Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Louvre museum opened this day, 227 years ago !

Madame Récamier, gracefully reclined on a meridienne with her head turned towards the viewer, is dressed in a white antique-style sleeveless dress and is barefoot. The room is empty except for the antique-style sofa, stool and candelabra. She is seen from some distance, so her face is quite small, but this is less a portrait of a person than of an ideal of feminine elegance. Madame Récamier (1777-1849), although then only twenty-three, was already one of the most admired women of her time. The daughter of a notary, she epitomized the social ascension of the new post-revolutionary elite. Her husband, older than her, had become one of the principal financial backers of the First Consul, Napoleon Bonaparte. .. one of the works on display !


Masks are compulsory, a one-way system is in place and numbers of visitors will be controlled.  There will also be a spaced queue to view Leonardo Da Vinci's famous Mona Lisa painting. Some 10 million people come to what is thought to be the world's most visited museum each year, the majority from abroad.   Museums around the world are struggling because of the coronavirus: New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art is projecting $100 million in losses this year, and even France’s publicly funded Louvre has lost 40 million euros following a four-month closure.

Dan Brown is a great writer and packs so many illustrious things in each page – recently I was engrossed in his book ‘Origin’.  The Da Vinci Code is a 2003 mystery thriller novel by Dan Brown. It follows "symbologist" Robert Langdon and cryptologist Sophie Neveu after a murder in the Louvre Museum in Paris causes them to become involved in a battle between the Priory of Sion and Opus Dei over the possibility of Jesus Christ having been a companion to Mary Magdalene.

The title of the novel refers to the finding of the first murder victim in the Grand Gallery of the Louvre, naked and posed similar to Leonardo da Vinci's famous drawing, the Vitruvian Man, with a mathematical message written beside his body and a pentagram drawn on his chest in his own blood.  The book starts with -   Louvre Curator and Priory of Sion grand master Jacques Saunière  fatally shot one night at the museum by an albino Catholic monk named Silas, who is working on behalf of someone he knows only as the Teacher, who wishes to discover the location of the "keystone," an item crucial in the search for the Holy Grail.

 

The Louvre or the Louvre Museum   is the world's largest art museum and a historic monument in Paris, France. A central landmark of the city, it is located on the Right Bank of the Seine in the city's 1st arrondissement (district or ward). Approximately 38,000 objects from prehistory to the 21st century are exhibited over an area of 72,735 square metres.  The museum is housed in the Louvre Palace, originally built as the Louvre castle in the late 12th to 13th century under Philip II. The museum opened on 10 August 1793 with an exhibition of 537 paintings, the majority of the works being royal and confiscated church property. Because of structural problems with the building, the museum was closed in 1796 until 1801. The collection was increased under Napoleon and the museum was renamed Musée Napoléon, but after Napoleon's abdication many works seized by his armies were returned to their original owners.

The Louvre is a  central landmark in the city of Paris, France.  It is located on the Right Bank of the Seine in the city's 1st arrondissement (district or ward).  The museum opened on 10 August 1793 with an exhibition of 537 paintings, the majority of the works being royal and confiscated church property. Because of structural problems with the building, the museum was closed in 1796 until 1801. The collection was increased under Napoleon and the museum was renamed Musée Napoléon, but after Napoleon's abdication, many works seized by his armies were returned to their original owners. The collection was further increased during the reigns of Louis XVIII and Charles X, and during the Second French Empire the museum gained 20,000 pieces.  

 

                 At the end of Napoleon's First Italian Campaign in 1797, the Treaty of Campo Formio was signed with Count Philipp von Cobenzl of the Austrian Monarchy. This treaty not only marked the completion of Napoleon's conquest of Italy, but also the end of the first phases of the French Revolutionary Wars. Under this treaty, Italian cities were required to contribute pieces of art and patrimony to take part in Napoleon's "parades of booty" through Paris before being put into the Louvre Museum.  One of the most famous pieces taken under this program was the Horses of Saint Mark. The four antique bronze horses, which had adorned the basilica of San Marco in Venice after the sack of Constantinople in 1204, were brought to Paris to reside atop Napoleon's Arc du Carrousel in Paris in 1797. Several churches and palaces, including Saint Mark's Basilica, were looted by the French, which outraged the Italians and their artistic and cultural sensibilities.  Dominique Vivant Denon was Napoleon's art advisor, and accompanied him on the expedition to Egypt. Through his initiative, the Valley of the Kings in Egypt was discovered and studied extensively.

One of the most important discoveries made during Napoleon's campaign in Egypt was the Rosetta Stone. It was discovered in 1799, and eventually led to the ability to decipher ancient hieroglyphs. Although the Rosetta Stone was discovered by the French, it actually never made it to the Louvre Museum. It was seized by British Forces following the defeat of Napoleon in Egypt and the subsequent signing of the Treaty of Alexandria in 1801.  It is now on display at the British Museum.

 

After the French defeat at Waterloo, the works' former owners sought their return. The Louvre's administrators were loath to comply and hid many works in their private collections. In response, foreign states sent emissaries to London to seek help, and many pieces were returned, even some that had been restored by the Louvre.

The Louvre is owned by the French government; however, since the 1990s it has become more independent.  Since 2003, the museum has been required to generate funds for projects. By 2006, government funds had dipped from 75 percent of the total budget to 62 percent. Every year, the Louvre now raises as much as it gets from the state, about €122 million. The government pays for operating costs (salaries, safety and maintenance), while the rest – new wings, refurbishments, acquisitions – is up to the museum to finance.  The Louvre employs a staff of 2,000 led by Director Jean-Luc Martinez, who reports to the French Ministry of Culture and Communications.  


On the 500th anniversary of Leonardo da Vinci's death, the Louvre held the largest ever single exhibit of his work, from 24 Oct 2019 to 24 Feb 2020. The event included over a hundred items: paintings, drawings and notebooks.  The whole world knows the Louvre/  Several hypotheses exist as to the origin of the Louvre, but none is unanimous.

– The first hypothesis would come from Latin. The Louvre used to be Lupara in this language, more precisely “Turris lupara”. Off the root word lupanar comes from “lupus”, which means wolf. Well before the museum, there would be here a forest, land of wolves …

– The second hypothesis has Saxon origins, spoken in Northern Gaul as a result of Germanic migrations. In this language, lauer or lower mean watchtower, what was the Louvre in the 9th century during the various seats in Paris by the Vikings.

– The third hypothesis is French, and dates from the origins of the current Louvre, when Philippe-Auguste decided to build a fortress around the capital in 1190. The dungeon located along the Seine, later transformed into a royal residence, is a gigantic work, from the verb ouvrer. The work, or the work as they say today, would have given its name to the castle. 

Interesting ~ this museum opened this day 227 years ago ! 

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

10.8.2020

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