The Louvre or the Louvre Museum is the world’s largest art museum and a historic monument in Paris, France. A central landmark of the city, it is located on the Right Bank of the Seine in the city’s 1st district. Approximately 38,000 objects from prehistory to the 21st century are exhibited over an area of 72,735 square meters.
The Louvre palace was begun by King Francis I in 1546 on the site of a 12th-century fortress built by King Philip II. Francis was a great art collector, and the Louvre was to serve as his royal residence.
The work continued after Francis’ death and during the reigns of kings Henry II and Charles IX. The major additions were made by Louis XIII and Louis XIV in the 17th century. Both of these kings also greatly expanded the crown’s art holdings, and Louis XIV acquired the art collection of Charles I of England after his execution in the English Civil War. In 1682, Louis XIV moved his court to Versailles, and the the Louvre ceased to be the main royal residence.
Many in France began calling for the public display of the royal collections as a national art museum for the public. King Louis XV temporarily displayed the selection of paintings at the Luxembourg Palace in 1750. Only after the French Revolution in 1789 that real progress was made in establishing a permanent museum. On August 10, 1793, the revolutionary government opened the Musée Central des Arts in the Grande Galerie of the Louvre.
The collection at the Louvre grew rapidly, and the French army seized art and archaeological items from territory and nations conquered in the Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars. Much of this plundered art was returned after Napoleon’s defeat in 1815, but the Louvre’s current Egyptian antiquities collections and other departments owe much to Napoleon’s conquests. Two new wings were added in the 19th century, and the multi-building Louvre complex was completed in 1857, during the reign of Napoleon III.
In the 1980s and 1990s, the Grand Louvre, as the museum is officially known, underwent major remodeling. The Chinese American architect I.M. Pei built a steel-and-glass pyramid in the center of the Napoleon courtyard. Traditionalists called it an outrage. In 1993, on the 200th anniversary of the museum, a rebuilt wing was opened to the public. It was the first time that the entire Louvre was devoted to museum purposes.
Today, the Louvre’s collection is one of the richest in the world, with artwork and artifacts representative of 11,000 years of human civilization and culture. Among 460 works in the collections of the Louvre Museum the most popular and famous masterpieces are: the portrait of Mona Lisa is considered to be the most famous painting in the world; one of the most impressive is the Winged Victory of Samothrace, a legacy of the artwork of Ancient Greece; the Venus de Milo is one of the most famous representations of the goddess Venus; human-headed winged bulls continue to impress visitors to the Louvre Museum, and many others.