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The Louvre

( Originally Published 1915 )



The Louvre introduces us at once into the world of the Renaissance in the North. We have seen something about how this great movement began in Italy. There it was a natural growth out of the conditions of the time, but in France it has been called a fashion, and so it was. Renaissance architecture presents many variations in different countries, and there is a saying that each country, or people, works out its own Renaissance. There is also a saying that the Renaissance has never stopped and is still going on in the world.

The Louvre is the noblest monument of the French Renaissance. Compared with the fortress like palaces in Florence, the Louvre looks light and graceful, and yet there are many things to remind us that it was a development from the fortress type, or castle. The entrances open into protected courtyards, and could be shut by great doors, and there are also the barred windows of the lowest story. These are all reminiscences of the times when palaces were castles for defense as well as residence. The earliest Louvre had its keep or dungeon. Indeed the building grew from a fortress which Philippe Auguste erected on the same site in 1200.

The vast size of the Louvre prevents its being shown in any one picture. There are many different buildings, in fact, connected and made harmonious, and much that is best in three centuries of architectural design is represented. There are many variations in the different facades or pavilions, as they are called. One of the most beautiful is that designed by Claude Perrault for Louis XIV 1665-70, adorned with twenty-eight Corinthian pillars.This is made to appear thickly indented with worm-tracks and is called Vermicular. The interior with its vast collection of art treasures, of more than twenty centuries, is its crowning glory. Illustrations of single schools may be surpassed elsewhere, but this is unrivaled as a balanced collection of ancient and modern art, of several nations, brought together for comparison and study.

The halls are almost as remarkable as the many paintings they contain, especially the four largest. First of all is the grand gallery, a quarter of an English mile in length, with an oaken floor, a marble base, a round arched ceiling, partly glazed, and grouped columns. The main surface of the walls is completely covered with Italian, Spanish,Flemish,and other pictures.

The Galerie d'Apollon, begun by Charles IX, was burned in 1661, rebuilt and repaired at different times, and finally completed in 1851, is 184 feet in length and 28 feet wide. The paneled walls are richly gilt and furnished with large portraits done in Gobelin tapestry. The ceiling is elaborate and splendid. Here the many works in crystals, metals, enamels, and jewels, are arranged in cases. A visit to the Louvre is one of the chief pleasures of Paris.

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