By Irene Fogarty
September in Paris! Still sunny, breezy and balmy with Parisians all back from their month-long vacations as galleries, stores, bakeries and everything reopens. It also means the metro is more packed, restaurants are busy every night and the Paris buzz is revived. It’s also a good time to go to the Louvre – the world’s biggest museum that captures the history of Paris with a modern twist.
A quick history of the Louvre
The Louvre, (pron: loov’-ruh) is a French palace and the national museum of France that’s situated in the heart of Paris. It is one of the most historic pieces of art that has been restored by the French. As the most visited museum on the world, it is spread in a total area of 652,300 square feet and has more than thirty five thousand objects placed in it, among them some of the most famous works of art including the Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo. But did you know it was originally built as a 12th century fortress and then converted into a royal palace in the 14th century?
In fact, its current appearance goes back to the 15th century, when the original fortress was demolished and the wing along the Seine river was built. The palace was extended during the 16th century by architect Pierre Lescot, who expanded the palace into a complex with two courtyards. And a decade later Catharina de Medici added the Tuileries palace to the west of the Louvre. Construction on the Louvre was halted for some time when king Louis XIV decided to move to the Versailles Palace.
In the 19th century, during the Second Empire, the Louvre was expanded again with the addition of the Richelieu wing. The Louvre now had four symmetric wings surrounding a large courtyard. This would not last long, as the Communards burned the Tuileries palace in 1871, opening up the west side of the palace. The collection of the Louvre Museum was first established in the 16th century by King Francis I. One of the works of art he purchased was the now famous Mona Lisa painting. The collection grew steadily thanks to donations and purchases by the kings. In 1793, during the French Revolution, the private royal collection opened to the public.
The Glass Pyramid (now know we know where Mac stores were inspired from)
Built in 1989 by renowned American architect I.M. Pei, the glass pyramid is the most recent addition to the Louvre. Located at the museum’s main entrance, the glass pyramid allows the sunlight to come in on the underground floor. It offers the chance to literally see centuries of history through a modern prism-like construction that brings old and new together. Originally received mixed reviews, it is generally accepted as a clever solution which has given the museum a spacious central entrance without the need to touch the historic patrimony.
So what’s on?
Until Sept 27th you can see the « Les Routes de L’Arabie – Archeological treasures of Saudia Arabia » Here’s an opportunity to see over three hundred works that reveal the archaeology and the history of Saudi Arabia from prehistoric times to the dawn of the modern world. This exhibition offers a journey through the heart of Arabia, orchestrated by photographs of the region’s sumptuous landscapes. It takes the form of a series of stopovers in some of the peninsula’s extensive oases, which in ancient times were home to powerful states or which, beginning in the 7th century, became Islamic holy places. The three hundred items chosen, most of which have never left their country of origin before, provide an original panorama of the different cultures that succeeded â€¨each other within the kingdom of Saudi Arabia from prehistoric times through the dawn of the modern world.
Where? When? How much?
Location: Napoleon Hall, under the Pyramid. Open every day except Tuesday, from 9a.m. — 6 p.m. (10 p.m. on Wed. and Fri). Cost: 11â‚¬. Metro Stop: Palais Royal — Musee de Louvre. For more info on what’s going on at the Louvre, click here, http://www.louvre.fr/llv/commun/home.jsp. And don’t forget, since the museum is so massive don’t try to see too much. You will forget everything! Do one exhibition one day and go back if you want to see another. Of course, the best time to go to the Louvre is in the morning and evening. But beware, with over 15,000 visitors a day, the lines to get in are almost as famous as the museum itself. Bon courage!
Sure you know the Mona Lisa resides in its own room in the Louvre Museum in Paris. But did you know that it’s protected in a climate controlled environment and encased in bullet proof glass. The room was built especially for the painting and cost the museum over seven million dollars. The painting is considered priceless and cannot be insured.