Paris, City of Light, and of art. A playland for lovers and a painter’s dream. What better place to situate the Louvre, considered by many to be the world's best museum of art? What makes this mu- seum so worthy of that honor?
The museum building, or, more properly, the complex of buildings themselves is a good place to start. As with most Western and a few Asian and South American museums, large palaces or other traditional architecture are used to house museums of art and of natural science. ln the case of the Lou- vre,officially known as Palais du Louvre(the Palace of the louvre), the main building used today was formerly the fortress of King Philip Augustus in the12th century. Not until 1546 did King Francis I begin to redesign and add onto the fortress. subsequent kings did the same . especially during the 17th centu. ry with major additions by louis xill and louls xiv Not only did these kings and their ministers add to the buildings. they also stocked within their rooms the finest art that money could buy After the French Revolution,the Palais du Louvre was opened to the public in the early 19th century, both Napoleon and Napoleon 1ll added to both the structures and the collections. A controversial see through glass pyra mid-shaped structure was added by the architect l M.Pei in the 1980s As a consequence of centuries of continuous construction and the amassing of art treasures,today the Louvre offers a world-class col lection of both French and foreign art
The outer shell of a museum, however, no mat- ter how artistic or historic, cannot alone make a mu seum truly great. The inner collections are of course of paramount interest to both the art researcher and art lover alike. The louvre does not disappoint them Three of the West's premier works of art are here: the statues Victory of Samothrace and Venus de Miloaccompany leonardo da vinci's most famous paint ing,the Mona Lisa. These alone attract art devotees from around the world, but far more awaits them The French painting collection is, not surprisingly, un- surpassed. Other major painting collections include works from the middle ages and Renaissance. The freasures of the French royalty are on display here, too,such as their bronzes, miniatures, pottery, fapestries, jewelry, and furniture. Greek, Roman, Egyptian and Mesopotamian antiquities as well as early Christian artifacts are also considered important collections. This clearly is not a museum to be seen in one morning!
Finally, the site of the museum complex con- mbutes to the mystique of the Louvre. Paris has long been considered one of the world's most charming ies, with its endless winding streets amidst spec acular royal and religious architecture. The fortress built by King Philip Augustus was situated on the right bank of the Seine, overlooking - at that fme- splendid bucolic scenery. Today this prime locafion is within walking distance of many major Parisian tourist attractions, like the Cathedral of NotreDame,the Royal Palace, and the National Library One could easily spend a whole week touring the heart of Paris centered around the louvre