The Louvre in the XIXe century

The Louvre in the XIX<sup>e</sup> century

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  • Napoleon Ier visiting the stairs of the Louvre museum

    COUDER Louis-Charles-Auguste (1789 - 1873)

  • The Louvre of Napoleon III.

    CHAVET Victor Joseph (1822 - 1906)

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Title: Napoleon Ier visiting the stairs of the Louvre museum

Author : COUDER Louis-Charles-Auguste (1789 - 1873)

Creation date : 1833

Date shown:

Dimensions: Height 177 - Width 135

Technique and other indications: Under the supervision of architects Percier and Fontaine.Oil painting on canvas

Storage location: Louvre Museum (Paris) website

Contact copyright: © Photo RMN-Grand Palaissite web

Picture reference: 92EE2340 / DL 1978-1

Napoleon Ier visiting the stairs of the Louvre museum

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais

The Louvre of Napoleon III.

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - J. L'Hoir

Publication date: March 2016

Historical context

The Louvre in the XIXe century

Since the XVIe century, the completion of the Grand Louvre is a leitmotif of the cultural policy of French sovereigns. It was a project that spanned time and regimes, and gave Paris a monument that sums up, if not the history of France (of which Versailles is the custodian) at least the history of French architecture.

It is to Napoleon III that we owe the accomplishment of the "grand design", that is to say the reunion of the Louvre at the Tuileries; nevertheless, it is to his great-uncle that we owe its transformation into a palace of the arts.

Image Analysis

The largest and oldest Parisian palace

Charles Percier and Pierre-François Fontaine are the two architects chosen by the emperor to furnish the rooms of the new museum and to complete the connection between the two palaces; in 1809, they presented a comprehensive plan which would serve as the basis for the permanent work carried out by Fontaine for forty-four years.

For Napoleon Ier, the Louvre is above all a fantastic propaganda machine. If the dazzling gathering of masterpieces (mainly antiques brought back from the four corners of Europe) satisfies the intelligentsia, it is above all a reminder of the importance of the spoils of each military campaign.

The castle of the Tuileries, started for Catherine de Medici, is made up of heterogeneous buildings. Since the reign of Louis XIV, it has been the Parisian seat of power. Tradition has retained the term "castle" to designate the personal or unofficial power of the king, especially during the Restoration.

The Grande Galerie, built along the Seine by Henri IV, was the first link between the two palaces. Until the First Empire, its ground floor housed artists' studios protected by the king.

The Napoleon courtyard, created by Lefuel, results from the construction of new wings, to the north and to the south, intended to hide the misalignment that exists between the two palaces.


A political museum?

The staircase of the Musée Napoléon, built in a wing of the Cour Carrée by Percier and Fontaine, corresponds by its rigorous neoclassical style to the nature of the works presented (antiques, some of which are placed in the niches of the staircase) and illustrates well the austere and efficient style which characterizes the official art of this period, all in the service of an analogical discourse with imperial Rome.

Undertaken by Fontaine, the north wing, which runs along the new rue de Rivoli, is the counterpart of the Grande Galerie. The development of the Grand Louvre involved the reorganization of its surroundings, so as to free it up to make it a real monument in the heart of the city. Indeed, the four faces of the rectangle that it constitutes are fundamental elements of the Parisian landscape (the colonnade adorns the Place Saint-Germain-l'Auxerrois, the southern facades offer a monumental front of the Seine, the Tuileries close the perspective of the garden , and the north wing constitutes a sequence to the glory of the Grande Armée).

Napoleon III also found in the completion of the Louvre an opportunity to connect with the history of France and to legitimize the regime he had imposed: following the First Empire, he accomplished the work of kings. The main organizer was Hector Lefuel (from 1853) who, through his sometimes noisy but enlightened eclecticism, was able to make this palace a museum of French architecture.

  • architecture
  • Louvre
  • Museum
  • Bonaparte (Napoleon)
  • Napoleon III
  • neoclassicism
  • Paris
  • patrimony
  • Alive Denon (Dominica)


Jean-Pierre BABELON, "Louvre", in Pierre NORA (dir.), Memory places, t. 2, The nation, Paris, Gallimard, coll. "Quarto", 1997.

Geneviève BRESC, Memories of the Louvre, Paris, RMN, coll. "Discoveries Gallimard architecture", 1989.

Jean-Claude DAUFRESNE, The Louvre and the Tuileries, paper architecture, Brussels, Pierre Mardaga, 1987.

To cite this article

Nicolas COURTIN, "The Louvre in the XIXe century "

Video: Louvre museum Paris. Department of Decorative Arts of the first half of the 19th century.


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