A cultural edifice as monumental and venerable as the Louvre no doubt needed a big broom to sweep away the cobwebs, but in opening up new wings to the public and expanding the amount of the collection on show, the state was only continuing a tradition started two hundred years earlier when the French revolution threw open the doors of the royal palace to the citizens of the new republic. And as architectural patron, Mitterrand was simply following in the footsteps of François I, Catherine de Médicis, Louis XIV, Napoleon, and all the other French rulers who have knocked down, rebuilt, extended or altered the palace. Even if you don't venture inside, the sheer bravado of the architectural ensemble is thrilling.
The palace is now almost entirely given over to the Musée du Louvre, one of the world's great museums, covering the finest European painting, sculpture and objets d'art from the Middle Ages to the beginnings of Impressionism, plus an unrivalled collection of antiquities from Egypt, the Middle East, Greece and Rome. Giant in scale and stature, the French collection is nothing less than the gold standard of the nation's artistic tradition.
Quite separate from the Louvre proper, but still within the palace, are three museums under the aegis of the Union Centrale des Arts Décoratifs, dedicated to fashion and textiles, decorative arts and advertising.
Pages in section ‘Louvre’: Palais du Louvre, Musée du Louvre, Union Centrale des Arts Décoratifs.
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