Louvre Museum Paris: 9 centuries of art

The Louvre Museum in Paris is one of the most visited museums in the world. The massive building in the 1st arrondissement of Paris draws more than 7 million visitors every year. The museum houses almost 40,000 works of art and archaeological treasures, including renowned pieces such as the painting Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci and the Venus de Milo. The world-famous Louvre is known not only for its extensive collection. The building, with multiple wings to explore, is a sight in itself.

Louvre castle and palace

The history of Louvre Castle dates back to the 12th century. As Paris grew larger and larger, the castle’s defensive function became smaller. As a city palace, it remained important for the French royal family in the following centuries. This lasted until the 17th century when King Louis XIV decided to live and reign in the renovated Versailles palace. A century later, King Louis V agreed to turn the Louvre into a public museum with considerable works of art from the royal family’s possessions. Yet it was not until the French Revolution that the Louvre became a real national museum in Paris. From then on, numerous paintings of the royal family and artworks removed from churches were on display for everyone interested. In 1793, the Louvre museum opened its doors to the public. And those doors are still open to everyone this very day. 

Structure of the Louvre collection

The art collection on display has been continuously expanded, reduced and augmented over the past three centuries. The Louvre began with paintings, and art revolutionaries had taken from the churches and royal family. After that, Emperor Napoleon ‘collected’ a lot of art during his battles throughout Europe. Unfortunately, he often did so without the permission of the original owners. Although the Parisian museum acquired an extensive collection, many works returned to their legal owners after Napoleon’s death. However, through a bit of trickery and bargaining, the museum kept several works of art.

The contemporary Louvre

Nowadays, you can still discover many past features in the current Parisian Louvre. For instance, under the floor of the museum, at Pavillon de l’Horloge, you can look at the walls and foundations of the old medieval castle. In addition, some works, like the Mona Lisa, have been hanging in the Louvre since the 16th century. Today the Parisian museum has some 40,000 works of art on public display. And that is only about 10 per cent of the collection that the Louvre owns.

After several renovations, the Louvre took its present form in 1874. In the middle, the…. and around it the wings Richelieu, Sully and Denon. However, the famous glass pyramid that forms the main entrance to the museum was not completed until 1989.

More Louvre museums in the world

The Louvre museum has several other branches besides the one in Paris. Like most significant museums, the Louvre cannot display its vast collection in one building. Therefore, like the Hermitage and the Dutch Rijksmuseum, the Louvre can be found in several other places worldwide. The best known is the Louvre branch in Abu Dhabi. In addition to art from the Louvre Museum in Paris, this also shows works from the Versailles Palace and the Parisian Musée d’Orsay. Furthermore, to alleviate the number of visitors to the Parisian museum, an additional Louvre branch opened in the French city of Lens at the beginning of this century.