Paris’ crowning museum is, of course, the Louvre Museum (Musée du Louvre). It’s not the world’s largest as far as museums go – that title belongs the Smithsonian in Washington, DC. It is however, the world’s largest art museum (and the world’s second largest museum overall). A mind-boggling 38,000 paintings, sculptures, and artifacts spanning millennia are housed in the Louvre’s ornate buildings. The history of the Louvre dates back centuries and is quite an extensive building on its own. Originally built as a fortress in the 1100s CE, it was turned into a royal palace in 1546 by King Francis I, who was an avid art collector. Through the years and the monarchs this royal residence was enhanced with additions, wings, pavilions, and courtyards, often in the popular architectural styles of the age. In 1692 Louis XIV moved his residence to Versailles and the Louvre soon became a home to some academies for a number of years. In 1793 it was officially opened as “Musée Central des Arts in the Grande Galerie of the Louvre”. At the time is housed a mere 537 paintings. Later, during the reign of Napoléon Bonaparte the collection flourished, much due to his conquests. It continued to grow while France was under the rule of Louis XVIII, Charles X, and the Second French Empire. Further growth has happened in more recent times, often via donation.
Louvre Museum at night. Photo credit: Martin Falbisoner creator QS:P170,Q30147473, Louvre at dusk, CC BY-SA 3.0
Today the Louvre is the most visited art museum in the world. It is located in the centre of Paris, in. the 1st arrondissement. This year will be the 20th anniversary of the glass Louvre Pyramid (Pyramide du Louvre) that was designed by I.M. Pei. Originally controversial due to its modernity it is now as iconic as the museum itself. Since the museum covers 72,735 sq metres / 782,910 sq feet give yourself plenty of time or even several visits to truly appreciate its art and importance.
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