Little Bits of History

The Louvre

Posted in History by patriciahysell on August 10, 2014
The Louvre

The Louvre

August 10, 1793: The Louvre officially opens. The Louvre Palace was the fortress of Philip II of the 12th century and parts of the original building are still visible. It is not known whether or not this was the first building erected here. The origins of the name are also under debate. Throughout the Middle Ages, the Palace was upgraded, changed, and converted. Charles V converted the building into a residence and Francis I not only renovated it, but also acquired what would become the nucleus of the Louvre’s holdings. It was he who brought Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa to France. Louis XIV moved his residence to Versailles in 1682 and at the Palace, construction slowed and artists began to use it as a residence.

During the mid-1700s there were a number of proposals to create a public gallery and a call to display the royal collection. On October 14, 1750, Louis XV agreed to display 96 pieces. They were available for viewing on Wednesdays and Saturdays until the collection closed in 1780. The next Louis made the royal museum a policy and the collection expanded. In May 1791, during the French Revolution, the Louvre was transformed into a public museum and it was declared it would bring together monuments of the sciences and arts. One year before this date, King Louis XVI was imprisoned and the royal collection became national property.

On the one year anniversary of the monarchy’s demise, the museum officially opened. The public was given free access three days a week. At the time, the collection contained 537 paintings and 184 art objects. Three quarters of the collection came from the royal collections while the remainder came from confiscated items from French Huguenots who were forced to flee and from Church property. In order to further expand the pieces available, the Republic dedicated 100,000 livres per year. The beginning years were chaotic with paintings unlabeled and hanging without rhyme or reason. The building itself had to be closed in May 1796 due to structural issues and reopened on July 14, 1801.

Today, the Musee du Louvre contains more than 380,000 objects and displays 35,000 of them in eight curatorial departments. There are more than 652,000 square feet of space. There are more than 15,000 people visiting each day and of them, 65% are foreign tourists. The Louvre is owned by the French government. Since 2003, the museum has been required to raise funds for projects. The government still pays operating costs but the rest (new wings, upgrades, and acquisitions) is up to the museum to finance. There is a staff of 2,000 working there headed by Director Jean-Luc Martinez. There are also two satellite museums.

Keep good company – that is, go to the Louvre. – Paul Cezanne

The Louvre is a morgue; you go there to identify your friends. – Jean Cocteau

I’ve been fifty thousand times to the Louvre. I have copied everything in drawing, trying to understand. – Alberto Giacometti

I remember being a student, and I would go every Friday to the Louvre and stay for ages, just walking around. – Jemima West

Also on this day: Smile, You’re on Candid Camera – In 1948, Candid Camera comes to television.
Swedish Navy – In 1628, the Vasa sunk on her maiden voyage.
James Smithson – In 1946, the Smithsonian Institution is chartered.
Scat! – In 1755, the Expulsion of the Acadians began.

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