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The Louvre is an iconic landmark in France. For many years, its buildings served as a royal seat in Paris for the King of France, but nowadays the remains of the former palace stand alongside the world’s largest museum, which has more than 35,000 works of art on display over 8.7 miles of corridors in a total area of 782,910 square feet. The possibilities of discovery are truly endless at the Musée du Louvre!
Construction started on the Louvre palace under 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. After Francis’ death, the work, which was supervised by the architect Pierre Lescot, continued with King Henry II and King Charles IX. Almost every subsequent French monarch extended the Louvre and its grounds, and 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 Charles’ execution in the English Civil War. In 1682, Louis XIV moved his court to Versailles, and the Louvre ceased to be the main royal residence. Before abandoning Paris for Versailles, Louis XIV made numerous Baroque additions to the Louvre between 1624 and 1670, most importantly finishing the Cour Carrée.
After lying untouched for over a century, the Louvre saw its most rapid evolution between 1806 and 1880 under the successive regimes of Napoleon I, Louis XVIII, Napoleon III, and the Third Republic. The Cour du Carrousel and its neoclassical Arc de Triomphe were closed off by the addition of the Marsan wing, and the symmetrical neo-Baroque Richelieu and Denon wings finally completed the total connection between its two palaces.
During the revolt of 1871 known as the Paris Commune, the Tuileries Palace at the site was burned by the Communards. The palace was never restored, leaving only the gardens and isolated buildings.
At the end of the 19th century, the Louvre was almost entirely dedicated to arts and culture. Between 1884 and 1939, the museum continued to expand and inaugurate new wings and collections, including a wing dedicated to the Islamic arts, along with the Musée des Arts Decoratifs.
In 1989, the Louvre’s glass pyramid, built by the Chinese-American architect I.M. Pei, was inaugurated.