The Louvre – Development And Achievement

UNDER the reign of Henri II the Louvre occupied about 30,000 square meters of space. But Catherine de Medieis found it still small for the large royal family clustered about her. Under the reign of her third son, Henri III, four queens had their suites there—the reigning queen, Louise de Vaudemont; the dowager, Catherine de Medicis; Marguerite de Valois, queen of Navarre; and Elisabeth d’Autriche, widow of Charles IX.

Meanwhile Catherine had provided for herself the magnificent palace of the Tuileries, built at some distance from the then existing parts of the Louvre, and without the walls of the city. The palace, which took its name from a manufactory of tiles which had formerly occupied the site, succeeded to a villa which Louise de Savoie had obtained from her son, Francois I, with the old tile works, as a place of residence during his reign. After her death, in 1531, her villa continued to be a property at the disposal of royal favourites until Catherine took it, and, adding considerably to the domain, employed Philibert Delorme to erect for her a palace in keeping with her illustrious ancestry and her own ambitions.

The Tuileries stood first as a detached building, whose chief facade lay upon the present Rue des Tuileries. It was approached from the Cour des Tuileries, where now stands the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel, and in the rear stretched the beautiful garden of the palace. The stones for the building were brought from the quarries of Vaugirard and Notre-Dame-des-Champs, and in order to cross the river, where is now situated the Pont Royal, a ferry, or bac, was established, leased to the community in 1564. A road was opened up on the rive gauche for the carting of stones for the palace, and, since it led directly to the ferry became the Rue du Bac.

The palace consisted of a central body with a tower and wings terminating in square pavilions. The grand avant-corps du milieu was erected by Delorme—he built the facade towards the garden and the ends by Jean Bullant, who continued the work after the death of his predecessor. The palace was noble in form and of a picturesqueness not attained by other portions of the long rambling buildings of the Louvre itself, than which, having been done under one inspiration, it had more completeness and unity. It gave point and climax to the now rather meaningless gardens, designed as a foil to the majestic facade of the palace. The gardens were completely done over by Lenotre, under Louis XIV, and as Paris grew towards the west, Delorme’s facade became the familiar one and was magnificently approached from the Place de la Concorde through the long gardens laid out in groves of chestnut trees and handsomely terraced. The palace was destroyed by the Commune in 1871.

When Marie de Medicis came to Paris to replace the divorced Marguerite de Valois as queen of France, she is said to have regarded with disdainful amusement the proportions of the Louvre, which to her eye, accustomed to measure palaces by the Pitti and the Vatican, seemed a little place in comparison with its destiny.

Henri IV, piqued perhaps by his scornful bride, now planned an immense extension of the Louvre which should unite the palace with the Tuileries. Du Cerceau, who built the Pont-Neuf, and Louis Metezeau were his architects. He first extended the Tuileries of Delorme and Bullant from the southern pavilion out towards the Seine and continued the galeries du bord de l’eau from where Catherine de Medicis had left off, about opposite the present Pont du Carrousel, along the Quai des Tuileries to their junction with the newer palace and here he planted an immense pavilion—the Pavilion de Flore—of which we see today a conscientious reproduction. The porticos of Catherine de Medicis were then enclosed and a new facade added to the whole of the Grande Galerie, to make it harmonise with the later constructions. In 1618 this immense gallery was completed and bound the Louvre and Tuileries together.

The facade of the long gallery, extending along the Quai du Louvre, from the balcony of Charles IX to the Pavilion de Lesdiguieres, is full of interesting ornament and sculpture in relief, of the time of Henri IV. We see his initial with a multitude of devices signifying royalty and power, trophies of war, as well as shells and tridents in allusion to the situation of the facade bordering the Seine. The Porte Jean Goujon, which opens in about the middle of this extension, is a rich monument of renaissance architecture.

Over the wing containing the balcony of Charles IX, Henri IV now completed the celebrated Galerie d’Apollon as a link between the upper storey of the Louvre of his predecessors and his additions. The Galerie d’Apollon was burned out under Louis XIV in 1661, and rebuilt from designs by Charles Le Brun, who directed the decorations at Versailles. Le Brun left the mural paintings unfinished; he had intended a figure of Apollo to be the central point of his scheme in honour of the Roi-Soleil. The celebrated ceiling, representing Apollo’s victory over Python, is the work of Eugene Delacroix, one of the two greatest masters of his epoch. It was done under the Second Republic, in 1849.

The Galerie d’Apollon is now the most beautiful hall in the Louvre and ranks with the finest in the world. An interesting and appropriate feature of the decoration is the series of portraits of the builders of the Louvre—the kings, the architects, the sculptors, and the painters who worked upon it at different periods, done in Gobelins tapestries. It is a gallery of distinguished men, and the whole decoration makes one of those charming bits of association and recognition for which France is famous.

Three rooms installed in the wing of the court which overlooks Saint-Germain-l’Auxerrois and known as Les Anciennes Salles du Musee des Souverains are amongst the most beautiful which the Louvre has to show and contain much that relates to the early history of the building. Entering by the stairway of the Egyptian Museum, the first room is panelled from the apartments which Louis XIII prepared for Anne of Austria in the chateau of Vincennes.

The second room, called the Chambre a l’Alcove, is panelled with handsome wood carving from the Salle des Sept Cheminees erected under Francois I and Henri II. This specimen and that in the room adjoining are the only carvings of the royal apartments now extant. The doors are rich in the devices of these kings, and the panelling shows the letters of Henri and Diane interlaced. The alcove is historic as the body of Henri IV was laid there after his murder, and the four cherubs which sustain the canopy are by Gilles Guerin.

In the third room—La Chambre de la Parade —the panelling is again from the older part of the Louvre, while the faded tapestries belonged to cardinal Mazarin. These rooms have been much despoiled of their former installation, chiefly due to the energy and historic interest of the Empress Eugenie. Though they merely reassemble parts of the older building, they have never the less a convincing air of antiquity and are of the finest of their day.

After Henri IV, Marie de Medicis abandoned the Louvre and turned her entire attention to the erection of her dowager palace, the Luxembourg, to which after the conclusion of the minority of Louis XIII, she expected to retire in glory. The first kings which came after Henri IV occupied themselves with completing the square around the original court, making it four times the size of the old chateau of Philippe Auguste. The new buildings of Francois I had merely replaced the original walls on the two sides of the quadrangle which formed the court of the mediaeval fortress; but Louis XIII and Richelieu quadrupled the plan. As one regards attentively the famous facade of Lescot it becomes more and more evident that it belongs to a small, compact building and that it loses considerably in being thinned out to cover the four sides of a so greatly enlarged court.

Under Louis XIII the last vestiges of the medieval chateau were thrown down. Jacques Lemercier was now the court architect; he completed the facade of the Pavilion de I’Horloge which became the centre of the west side of the court. It is adorned in a style flamboyant as compared to the facade of Lescot and Goujon, and bears eight caryatids by Sarazin and other sculptures by Guerin, Poissant, etc. Lemercier commenced at the same time the ground floor of the north wing, on the side of the Rue de Rivoli. Marie de Medicis and Anne d’Autriche applied themselves to the embellishment of the interior, seconded by the talents of Ambroise Dubois, de Biard, and Michel Anguier. Lemercier repeated in a general way the facade of Lescot, and the frieze of garlands and babies so happily conceived by Goujon was copied for the whole of the four sides of the enlarged court.

Louis XIV completed the court, employing as his architect, his physician, Claude Perrault, to whom we owe the colonnade which bears his name (1667-1670). This colonnade has a certain style and character, though it may be taken as a clear indication of the point at which the French Renaissance in its decline began to follow slavishly the models of antique architecture, and it bears little relation to the original plan or to the magnificent facade of Henri IV, to which one returns with always increasing interest and pleasure. After this great effort Louis XIV lost interest in the Louvre in devoting himself entirely to the building of Versailles, his great architectural monument.

Louis XV spent some few years of his minority at the Tuileries, but Versailles was his favourite residence and Louis XVI lived either at Versailles or Saint-Cloud until he was brought to Paris as a prisoner and condemned to live at the Tuileries from. 1789 to 1792.

Meanwhile the Louvre remained an unfinished pile until Napoleon came to the throne. It was in the year 1800 that Bonaparte first came to reside at the Tuileries. The palace still bore the placards inscribed with the decree of August 10, 1792: “La royaute en France est abolie et ne se relevera jamais.” Soon after the fleur-de-lys was picked out of the furniture of the Tuileries to be replaced by the bee of the Bonapartes.

The Tuileries after so much tragedy now entered upon its most thrilling times. In the chapel Napoleon was married to Josephine, who had long been his wife by the civil law. Berthier and Talleyrand were the witnesses and cardinal Fesch performed the ceremony. Here also the emperor received Pius VII (the pope was lodged in the Pavillon de Flore) ; thence he went to his coronation, here he married his different brothers and sisters, and here the divorce of Josephine was pronounced.

Napoleon commanded the completion of the Louvre upon a large scale in 1805, recommending his architects, Percier and Fontaine, in constructing the north connecting gallery between the Louvre and the Tuileries, to provide vast apartments for the vassal sovereigns whom he should lead back from his triumphant campaign in Russia! This wing had been completed as far as the Pavilion de Rohan when the emperor was deposed.

Napoleon also built the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel to commemorate his victories in 1805. Percier and Fontaine were the architects and built it in imitation of the Arch of Septimus Severus, at Rome. Napoleon brought from Venice the famous bronze horses of the cathedral, in 1797, and they graced this arch until 1815, when they were restored to Venice, and to their noble situation over the portal of San Marco. Forming once part of an ancient quadriga these horses were amongst the most valuable of the loot which Napoleon brought from Italy. The present quadriga was designed by Bosio. The marble reliefs on the sides represent the Battle of Austerlitz, the capitulation of Ulm, the peace of Tilsit, and the entry into Munich. On the north end is the entry into Vienna, and on the south end the conclusion of peace at Pressburg.

The unity of the Louvre and Tuileries was finally achieved by Napoleon III, to whom we owe the ponderous facades with their projecting domed pavilions, their Corinthian columns, their porticos and caryatids, their eighty-six statues of celebrated Frenchmen, and their sixty-three groups of allegorical statues. Visconti and Lefuel were the architects, and the most admirable part of their work is the restoration of the Pavilion de Flore and the facade along the Quai des Tuileries, which had been destroyed or damaged by the fire of 1871. It is interesting to compare the details of the ornament and to note that the bee of the Bonapartes replaces the fleur-de-lys and the imperial eagle the winged rod and the entwined serpents of the Bourbons.

The Second Empire executed merely what the republic had planned in 1848. From 1848 to 1853 Duban restored, from the designs of Le Brun, the Galerie d’Apollon, which had been ruined by the fire of 1661. In 1857 Napoleon III inaugurated the nouveau Louvre built by Lefuel upon the plans of Visconti. We owe to Lefuel the actual buildings which border the Seine from the Pavilion Lesdiguieres to the Pavilion de Fiore inclusive, and which replace the original constructions of Du Cerceau. The three large arches which open upon the Place du Carrousel were part of Visconti’s plan.

An army of sculptors was now employed in the decoration. Amongst the most notable were Barye, Simart, Duret, Foyatier, Jaley, Auguste Dumont, Rude, Carpeaux, Perraud, Cavelier, Eugene Guillaume, Aime Millet, and Jouffroy. A high relief in bronze by Antonin Mercie the Genius of the Arts astride Pegasus crowns the whole.

In 1900 the great Salle Rubens was opened in the former salle des Etats, with the chain of small rooms which surround it, and with the installation of the magnificent series of decorations from the Luxembourg Palace the work on the Louvre was terminated. After more than three centuries of activity the Louvre was now finished.

In its older parts the Louvre unites some of the finest work of that group of valiant architects produced by the first period of the French Renaissance—Pierre Lescot, Philibert Delorme, Jean Bullant, Pierre Chambige, Jacques-Androuet Du Cerceau—whose genius was sufficient to counter balance the influences of the Italians quartered at Fontainebleau. Thanks to them the second period of the Renaissance, the period frankly classic, far from descending as one might have feared to the level of rank imitation, opened a new route and became an occasion if not for great creations like those of the XIIIth century, at least for original combinations and dispositions at once elegant, picturesque, delicate, and rich.

The chateaux of Blois, Gaillon (part of its facade is at the Beaux-Arts), Azay-le-Rideau, Chenonceau, Amboise, Usse, Tanlay, Ancy-le-Franc, Verneuil, Vaux, Maisons, the old chateaux of Versailles, the Tuileries, the Louvre, Fontainebleau, etc., are amongst the most brilliant and richest productions of the French Renaissance in its divers periods. In these dwellings there exists nothing of the feudal castle,—no more dungeons, towers, turrets, winding passages; these are large open palaces, easy of access, surrounded by magnificent gardens, decorated inside with paintings, offering an application of antique forms if you like, but full of taste and preserving a character essentially original and French.