Department of Sculptures, Louvre Museum, Paris, France

The sculpture department is one of the eight departments of the Louvre Museum. It houses one of the most important collections of sculptures in the world, and the richest collection of French works. The sculpture department houses more than 6,000 works, including the world’s largest collection of French sculpture. In all, more than 2,000 works are presented in 67 rooms spread around two courtyards (8,500 m2 in total).

The Louvre has been a repository of sculpted material since its time as a palace; however, only ancient architecture was displayed until 1824. The sculpture department consists of works created before 1850 not belonging in the Etruscan, Greek, and Roman department. In its early days, the museum exhibited only ancient sculptures, the only exceptions being Michelangelo ‘s two slave statues.The Angoulême gallery opened in 1824, with five rooms devoted to works ranging from the Renaissance to the 18th century. From 1850, medieval sculpture was added, but it was not until 1893 that the Department of Sculptures became autonomous and ceased to be attached to that of Antiquities.

Initially the collection included only 100 pieces, the rest of the royal sculpture collection being at Versailles. It remained small until 1847, when Léon Laborde was given control of the department. Laborde developed the medieval section and purchased the first such statues and sculptures in the collection, King Childebert and stanga door, respectively.  The collection was part of the Department of Antiquities but was given autonomy in 1871 under Louis Courajod, a director who organized a wider representation of French works. 

In 1986, all post-1850 works were relocated to the new Musée d’Orsay. The Grand Louvre project separated the department into two exhibition spaces; the French collection is displayed in the Richelieu Wing, and foreign works in the Denon Wing. Among the recent modifications, the grouping together of all the statues created for the park of the Château de Marly, in particular the large equestrian statues due to Antoine Coysevox and Guillaume Coustou. French sculpture, spread over numerous rooms around two covered courtyards, is located in the Richelieu wing, while Italian and Spanish sculpture, as well as that of the northern schools, is exhibited in the Denon wing, on the ground floor.

The collection’s overview of French sculpture contains Romanesque works such as the 11th-century Daniel in the Lions’ Den and the 12th-century Virgin of Auvergne. In the 16th century, Renaissance influence caused French sculpture to become more restrained, as seen in Jean Goujon’s bas-reliefs, and Germain Pilon’s Descent from the Cross and Resurrection of Christ. The 17th and 18th centuries are represented by Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s 1640 Bust of Cardinal Richelieu, Étienne Maurice Falconet’s Woman Bathing and Amour menaçant, and François Anguier’s obelisks. Neoclassical works includes Antonio Canova’s Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss (1787).  The 18th and 19th centuries are represented by the French sculptors like Alfred Barye and Émile Guillemin.

Among the artists exhibited, in addition to the very many anonymous (especially for the Middle Ages), we note, for French sculpture, major works by Jean Goujon, Germain Pilon, Pierre Bontemps, Pierre Puget, Antoine Coysevox, François Girardon, the brothers Coustou, Jean-Baptiste Pigalle, Edmé Bouchardon, Etienne-Maurice Falconet, Augustin Pajou, Jean-Antoine Houdon, François Rude, David d’Angers, James Pradier, Antoine-Louis Barye, for Italian sculpture, also well represented, we note works by Donatello, Desiderio da Settignano, Francesco Laurana, Andrea della Robbia, Michelangelo, Benvenuto Cellini, Giambologna, Le Bernin and Antonio Canova as well as François Duquesnoy for Flanders.

The Marly courtyard
Under the glass roofs of Cours Marly and Puget, it’s where the masterpieces of French sculpture located. The statues brought together in the Louvre were often designed for the outdoors, in particular for the gardens of the palaces of Versailles or the Tuileries. Marly castle was the pleasure residence of King Louis XIV, the castle of Marly and its park have now disappeared, some of its sculptures have been preserved. After a stay in various public spaces in Paris, they are now well sheltered, under the glass roof of the Cour Marly.

The Richelieu wing (north wing which borders the rue de Rivoli) is the most recent in the long history of the construction of the Louvre. It was built under Napoleon III and housed for more than a century, from 1871 to 1989, the Ministry of Finance. After the ministry left for Bercy to the east of Paris, the rooms were assigned to the museum and inaugurated in 1993.

When the architects Ieoh Ming Pei and Michel Macary began work to modernize the Louvre Museum, the two courtyards were still open to the sky. The architects saw it as the ideal location to accommodate the sculptures that adorned gardens or public squares. A system of terraces highlights the works on different levels and provides varied perspectives, while the skylights provide optimal lighting. An ingenious system of aluminum brise-soleil acts as a light, acoustic and thermal regulator.

At the top of the courtyard soar the most emblematic works, the Horses of Marly. Antoine Coysevox, one of Louis XIV’s favorite sculptors, created these two monumental groups to the glory of the Sun King. Pegasus, the winged horse of Greco-Roman mythology, is ridden by the allegory of Fame, which proclaims the king’s military victories, and by Mercury, the Roman god of commerce, who embodies prosperity. Twenty years later, Louis XV in turn settled in Marly and commissioned new works from Guillaume Coustou to replace those that had been removed. The sculptor competes with his predecessor to give even more dynamism to these spirited horses.

The Puget courtyard
The Cour Puget is named after Pierre Puget, one of the great sculptors of the reign of Louis XIV and houses his masterpieces, Perseus and Andromeda and Milo of Crotone, made for the gardens of Versailles. The expressiveness, dynamism and dramatic force of these sculptures are characteristic of Baroque art. The Cour Puget allows you to travel through the centuries and see the evolution of sculpture, from the 17th to the 19th century.

The 17th century sculptures come from largely destroyed royal monuments. They adorned the great royal squares such as Place Vendôme or Place des Victoires in Paris, and proclaimed the glory of the sovereign. The 18th century works come from gardens. At that time, we loved light subjects treated in a delicate and elegant style, like the Marquise de Pompadour, favorite of Louis XV, represented as an allegory of Friendship. Finally, the Cour Puget presents a panorama of outdoor sculpture from the first half of the 19th century, from neoclassical works produced under Napoleon I to romantic statues such as the furious Roland by Duseigneur, in a lyrical and fiery style.

Galerie Michel-Ange
Under the wide vaults of the gallery are preserved masterpieces of Italian sculpture, including the famous Slaves by Michelangelo. For nearly three centuries, sculptors have competed in genius to bring to light the feelings of the human soul. Built between 1854 and 1857, this gallery has above all a practical function: it is the official access to the Salle des Etats where the major legislative sessions were held under the Second Empire. It is also the place of exhibition of the sculptures of the Salon, this great artistic event of the time which presented the work of living artists.

Hector Lefuel is inspired by the work of his predecessor, the architect Pierre Fontaine. The latter worked at the Louvre over the different political regimes, throughout the first half of the 19th century. Its layouts in the Salle des Cariatides and in the Galerie d’Angoulême inspired Lefuel with the wide vaults of the Michelangelo and Daru galleries, as well as the marble paving of the floor in different colours. Here, the light is natural. It comes from the wide open bays on both sides of the gallery. This lighting, which would not be suitable for paintings, particularly highlights the white marble sculptures, but also those in bronze or terracotta.

The Michelangelo gallery today presents a panorama of Italian sculpture from the 16th to the 19th century. It owes its name to the Florentine artist Michelangelo. From a distance, even before entering the gallery, one can see the man known as The Dying Slave, magnified by the play of perspective. Behind him stands a monumental portal, decorated with the figures of Hercules and Perseus, which comes from the Stanga di Castelnuovo palace in Cremona. Its shape recalls the ancient model of the Arc de Triomphe.

Then comes Flying Mercury by Jean Bologna, known as Giambologna, a sculptor born in Flanders who enjoyed success in Florence. We can also see Mercury abducting Psyche from his pupil Adriaen de Vries. Before leaving the gallery, visitors can admire Psyche revived by Cupid’s kiss by Canova. This work is a particularly virtuoso example of marble work. The artist perfectly restores the softness of the flesh and the momentum.

The Hall of Caryatids
The Hall of Caryatids is probably one of the most beautiful architectural testimonies of the Renaissance Louvre. 1528. King François I decides to chooses the Louvre to make it his main residence in Paris. But to give this old defensive castle the splendor and luxury that it was able to admire in Italian palaces. He appointed the architect Pierre Lescot at the head of this colossal site in 1546. The ballroom of the kings of France marks the beginning of this new artistic style in Paris. And since the 17th century, it has housed a prestigious collection of ancient sculptures under its ample vaults.

The four caryatids that support the musicians’ gallery gave it its name. These columns in the shape of female figures are the work of the sculptor Jean Goujon, in 1550. This work is completely in line with the concerns of the Renaissance which is inspired by Antiquity. Here, the artist reinterprets a monument from the 2nd century BC: the forum of Emperor Augustus in Rome. The Caryatids room has had multiple functions and in particular that of a ballroom. It was also the scene of major historical events, such as the funeral ceremony following the assassination of Henri IV in 1610. It was here again that Molière performed for the first time before Louis XIV giving Le Dépit amour, then L’Etourdi and Les Précieuses Ridiculous.

From 1692, sculptures from the collection of Louis XIV began to be exhibited there. It is then called the room of the Antiques. In 1806, Napoleon I had it attached to the Galerie des Antiques, which he had arranged in the adjoining rooms by the architects Charles Percier and Pierre Fontaine (see the Salle de la Vénus de Milo and the Appartements d’Anne d’Ecosse ). The latter direct the completion of the decor of the room of the Caryatids: the arches of the vault are sculpted and the fireplace reconstructed around the two allegorical figures of Jean Goujon.

Today, the Hall of the Caryatids houses masterpieces from the Greek sculpture collections, and more particularly representations of the gods, goddesses and heroes of mythology. Some of the works shown here are actually Roman copies in marble from a Greek bronze original. This is particularly the case of the graceful Artemis with a doe, in the center of the room. This marble dates from the 2nd century AD and uses a model created around 330 BC. It is also called the Diana of Versailles because it adorned the Hall of Mirrors at the Palace of Versailles for a long time.

At the Louvre, the collections of Greek and Roman antiquities were gradually installed. Louis XIV first had part of his collection installed in the Salle des Cariatides in 1692. From 1798, new antiques arrived following the Italian campaigns. The Galerie des Antiques was then created in the former apartments of Anne of Austria. Later, in 1807, Napoleon I purchased the collection of his brother-in-law, Prince Camille Borghese. The Emperor then had the Gallery of Antiquities enlarged by using the adjoining rooms which today house, among other masterpieces, the Venus de Milo.

Louvre Museum
The Louvre is the world’s most-visited museum, and a historic landmark in Paris, France. The Louvre Museum is a Parisian art and archeology museum housed in the former royal palace of the Louvre. Opened in 1793, it is one of the largest and richest museums in the world, but also the busiest with nearly 9 million visitors a year. It is the home of some of the best-known works of art, including the Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo.

The museum is housed in the Louvre Palace, originally built in the late 12th to 13th century under Philip II. Remnants of the Medieval Louvre fortress are visible in the basement of the museum. Due to urban expansion, the fortress eventually lost its defensive function, and in 1546 Francis I converted it into the primary residence of the French Kings. The building was extended many times to form the present Louvre Palace.

The Musée du Louvre contains more than 380,000 objects and displays 35,000 works of art in eight curatorial departments with more than 60,600 square metres (652,000 sq ft) dedicated to the permanent collection. The Louvre exhibits sculptures, objets d’art, paintings, drawings, and archaeological finds. The Louvre Museum presents very varied collections, with a large part devoted to the art and civilizations of Antiquity: Mesopotamia, Egypt, Greece and RomeLogo indicating tariffs to quote that they; medieval Europe (setting around the ruins of the keep of Philippe-Auguste, on which the Louvre was built) and Napoleonic France are also widely represented.

The Louvre has a long history of artistic and historical conservation, from the Ancien Régime to the present day. Following the departure of Louis XIV for the Palace of Versailles at the end of the 17th century century, part of the royal collections of paintings and antique sculptures are stored there. After having housed several academies for a century, including that of painting and sculpture, as well as various artists housed by the king, the former royal palace was truly transformed during the Revolution into a “Central Museum of the Arts of the Republic”. It opened in 1793, exhibiting around 660 works, mainly from royal collections or confiscated from emigrant nobles or from churches. Subsequently, the collections will continue to be enriched by wartime spoils, acquisitions, sponsorships, legacies, donations, and archaeological discoveries.

Located in the 1st arrondissement of Paris, between the right bank of the Seine and the rue de Rivoli, the museum is distinguished by the glass pyramid of its reception hall, erected in 1989 in the Napoleon courtyard and which has become emblematic, while the equestrian statue of Louis XIV constitutes the starting point of the Parisian historical axis. Among his most famous plays are The Mona Lisa, The Venus de Milo, The Crouching Scribe, The Victory of Samothrace, and The Code of Hammurabi.