The Louvre Museum
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The library of Charles V – installed in one of the towers of the original fortress of Philippe August – was eventually dispersed. François I began a new collection of art with 12 paintings from Italy. These included works by Titian, Raphael and Leonardo da Vinci, the most famous being the Joconde – or Mona Lisa. The royal collection grew and by the reign of Louis XIII, numbered roughly 200 pieces.
Henri II and Catherine de Medicis continued to enlarge the collection as did others. When Louis XIV died in 1715, there were 2,500 pieces of art and objects. Until the Revolution, this collection was strictly for the private pleasure of the Court. Finally, the idea of a museum (originating with Louis XVI) was realized on 10 August 1793, when the Musée de la République opened to the public.
Napoleon greatly increased the collections by exacting tribute from the countries he conquered, but most of these were returned in 1815 after his defeat at Waterloo. Under Louis XVIII the Venus de Milo was acquired (for 6000F) shortly after it was rediscovered on the Island of Melos in 1820.
In 1848 the Museum became the property of the State. The collections continued to grow with private donations which augmented the Museum’s holdings.
In 1947 the impressionist paintings were moved to the Jeu de Paume and l’Orangerie (In 1986 these were transferred to Musée d’Orsay).
Today the catalogue lists nearly 300,000 works. The Grand Louvre begun in 1981 is transforming the museum once again enlarging it substantially. The Richelieu wing was opened in 1993.