the Sully and Denon wings (with namely Egyptian, Greek, Etruscan and Roman antiques and Italian paintings), the Jardin des Tuileries will also be renovated. Until the Revolution, this collection was strictly for the private pleasure of the Court. Finally, the idea of a museum (originating with Louis XVI) was realized on 10 August 1793, when the Musée de la République opened to the public.

Napoléon greatly increased the collections by exacting tribute from the countries he conquored, but most of these were returned in 1815 after his defeat at Waterloo. Under Louis XVIII the Venus de Milo was aquired (for 6000F) shortly after it was rediscovered on the Island of Melos in 1820. In 1848 the museum became the property of the State. With an annual budget devoted to acquiring new art, the collections continued to grow. Private donations also augmented the Museum's holdings. In 1947 the impressionist paintings were moved to the Jeu de Paume and l'Orangerie. (In 1986 these were transfered to the Musée d'Orsay.) Today, the catalogue lists nearly 300,000 works, only a fraction of which are on display at any one time. Le Grand Louvre - begun in 1981 is transforming the museum once again enlarging it substantially. The Richelieu Wing - which had `temporarily'' housed part of the Ministry of Finance since the 18th century - was opened in 1993.