Renovation of the Louvre Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

King Louis XIV introduced a competition between architects and artists to complete the construction of the Louvre palace, a project that started in the mid-sixteenth century. The palace was enhanced with classical Roman architecture to reflect the triumph and power of the French state. It stands as one of the world’s largest and best-known museums, which was established in 1793.

Summary of Event

The Louvre began as a camp for the Vikings during their unsuccessful siege of Paris in 885. In 1190, King Philip II chose the Louvre as the site of a crusader’s castle to defend against the Normans and English along the Seine River. It consisted of a dungeon and towers within a thick wall. The fortress was transformed in the sixteenth century for King Francis I, so that he could build a Renaissance palace, and in 1564, Queen Catherine de Médicis commissioned the Tuileries Palace, a small château that was to be built in the western fields of the Palais de Louvre (Louvre palace). It never was completed. Art;France [kw]Renovation of the Louvre (1673) [kw]Louvre, Renovation of the (1673) Architecture;1673: Renovation of the Louvre[2520] Art;1673: Renovation of the Louvre[2520] Cultural and intellectual history;1673: Renovation of the Louvre[2520] Organizations and institutions;1673: Renovation of the Louvre[2520] France;1673: Renovation of the Louvre[2520] Louvre, restoration of Architecture;France Le Brun, Charles Perrault, Claude Colbert, Jean-Baptiste Henry IV Louis XIV Bernini, Gian Lorenzo Le Vau, Louis

Thirty years later, King Henry IV Henry IV (king of France)[Henry 04 (king of France)] chose the Louvre for his place of residence and quickly started construction to expand the palace and its courtyard. In 1593, Henry began work on the Grand Galerie (which housed the royal artists beginning in 1608), and he had the Tuileries connected with the main palace in 1594.

The Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648) stalled work on the palace, as France, Spain, the Holy Roman Empire, and the majority of Europe were fighting one another. The war ended in 1648, and peace between Spain and France came eleven years later with the Treaty of the Pyrenees (1659), making money available to restart construction. King Louis XIV Louis XIV[Louis 14];architecture and soon requested plans from architects for the design of the east facade. He wanted the palace to represent order and to reflect classical antiquity, now known as French classicism. The Baroque schemes of architect Louis Le Vau Le Vau, Louis[LeVau, Louis] and artist Gian Lorenzo Bernini Bernini, Gian Lorenzo were therefore rejected.

Nevertheless, Le Vau succeeded to the post of architect to the king in 1654. He was in charge of the completion of the south wing and was entrusted to design an east facade. He simply continued the design from the western-south facade to the eastern-south facade. However, he designed the central pavilion and east facade to be unique to French taste; thus, his proposal for the eastern facade (c. 1659) was daring. The Baroque Baroque style;France period can be seen in an oval vestibule projecting from the facade. The wide oculus (wide eyelike opening or ornament) for pedestrians was meant to reflect the Roman pantheon and antiquity. In addition, the light entering the oculus symbolizes King Louis XIV as the Sun King. The facade of the Tuileries Palace, connected to the Louvre, was remodeled by Le Vau and his assistant, François d’Orbay Orbay, François d’ . Outside Tuileries to the west, a new garden was built for Louis in 1664 by André Le Nôtre Le Nôtre, André[LeNôtre, André] .

The French council requested that Bernini, even after his plan had been previously rejected, submit his new ideas for the Louvre. Bernini sent his designs to Paris in February, 1665. Construction overseer Jean-Baptiste Colbert Colbert, Jean-Baptiste first accepted Bernini’s plan, but he eventually rejected it because he found it to be unsafe to natural elements and to be “not French.” The council had resented southern Europe, especially Italy, since the Thirty Years’ War, and wanted French contributors and French ideas. The council wanted the east facade to reflect the epitome of French nationalism, and not the work of Bernini. However, the French court, especially Louis, was eager to include Bernini in the construction of the eastern facade. The French court sent for Bernini in June of 1665, and he remained in Paris for five months. However, the production was too far along for Bernini’s designs to be included. Louis promised Bernini that he would commission him to build an equestrian statue after the Louvre was completed, but the council rejected the idea.

By the spring of 1667, Louis and Colbert were desperate to complete construction. They also had a sense of national pride, so they allowed only native French architects to submit their designs. Louis and Colbert wanted to entrust the design to the Petit Conseil, which included the expertise of Le Vau, Claude Perrault, Perrault, Claude and Charles Le Brun Le Brun, Charles[LeBrun, Charles] . Le Brun was responsible for transforming the portrait gallery into the Gallery of Apollo. The gallery was a long barrel-vaulted room with a lunette on each end. The main picture on the ceiling of the barrel vault was to depict Apollo on his horse-drawn chariot transforming the sky in his daily course. Night is personified as Diana and Morpheus. Twelve tondos depict the labors of each month of the calendar year. Zodiac signs are presented across the sky. Le Brun’s gallery was to represent Louis as the new order.

An architectural plan, showing additions to the Louvre, beginning in 1546 and continuing to 1878.

(Longmans, Green)

On June 17, 1665, the first stone for the east facade was laid in a great ceremony conducted by Louis. Anne of Austria Anne of Austria , queen-mother of Louis, died in the Louvre in 1666. In 1667, the construction of the colonnade began, as laborers and their machines, instruments, and tools worked to reflect the strength and wealth of the Crown. A medal was struck into the east facade in 1673, indicating that work was finished there. The facade reflected triumph and order through the symmetry of the colonnade and central portal. The pediments above the windows reflected classic antiquity and reinstated the triumph of the French monarchy. Before the Louvre’s renovations were completed, Louis left the palace for good in 1682, just nine years after renovations began, as he and his court moved from Paris to Versailles.


The Louvre is one of the largest museums in the world, housing artworks from around the globe. It fuses French and Italian classical elements and epitomizes French taste. It is also a symbol of absolute monarchy.

For many centuries the seat of French power, the Louvre still contains a few national administrative offices. The palace, opened as a public museum in 1793 during the French Revolution, is representative of French nationalism.

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Adams, Laurie Schneider. Key Monuments of the Baroque. Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 2000. A general overview of the Baroque period in Europe.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Berger, Robert W. The Palace of the Sun: The Louvre of Louis XIV. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1993. Berger focuses on the construction, design, and planning of the Louvre during Louis XIV’s reign.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Bezombes, Dominique. The Grand Louvre. Paris: Moniteur, 1994. A modern description of the Louvre that provides maps of its continued construction through the years and gives a broad description of each time period.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Bresc-Bautier, Genevieve. The Architecture of the Louvre. Paris: Editions Assouline, 1995. A highly informative work that examines the entire history of the Louvre, from its beginning as a medieval castle to the design of “the pyramid” by architect I. M. Pei in the early 1980’.

Emergence of Baroque Art

Thirty Years’ War

Treaty of the Pyrenees

Absolute Monarchy Emerges in France

French Court Moves to Versailles

Categories: History