Almost nine million people from all over the world flock to the Louvre in Paris every year to see its incomparable art collection. Yet few, if any, are aware of the remarkable history of that location and of the buildings themselves, and how they chronicle the history of Paris itself - a fascinating story that historian James Gardner elegantly tells for the first time.
Before the Louvre was a museum, it was a palace, and before that a fortress. But much earlier still, it was a place called le Louvre for reasons unknown. People had inhabited that spot for more than 6,000 years before King Philippe Auguste of France constructed a fortress there in 1191 to protect against English soldiers stationed in Normandy. Two centuries later, Charles V converted the fortress to one of his numerous royal palaces. After Louis XIV moved the royal residence to Versailles in 1682, the Louvre inherited the royal art collection, which then included the Mona Lisa, given to Francis by Leonardo da Vinci; just over a century later, during the French Revolution, the National Assembly established the Louvre as a museum to display the nation's treasures. Subsequent leaders of France, from Napoleon to Napoleon III to Francois Mitterand, put their stamp on the museum, expanding it into the extraordinary institution it has become.
With expert detail and keen admiration, James Gardner links the Louvre's past to its glorious present, and vibrantly portrays how it has been a witness to French history - through the Napoleonic era, the Commune, two World Wars, to this day - and home to a legendary collection whose diverse origins and back stories create a spectacular narrative that rivals the building's legendary stature.
Country of Publication:
26 June 2020
Professional and scholarly
1: The Origins of the Louvre 2: The Louvre in the Renaissance 3: The Louvre of the Early Bourbons 4: The Louvre and the Sun King 5: The Louvre Abandoned 6: The Louvre and Napoleon 7: The Louvre under the Restoration 8: The Nouveau Louvre of Napoleon III 9: The Louvre in Modern Times 10: The Creation of the Contemporary Louvre
James Gardner is an art historian and art critic at the Weekly Standard. He has written regularly on Old Master Painting for the Wall Street Journal and Antiques magazine, where he is a contributing editor. He has been architecture critic for the New York Observer and New York Sun.
Reviews for The Louvre: The Many Lives of the World's Most Famous Museum
With its fast-moving and rich narrative, this truly excellent book needed to be written: the fascinating and turbulent story of the Louvre as a royal palace has been largely eclipsed by its much shorter and more famous life as a museum. Here both parts of its long history have been splendidly recounted. -- Philippe de Montebello, Director Emeritus, The Metropolitan Museum of Art