The Louvre
French national museum of the arts


The Louvre, French national museum of the arts. The museum, housed in a former palace modified into a picture gallery, exhibited the French royal collections. Francois I was the first French king to collect paintings, while Louis XIV increased the collection from two hundred to two thousand works. At the end of the eighteenth century the Louvre collections were again significantly enhanced, this time by Napoleon. He captured art objects from some countries (Egypt and Holland, for instance) and let the rulers of the Italian city-states use art rather than cash to pay war reparations.

The Louvre is especially significant as a product of Enlightenment thinking. Its founders intended it as an encyclopedia of European art, and by 1793 it was opened to all citizens, making it the first major public art museum in Europe.

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