Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Observations from le Voyage 8.22

The Palais du Louvre, Musée du Louvre, Musée Napoléon, the Louvre Museum or the Louvre, it has gone by many names over the years. Its history goes back to a 12th century fortress still visible in the basement and the Lower Hall where the vaulted ceiling is all that remains of the complex's origins. On August 10, 1793, in the midst of the French Revolution and by decree of the revolutionary National Assembly the Louvre first opened as a museum. The Holy Grail of art historians was born.

Currently the Louvre is home to almost 400,000 works of art of which it shows 35,000 at any given time in its 750,000 square feet of public displays. The museum is divided into eight curatorial departments; Egyptian antiquities, Near Eastern antiquities, Greek, Etruscan, and Roman antiquities, Islamic art, Sculpture, Decorative arts, Prints and drawings, and Painting. The Painting department alone has twelve curators and 7,500 works.

I could spend weeks in the Louvre and never leave but I have probably have one or two visits so I have a must see list. In no particular order it includes The Aphrodite of Milos (Venus de Milo), Antonio Canova's Psyche Revived by Cupid's Kiss, Michelangelo's Dying Slave, Jacques-Louis David's The Death of Marat (Marat Assassiné), Raphael's Portrait of Baldassare Castiglione, and as much of the Italian Renaissance collection as I can possibly see. Yes the Italian collection would include Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa.

Today I visit my Holy Grail.

A little bit of mind boggling trivia before I finish. Admittedly it is from a mind easily boggled by art and history trivia. As large as the museum complex is it could be so much larger. The Tuileries Palace once closed the west end of the Louvre courtyard which now is open to the Tuileries Gardens. Eventually a wing of the Louvre connected the two and both the Tuileries and the Louvre were to be included in the museum. The Tuileries Palace was destroyed in 1871 by a fire set by anarchists during the rise of the Paris Commune after France's loss in the Franco-Prussian War. The fire also destroyed the Louvre Library. Recently there has actually been talk of rebuilding the Tuileries at an estimated cost of $380 million.

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