The Louvre Art Museum is probably the most famous art museum in the world.
This is a brief story about that museum.
It is located in the centre of Paris, the French capital city, and on the right bank of the river seine.
The story really begins with King Francis I of France.
He was a great art collector and an admirer of Italian painter Leonardo da Vinci.
So King Francis I hired Leonardo da Vinci to work for him as his personal painter during what was the last three years of the painter’s life between 1516 and 1519.
Significantly, King Francis was thought to be at the bedside of Leonardo da Vinci when he died one spring evening in 1519.
Just before he died, Leonardo da Vinci agreed to give the King his most precious possession, the Mona Lisa painting (orherwise known as ‘Ja Joconde) which he had always kept with him since completing it in 1506.
This was, however, on the understanding that the King would keep and preserve the painting in a place of great grandeur and display it for public exhibition.
King Francis kept his word and began work in 1527 of the construction of the Louvre Palace.
Francis I was a man of the Age of Enlightenment who was profoundly literate and helped to standarise the French language whle establishing important diploamtic relations with the Ottoman Empire in eastern Europe and Turkey.
It was built on the site of the original fortress of Phillip the Second which was demolished.
Louvre was the word chosen for the name of the palace to mean ‘Glory of Art’.
The Louvre Palace opened as a Art Museum in 1793 during the time of the French Revolution and the ‘La Joconde’ or ‘Mona Lisa’ was one of the main exhibits which people wanted to see.
The Art Gallery began life with 537 paintings, mostly confiscated from royal and church property. That has expanded today to 70,000 pieces of art spread across more than 650,000 square feet in eight separate art collection.
These collections from Greek and Roman to Egyptian, Near Eastern, Islamic and Decorative and very reflect the extensiveness of artistic heritage throughout the world.
The French Republican Army seized art and archaeological items during the Napoleonic rule and much was returned after Napoleons loss at the battle of Waterloo in 1815.
Napoleon himself commissioned ‘the Coronation of Napoleon’ and this painting perhaps more than any other serves as a good reminder of the history of the museum.
During the time of the second world war between 1939 and 1945, many valuable paintings were evacuated to secret locations in the French countryside when the Germans swept into France.
Germany, however, used the Louvre Museum as a clearing house for art pieces from other museums. Many did not reach their internded destination and have been controversially retained at the museum as part of the collection on display.
It has been called the greatest cultural theft in history.
It is estimated that around nine million visitors come to the Louvre galleries every year. The Museum is open every day except Tuesdays and public holidays and the entrance fee for adults is only fifteen euros. Admission is free for anyone under 18 years.
There are, of course, many great pieces of art at the Museum besides the ‘Mona Lisa’.
Other famous work at the Louvre include the armless beauty of the ‘Venus de Milo and ‘Winged victory’ as well as art pieces such as ‘The Coronation of Napoleon’ which was commissioned by Emperor Napoleon himself during his rule.
Victor Hugo wrote Les Miserables.
The distinctive baroque archetectural structure of the building is a parisien landmark as well perhaps the giant glass pyyramid which serves as one of the three entrances to the Louvre in the heart of Napoleon Square.