HISTORY OF MODERN FRANCE
From the Pre-Revolutionary period to the 3rd Republic 1770-1870 - Part III
1 February 2023
Birth of a Museum: The Story of the Louvre from the French Revolution to Napoleon
When in 1682, Louis XIV decided to transfer the court from the old palace of the Louvre, in the heart of Paris, to Versailles, the great building was given over to the artists and sculptors working for the Crown. They established their apartments and studios in the empty halls and a first public exhibition of their works was held in 1699 in the Great Gallery of the palace. By the 1730s the Royal Academy of Art started holding a bi-annual summer exhibition in the Salon Carré which became the famous Paris “Salon”, the most prestigious art exhibition in Europe until the end of the next century. Under Louis XV, the Marquis de Marigny, Director General of the King's Buildings, proposed to the King that a museum be created in the former royal palace. His successor, the Count d'Angiviller, was asked to draw up a project to make it a permanent museum, a project that would not come to fruition until the Revolution.
The Musée Central des Arts was inaugurated on August 10, 1793, two days after the abolition of the Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture, and was conceived above all as a place of training for artists, who were the only ones, until 1855, who could enter during the week, the public being admitted only on Sundays. From then on the Louvre played a fundamental role in French artistic education based on the copying of the Old Masters in its collections. In 1803, the museum was enriched by Napoleonic seizures from conquered countries and renamed the Musée Napoléon. The celebrated Dominique Vivant Denon was its first director. The Emperor's ambition for the museum was immense, but it was compromised by the fall of the Empire. It was left to Napoleon III, his nephew, to complete the “Great Project” under the Second Empire.
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