The Louvre

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The case study assembles a cluster of interrelated objects and events around the architecture of the Louvre, built over the course of several centuries by various architects under the reigns of different French monarchs. By delineating a number of significant historical and cultural events (including reigns, marriages, and alliances, wars and treaties, the Enlightenment, or the French revolution) while following the masonary developments of the Louvre from Lescot's original 16th century designs to the Grande Galerie, Perrault's classical Colonnade, and Lemercier's Cour Carrée, and through to the completion of its last wings in the 19th century, the Case Study attempts to set a generative stage for the creation of the world's largest museum.


1 The Louvre

a) The transition from medieval fortress to residential castle, illustrated at Chambord by the stylization of defensive elements like moats and towers, is largely sustained by the conclusion of the Hundred Years War between France and England (1453) and the emergence of a cohesive French domain. When the Spanish king Charles V also became Holy Roman Emperor in 1519, king François Ier (1494-1547) began to assert his court against a possible universal monarchy (Habsburg-Spain) with a series of unsuccessful small wars conducted on Italian soil. Upon his return from two years in captivity François immediately formed the Holy League of Cognac (1526) to ally himself with Florence, the Medici Pope Clement VII, and Venice. During the 1530's and 40's the king invited several Italian artists to decorate his new centre of power, the Château of Fontainebleau, including the painter Fiorentino Rosso, the designer Francesco Primaticcio, and the architect Sebastiano Serlio. The production of decorative paintings and frescoes in the apartments of the château led to the mannerist School of Fontainebleau.

In 1528 François decided to tear down the round feudal tower, or donjon, of the 13th century Louvre in Paris. His plan for a royal palace in the Île de France resulted in the appointment (1546) of Pierre Lescot, the first architecte du Louvre whose adaptation of Renaissance designs greatly contributed to the realization of French Classicism. Construction of the three and four levels respectively of the western wing and the corner Pavillon du Roi, with an identical wing extending thence at right angles toward the city, continued under the reigns of subsequent monarchs. The sculptor Jean Goujon, with whom Lescot collaborated, carved the honey-coloured stone of the façades.

b) In 1559, the same year the Treaty of Cateau-Cambrésis was sealed by France, England, and Spain, Henri II was killed in a tournament. The regencies of Catherine de Medici, an aggressive rise of Calvanism, and the Wars of Religion happened next. Her Palais des Tuileries, some 500 metres west of the Louvre, and the Galerie au Board de L'Eau were built during the 1560's. A devout Catholic, Catherine was determined to protect the supremacy of the Crown from the military advances of Gaspard de Coligny, leader of the Huguenots. Her daughter Marguerite [La Reine Margot] was thusly married to the protestant Henri of Navarre. This public event was followed only days later by the Massacre of the Huguenots on St Bartholomew's Day.
The ascent to the throne by the Bourbon Henri IV (1553-1610) was long prevented by the Duke de Mayenne. At the same time the Parlement de Paris and the Estates-General, also insisting on a Catholic ruler, were yet unable to find a more legitimate heir. By 1594 Henri had converted to Catholicism for a second time, entered the city of Paris without a siege, and was crowned King of France in the Cathedral of Rheims.

The Grand Design of the Louvre now unfolding was conceived by Henri IV and adhered to until the 19th century. It incorporated the Cour carrée, two adjoining quadrangles in the west, and also the Grande Galerie along the Seine, completed in 1606, to unite the royal palace with the Tuileries.

c) In a pro-Habsburg move Marie de Medici, second wife of Henri IV and, after his assassination, the regent for Louis XIII, arranged the marriage of Catherine's daughter Elizabeth to Philip IV of Spain. In 1630 king Louis XIII (1601-43), who was married to Queen Anne of Austria at the age of fourteen, sent his mother into exile. His own chief minister Cardinal Richelieu referred to the policies of Henri IV and promptly formed political alliances with Sweden and the German Protestant states. He would also curtail Huguenot military power - albeit without negating the religious rights granted by the Edict of Nantes.

Jacques Lemercier, premier architecte du roi who built the church of the Sorbonne, commenced the north-west stage of the Cour carré in 1624. A mirror of the original design, it was joined to Lescot's edifice by means of a square avant-corps - the domed Pavillon de l'Horloge with its twelve exquisite stained glass windows. Louis Le Vau was to complete the north and south wings of the Cour under Louis XIV (1638-1715). He then added the Pavillon de Marsan to the northern end of the Tuileries, a double of the existing Pavillon de Flore. In 1667 a committee comprising Le Vau, Charles Le Brun, and Claude Perrault was formed to determine the eastern design of the Cour carrée. Théoricien d'architecture and the translator of Vitruvius' treatise, Perrault executed the classical Colonnade of the Louvre while Le Vau was already engaged at Versailles.

The rise of Louis XIV's monarchy and exercise of government based on divine right extended from the King and council to the intendent, the provinces, and the colonies. Against the backdrop of foreign wars, famines of the peasantry, and the trompe l'oeil of limitless wealth shone the absolute glory of the Roi-Soleil. An aestheticised expression of power increasingly abstracted by etiquette and allegory, Louis XIV's 'Cartesian mechanism' included the scenography of Versailles, key members of the aristocracy, the theatre of Molière, and Le Brun's Academy of Painting.

d) The astronomical discoveries of Johannes Kepler and Isaac Newton corrected the Copernican diagram and decreasingly justified the enforcement by the church of a geocentric cosmological system. While Voltaire could not dismiss the human impulse to worship he nonetheless, as did most philosophes of the 18th century, make the exercise of reason fundamental to the Enlightenment. In his Meditationes de prima philosophia ( 1641) René Descartes applies doubt and analysis to an assumption in order to find certainty. The philosophes especially confronted the establishment on feudal injustices.

The formation of the National Assembly and the drafting of a constitution was to accelerate a shift in the balance of power held by the ancien régime. The Bastille would be stormed on July 14th 1789, widespread peasant reprisals committed against the aristocracy, and the sanctity of Versailles invaded by a Parisian mob. To preserve the unity of the nation in the heat of factional disputes, royalist insurgence, and the Revolution of 1792, a National Convention was formed that presided over the impossible expectations of democratic government. It is under these socio-political circumstances that the Musée Central des Arts was founded by decree (1793) and a permanent selection of paintings in the Louvre assigned for public exhibition.

The architects Fontaine and Percier, appointed by Napoleon Bonaparte, built the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel, designed the two stairways of the Colonnade, and installed the vaulted skylights of the Grande Galerie. Between 1810 and 1824 a corridor was drawn through the old quartier from the Cour carrée to the Pavillon de Marsan, enabling the construction of the last major wing of the Louvre. The Palais des Tuileries was burnt by the Communards at the end of Napoleon III's reign and cleared by 1882. A grand Parisian vista, extending from the Pavillon de l'Horloge to the Place de la Concorde, the Champs-Élysées, and La Defense remains.

2 The Musée du Louvre

The royal collections of art began with the cabinet des tableaux of François Ier and the classical statuary of Henri IV's Salle des Antiques. Directeur des Bâtiments under Louis XVI, the comte d'Angiviller laid the groundwork (c 1770-1780) of the Louvre museum, influenced by the Luxembourg Gallery (est. 1750), the quasi-scientific methods of the encyclopédistes, and Denis Diderot's Salon reports. At this time also Étienne-Louis Boullée conceived a great project for the new Bibliothèque. Boullée's inspired architectural theories and his mystical drawings of vast neoclassical realms evoked a utopia now beyond royal execution. The Baron Vivant Denon, who documented many ancient monuments during Bonaparte's expedition into Upper Egypt, was appointed Directeur du Musée Central in 1803. The Napoleonic wars soon brought opportunities of augmentation, with artworks of several countries being deposited in the Louvre - until their return to the Allies in 1815.
Still, the Museum continued to expand its holdings with purchases, gifts, and archeological excavations, becoming the Musée Charles X from 1814 to 1830 and the Nouveau Louvre during the Second Republic.

The Salon Carré of the Louvre was used by the Academy from 1725 onwards to organize public shows of new paintings. The process of organizing the works on display at the Musée Central by schools and period began circa 1794.
Beyond aesthetic and educational values, scientific classification of objects for research and their presentation to the public, or even the sequences of evolutionary optimism, lies an alterable living environment - that is to say by virtue of contemporary interaction, comprising the visitor, the framed image, and artefacts in display cases, as well as their diverse dependencies and assemblages, which enables the reconstruction, interpretation, and explanation of a civilization or historical reality. Today, the Grande Louvre is divided into curatorial departments and sections, including Antiquités égyptiennes, Antiquités grecques, Antiquités orientales, Arts Graphiques, Objets d'Art, Peinture européenne, and Sculptures françaises.

3 The Place de la Concorde and Pyramide du Louvre

a) In the mid 18th century king Louis XV decided to place an equestrian statue at the intersection of the rue royale and the Louvre-Etoile axis. To encircle this statue his architect Jacques-Ange Gabriel conceived a grand octagonal design in the manner of a French garden. The Place Louis XV was thus inaugurated in 1763. The statue, however, was torn down by the people in 1792 and replaced by the guillotine. A second stage of development, based upon the plans of Gabriel, began during the 1830's - although the current name of Place de la Concorde had first come into effect in 1795.

The Obelisque de Luxor was installed on a new pedestal in the centre, an arrangement completed on either side by elaborate bronze fountains which are dedicated to the rivers and the sea. Each corner of the place represents a French city, with eight marble statues respectively symbolizing Lyon and Marseilles (by the sculptor Petitot), Bordeaux and Nantes (by Caillonettes), Rouen and Brest (by Jean-Pierre Cortot), Lille and Strassbourg (by Jean Jacques Pradier). The western entrance of the Place de la Concorde is flanked by the horses of Marly, carved for another royal château by Guillaume Coustou before their move to Paris in 1795. The obelisk received a golden pyramidion in 1998.

b) At once an object of stealth and a focal point of the entrance, the modern design of the Pyramide du Louvre represents "a compelling brave concept whose intent is to be neither aggressive nor subservient." The large pyramid, situated in the middle of the Cour Napoleon, is 21.64 metres tall. A combined weight of 200 tonnes, produced by its webbed steel frame and system of high tension wires, as well as 603 diamond-shaped and 70 triangular glass panels, is carried into four posts of reinforced concrete.
A controlled expanse of sunlight rules inside, undiminishing as the visitor descends to the entrance foyer below. In a move to amplify the spiral stairway in the centre, the 200-foot-square subterranean area was rotated by 45 degrees - relative to the external base of the glass pyramid which is itself parallel to the u-shaped façades of the historic Louvre. The underground passageways radiating from three of its corners, each illuminated by a small pyramidal skylight, lead to the Cour Carrée and wings of the Museum.

Concept, Text, Coding (c) Marcel Ritschel, Sydney 29.05.2004
This article is dedicated to Etsuko.

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