Louvre, a public building of Paris, situated in the central part of the city, near the right bank of the Seine. Before its partial destruction by the commune in 1871, it consisted of the old and the new Louvre. The old Louvre formed nearly a square 576 ft. long and 538 wide, enclosing a quadrangle of about 400 ft. square, and containing a vast collection of sculptures, paintings, and other works of art. Its E. facade, looking toward the church of St. Germain l'Auxerrois, was a colonnade of 28 twin Corinthian columns, and was one of the finest works of architecture of any age or country. The new Louvre, inaugurated in August, 1857, consisted of two lateral piles of buildings, projecting at right angles from the two parallel galleries which joined the old Louvre with the Tuileries, and forming the E. boundary of the Place du Carrousel. Between the place or square called Napoleon III. and the rue Rivoli, they presented on the E. side a frontage of nearly 300 ft. intersected by three sumptuous pavilions, which were occupied by the departments of state and of the interior, the administration of the telegraphs, library of the Louvre, and a permanent exhibition of fine arts. On the other side of the square were galleries set apart for periodical exhibitions of the works of living artists.
In the central part of the building, between the gallery facing the quay and that opposite the Place Napoleon, was the council chamber which was used by the public bodies of the empire on the opening of the legislature and on other solemn occasions, and which communicated through the museum gallery with the palace of the Tuileries. - The early history of the Louvre is obscure. Saint-Foix says Dagobert I. kept his horses and hounds in a building on its site about 629. Philip Augustus repaired the edifice in the beginning of the 13th century, built a large tower, and converted it into a state prison. About the middle of the 14th century it was used as a residence for foreign princes visiting the king. Charles V. greatly embellished it, constructed gardens and terraces, and placed here the royal collection of books, which became the nucleus of the library. Charles VI. lived here in 1380, but afterward quitted it for the Tuileries. Francis I. commenced the present edifice in 1539. Charles IX. fired from one of the windows on the fleeing Huguenots during the massacre of St. Bartholomew, Aug. 24,1572. He and subsequent kings made great additions to the building.
Henry IV. conceived the project of uniting the Louvre with the Tuileries, which to some extent was carried out by Louis XIV., mainly through the exertions of Colbert, under whose direction a powerful impetus was given to the enlargement of the palace. Louis XIV. laid the first stone of the facade from designs by Bernini, Oct. 17, 1665; but Bernini's designs were superseded by those of Claude Perrault, who in 1666 commenced the magnificent colonnade of the E. front over the grand gateway. The royal pictures were deposited here in 1681. In the middle of the 18th century the architect Gabriel was employed in finishing the facades. The work was once more interrupted by the revolution, when the Louvre was declared national property, and its contents were roughly handled by the populace. In July,. 1793, all pictures, statues, vases, etc, in the royal palaces and collections were ordered to be transferred to the Louvre, and the museum was opened to the public on Aug. 10. When the great number of works of art seized in Italy by the armies of Napoleon made it necessary to assign a place for their reception, the architect Raimond was selected to conduct the work; and Percier and Fontaine, who in 1803 were charged by Napoleon with its resumption, built the great staircase of the museum proper, the museums of ancient art, the staircases on the two extreme ends of the colonnade, the Egyptian museum, the chambers for the council of state, afterward destined to receive the designs of all the various schools of art, the marine museum, and other portions of the Louvre. When the allied armies took possession of Paris, the works of art which Napoleon had brought from Italy were restored to their owners.
Under the restoration the work on the Louvre came to a standstill, and the initials of Napoleon, which were inscribed in many parts of the palace, were erased. After the revolution of 1848, 2,000,-000 francs was devoted by the provisional government to the repairs of the old Louvre under the direction of M. Duban, who restored the Apollo gallery. The decorations of the interior were intrusted to Delacroix and other eminent artists. The resolution passed by the provisional government in favor of the completion of the whole building was put in operation July 25, 1852, when the foundation stone of the new Louvre was laid, which was completed in 1857 at a cost of nearly 30,000,-000 francs. The architect Visconti conducted the work until his death in 1853, when he was succeeded by M. Lefuel. The Louvre and the Tuileries, when connected and harmonized, formed almost one single palace of unparalleled splendor and magnitude, and occupied with their enclosures an area of nearly 60 acres. It was greatly injured by the communists in May, 1871; the magnificent library was consumed by the flames, and several of the halls of sculpture, art, and archaeology fell a prey to the most reckless destruction and wanton pillage.
After the restoration is completed, the distinctions of old and new Louvre will probably be dropped. In 1873 extensive relics of a temple of Apollo, excavated at Miletus at the expense of Baron Rothschild, were presented to the museum.
Court of the Louvre.