Le Grand Louvre
Paris’s museum to end museums
Palais du Louvre, 1er. First opened to the public in 1793, the Louvre celebrated its bicentenary with the biggest overhaul in its long and illustrious history since Francois I (founder of the collections) replaced the original 12thC royal fortress with a Renaissance palace. Major additions were made under Louis XIV and Napoléon, and the seven main departments (Oriental, Egyptian, Greek and Roman Antiquities, European Paintings (14thC-1848). Graphic Arts, Sculpture (Middle Ages to 19thC), Furniture and Objets d’Art) now total an overwhelming 300,000 exhibits.
The initial trumpet of change was sounded by I.M. Pei’s 1988 crystal pyramid rising from the central courtyard above the Hall Napoléon reception area. With so much to see it is essential to be selective, so make use of the electronic orientation map with its helpful colour-coding system. If the hugely popular Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo and Winged Victory of Samothrace (both the latter are found in the Greek and Roman section) are on your itinerary, be there on the dot of opening time (9am). The Egyptian section is marvellous and not too busy; highlights of the paintings include Italian Renaissance works (Giotto, Botticelli, Raphael), the Rembrandts, and 19thC French artists.
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