The Louvre Musuem is one of the most visited places in Paris, but not many know that the founding of Musée du Louvre is connected to the French Revolution. Generally, museums are intertwined with both politics as well as the expression of power. The Louvre Museum’s case reveals those past links across a span of more than two hundred years.
The Building Was Formerly a Fortress and Then a Palace
Before the building became a museum, it was a fortress, and later, the Louvre Palace and the French Monarchy’s seat. The fortress, constructed after 1190, was situated on the sides of the River Seine. The location provided a lookout as well as protection for Philip II of France. As the French Monarchy consolidated power in the capital city, the building was expanded in order to accommodate an increasing court. As a result of years of expansions, it became the structure that we know now. Interestingly, one thing that has not changed ever is its name, “Louvre”.
A Stunning Structure for Keeping the Royal Collections
Even though not originally intended as a Parisian museum, the building has been a home for many different types of artworks. Across the world, Monarchs used art collections display to proclaim their power, wealth, and achievements. The French royalty were no different to this.
The court members and revered guests might have the opportunity to see the Monarch’s collection of statuary and floors of paintings, statues, decorative items, and technological wonders. The best artists of the past decorated the Louvre Palace’s interior, creating a stunning frame for royal collections. To see the Monarch encircled by great pieces of art was to realize his power, not to mention his learning and taste of it.
Art and the French
The State, i.e., the King as well as his cabinet, controlled art production in the country, so the museum again played a key role. The building was the Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture’s seat. The agency oversaw the training of several artists, art exhibits, art criticism, and sales – and hence the form of art itself. The French Academy’s members met at the museum to debate what kinds of artworks were officially acceptable, and select people were invited in order to see state-sanctioned works.
Even though these gatherings in the museum are precursors of today’s art exhibits, their contents were managed carefully and visitation was restricted to the elite people only. Therefore, the building remained a fortress, which was managed by the ruling class, and mainly inaccessible.
The French Fortress Breached by the Revolutionaries
When the Revolution of 1789 broke out in the French capital, its monarchy and clergy were main targets of all the pent-up frustration. The notorious tool used for public executions was the guillotine. Many imminent French were “guillotined” to loud cheers from the audience, converged in an area where these executions occurred.
A similarly powerful tool of sort was the control of its own art: notably, the heads of biblical kings at the Notre Dame Cathedral, mistaken by many people for the royalty, were aggressively removed. Besides these symbolic acts of demolition, the French revolutionaries even sought to control its artworks by looting them and taking control of sanctified and historic sites. Palaces and churches were nationalized, and the previous fortress was remade as a museum.
This highly visible transformation was very significant, too. Once the house of the French royalty and that of his private collections, the Musée du Louvre was open to everyone and they were put on view. The French revolutionaries sought to highlight the representation of these past changes. The revolutionary government launched Musée du Louvre on August 10, 1973, which marked one year since Louis XVI’s expulsion, and set up a large plaque that announced revolutionaries’ actions over the door to its Galerie d’Apollon, a reception hall that was devoted to the Sun King.
Today, it houses crown jewels that are sealed under glass. Anyone with an interest in history can take a private Louvre Museum tour and understand the powerful message: “The king is no more, the fortress breached, and material possessions are now the public’s property”.
The Age of Enlightenment Followed the Revolution
In hindsight, this was more than a claim about national wealth; it was a statement about the civilization, democracy, as well as education, or the Enlightenment as they are known now. Those on private Louvre tours are led through art’s development from ancient Egypt to Rome, Greece, and Italian Renaissance. This particular chronology, which is laid out in the museum corridors, ended in the national academic painting, the manner endorsed by the French Royal Academy and its exhibits.
Anyone who followed this path on a private Louvre Museum tour took part in what has been referred to as “ritual of citizenship”, which traces a hierarchy wherein the nation was represented as the heir to previous customs, the apex of aesthetic advancement, and of civilization.