Medieval, Renaissance, and Bourbon palace
Below-ground portions of the medieval Louvre are still visible.
Louvre Palace, which houses the museum, was begun as a fortress by
Philip II in the 12th century to protect the city from possible Viking attacks, with remnants of this building still visible in the crypt.
 Whether this was the first building on that spot is not known; it is possible that Philip modified an existing tower.
 According to the authoritative
Grand Larousse encyclopédique, the name derives from an association with
wolf hunting den (via Latin: lupus, lower Empire: lupara).
 In the 7th century, St. Fare, an abbess in Meaux, left part of her "Villa called Luvra situated in the region of Paris" to a monastery.;
 this territory probably did not correspond exactly to the modern site, however.
The Louvre Palace was altered frequently throughout the
Middle Ages. In the 14th century,
Charles V converted the building into a residence and in 1546,
Francis I renovated the site in
French Renaissance style.
 Francis acquired what would become the nucleus of the Louvre's holdings, his acquisitions including
Leonardo da Vinci's
 After Louis XIV chose Versailles as his residence in 1682, constructions slowed; however, the move permitted the Louvre to be used as a residence for artists.
By the mid-18th century there were an increasing number of proposals to create a public gallery, with the art critic La Font de Saint-Yenne publishing, in 1747, a call for a display of the royal collection. On 14 October 1750,
Louis XV agreed and sanctioned a display of 96 pieces from the royal collection, mounted in the Galerie royale de peinture of the
Luxembourg Palace. A hall was opened by
Le Normant de Tournehem and the
Marquis de Marigny for public viewing of the Tableaux du Roy on Wednesdays and Saturdays, and contained
Andrea del Sarto's Charity and works by
Van Dyck, until its closing in 1780 as a result of the gift of the palace to the
Count of Provence (the future king, Louis XVIII) by the king in 1778.
Louis XVI, the royal museum idea became policy.
comte d'Angiviller broadened the collection and in 1776 proposed conversion of the Grande Galerie of the Louvre – which contained maps – into the "French Museum". Many proposals were offered for the Louvre's renovation into a museum; however, none was agreed on. Hence the museum remained incomplete until the French Revolution.
During the French Revolution the Louvre was transformed into a public museum. In May 1791,
the Assembly declared that the Louvre would be "a place for bringing together monuments of all the sciences and arts".
 On 10 August 1792,
Louis XVI was imprisoned and the royal collection in the Louvre became national property. Because of fear of vandalism or theft, on 19 August, the National Assembly pronounced the museum's preparation as urgent. In October, a committee to "preserve the
national memory" began assembling the collection for display.
The museum opened on 10 August 1793, the first anniversary of the monarchy's demise. The public was given free access on three days per week, which was "perceived as a major accomplishment and was generally appreciated".
 The collection showcased 537 paintings and 184 objects of art. Three quarters were derived from the royal collections, the remainder from confiscated
Church property (
 To expand and organize the collection, the Republic dedicated 100,000
livres per year.
 In 1794, France's revolutionary armies began bringing pieces from Northern Europe, augmented after the
Treaty of Tolentino (1797) by works from the Vatican, such as
Laocoön and His Sons and the
Apollo Belvedere, to establish the Louvre as a museum and as a "sign of popular sovereignty".
The early days were hectic; privileged artists continued to live in residence, and the unlabelled paintings hung "frame to frame from floor to ceiling".
 The structure itself closed in May 1796 due to structural deficiencies. It reopened on
14 July 1801, arranged chronologically and with new lighting and columns.
Napoleon I, a northern wing paralleling the Grande Galerie was begun, and the collection grew through successful military campaigns.
 Following the
Egyptian campaign of 1798–1801, Napoléon appointed the museum's first director,
Dominique Vivant Denon. In tribute, the museum was renamed the "Musée Napoléon" in 1803, and acquisitions were made of Spanish, Austrian, Dutch, and Italian works, either as
spoils or through treaties such as the
Treaty of Tolentino.
 At the end of Napoleon's First Italian Campaign in 1797, the
Treaty of Campo Formio was signed with
Count Philipp von Cobenzl of the
Austrian Monarchy. This treaty not only marked the completion of Napoleon's conquest of Italy, but also the end of the first phases of the
French Revolutionary Wars. Under this treaty, Italian cities were required to contribute pieces of art and patrimony to take part in Napoleon's "parades of booty" through Paris before being put into the Louvre Museum.
 One of the most famous pieces taken under this program was the
Horses of Saint Mark. The four antique bronze horses, which had adorned the basilica of San Marco in Venice after the sack of
Constantinople in 1204, were brought to Paris to reside atop Napoleon's Arc du Carrousel in Paris in 1797.
Several churches and palaces, including Saint Mark's Basilica, were looted by the French, which outraged the Italians and their artistic and cultural sensibilities.
 In 1797, the
Treaty of Tolentino was signed by Napoleon, and two statues, the Nile and Tiber, were taken to Paris. These statues had previously been in the Vatican, and both were housed in the Louvre until 1815. After the defeat of Napoleon, the Nile was returned to Italy.
 However, the Tiber remained in the Louvre Museum and can be seen in the collections today.
The Italian Peninsula was not the only region from which Napoleon took art. Under the Directory government of the 1790s, Napoleon (then a General) led an expedition to Egypt. The campaign was an expansionist effort on the part of the government, but the Directory had another goal to make Paris the center of art, science, and culture.
 The Directory wanted France to assume responsibility for liberating the works of art they deemed in danger in order to protect and nationalize the heritage and culture of their subjects.
 As a result, there were teams of artists and scientists who accompanied the armies into battle equipped with lists of paintings, sculptures, and other pieces of patrimony that would be collected, crated, and shipped back to France.
Dominique Vivant Denon was Napoleon's art advisor, and accompanied him on the expedition to Egypt. Through his initiative, the
Valley of the Kings in Egypt was discovered and studied extensively.
 As a result, he was later installed by Napoleon as the director of
Musée Napoléon, formerly the Louvre, cementing the status of the museum as a center for global patrimony and storehouse for cultural heritage.
One of the most important discoveries made during Napoleon's campaign in Egypt was the
Rosetta Stone. It was discovered in 1799, and eventually led to the ability to decipher ancient hieroglyphs. Although the Rosetta Stone was discovered by the French, it actually never made it to the Louvre Museum. It was seized by British Forces following the defeat of Napoleon in Egypt and the subsequent signing of the Treaty of Alexandria in 1801.
 It is now on display at the
After the French defeat at
Waterloo, the works' former owners sought their return. The Louvre's administrators were loath to comply and hid many works in their private collections. In response, foreign states sent emissaries to London to seek help, and many pieces were returned, even some that had been restored by the Louvre.
 In 1815
Louis XVIII finally concluded agreements with the
 for the keeping of pieces such as Veronese's
Wedding at Cana which was exchanged for a large
Le Brun or the repurchase of the
Restoration and Second Empire
Louis XVIII and
Charles X between them added 135 pieces at a cost of 720,000 francs and created the department of Egyptian antiquities curated by
Champollion, increased by more than 7,000 works with the acquisition of antiquities in the
Edme-Antoine Durand, the Egyptian collection of
Henry Salt or the second collection former by
Bernardino Drovetti. This was less than the amount given for rehabilitation of
Versailles, and the Louvre suffered relative to the rest of Paris. After the creation of the
French Second Republic in 1848, the new government allocated two million francs for repair work and ordered the completion of the
Galerie d'Apollon, the Salon Carré, and the Grande Galérie.
 In 1861,
Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte bought 11,835 artworks including 641 paintings, Greek gold and other antiquities of the
Campana collection. During the
Second French Empire, between 1852 and 1870, the French economy grew; by 1870 the museum had added 20,000 new pieces to its collections, and the
Pavillon de Flore and the Grande Galérie were remodelled under architects
Louis Visconti and
Damage during the 1871 Paris Commune
The Louvre was damaged during the suppression of the
Paris Commune. On 23 May 1871, as the French Army advanced into Paris, a force of Communard soldiers led by Jules Bergeret set fire to the adjoining
Tuileries Palace. The fire burned for forty-eight hours, entirely destroying the interior of the palace and spreading to the museum next to it. The library of the museum and some of the adjoining halls were destroyed, but the museum was saved by the efforts of Paris firemen and museum employees.
Third Republic and World Wars
Third Republic (1870–1940) the Louvre acquired new pieces mainly via donations and gifts. The Société des Amis du Louvre donated the
Pietà of Villeneuve-lès-Avignon, and in 1863 an expedition uncovered the sculpture
Winged Victory of Samothrace in the Aegean Sea. This piece, though heavily damaged, has been prominently displayed since 1884.
 The 583-item Collection La Caze donated in 1869, included works by
Rembrandt – such as
Bathsheba at Her Bath – and Gilles by
Museum expansion slowed after World War I, and the collection did not acquire many significant new works; exceptions were
Georges de La Tour's Saint Thomas and
Baron Edmond de Rothschild's (1845–1934) 1935 donation of 4,000 engravings, 3,000 drawings, and 500 illustrated books.
 During World War II the museum removed most of the art and hid valuable pieces. When Germany occupied the
Sudetenland, many important artworks such as the
Mona Lisa were temporarily moved to the
Château de Chambord. When war was formally declared a year later, most of the museum's paintings were sent there as well. Select sculptures such as
Winged Victory of Samothrace and the
Venus de Milo were sent to the
Château de Valençay.
 On 27 August 1939, after two days of packing, truck convoys began to leave Paris. By 28 December, the museum was cleared of most works, except those that were too heavy and "unimportant paintings [that] were left in the basement".
 In early 1945, after the liberation of France, art began returning to the Louvre.
Grand Louvre Pyramids
By 1874, the Louvre Palace had achieved its present form of an almost rectangular structure with the Sully Wing to the east containing the Cour Carrée (Square Court) and the oldest parts of the Louvre; and two wings which wrap the Cour Napoléon, the Richelieu Wing to the north and the Denon Wing, which borders the Seine to the south.
 In 1983, French President
François Mitterrand proposed, as one of his
Grands Projets, the Grand Louvre plan to renovate the building and relocate the Finance Ministry, allowing displays throughout the building. Architect
I. M. Pei was awarded the project and proposed a glass pyramid to stand over a new entrance in the main court, the Cour Napoléon.
 The pyramid and its underground lobby were inaugurated on 15 October 1988; the pyramid was completed in 1989. The second phase of the Grand Louvre plan,
La Pyramide Inversée (The Inverted Pyramid), was completed in 1993. As of 2002, attendance had doubled since completion.
The Louvre Palace and the Pyramid (by night)
The Louvre Palace and the Pyramid (by day)
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.
 It is the
world's most visited museum, averaging 15,000 visitors per day, 65 percent of whom are foreign tourists.
Mario Bellini and
Rudy Ricciotti had won an international competition to create its new galleries for Islamic art, the new 3,000 sq m
 pavilion eventually opened in 2012, consisting of ground- and lower-ground-level interior spaces topped by a golden, undulating roof (fashioned from almost 9,000 steel tubes that form an interior web) that seems to float within the neo-Classical Visconti Courtyard in the middle of the Louvre's south wing.
 The galleries, which the museum had initially hoped to open by 2009, represent the first major architectural intervention at the Louvre since the addition of I.M. Pei's glass pyramid in 1989.
On 5 February 2015, about one hundred archaeologists, protesting against commercial private involvement to protect France's heritage, blocked Louvre's ticket desks to facilitate free access to the museum.
 At least one announcement reading "Free entrance offered by the archeologists" has been attached to the ticket desk and a number of people visited the museum free of charge.
Restoration workshops in the Louvre
The Louvre is owned by the French government; however, since the 1990s it has become more independent.
 Since 2003, the museum has been required to generate funds for projects.
 By 2006, government funds had dipped from 75 percent of the total budget to 62 percent. Every year, the Louvre now raises as much as it gets from the state, about €122 million. The government pays for operating costs (salaries, safety and maintenance), while the rest – new wings, refurbishments, acquisitions – is up to the museum to finance.
 A further €3 million to €5 million a year is raised by the Louvre from exhibitions that it curates for other museums, while the host museum keeps the ticket money.
 As the Louvre became a point of interest in the book
The Da Vinci Code and the 2006 film based on the book, the museum earned $2.5 million by allowing filming in its galleries.
 In 2008, the French government provided $180 million of the Louvre's yearly $350 million budget; the remainder came from private contributions and ticket sales.
The Louvre employs a staff of 2,000 led by Director
 who reports to the French Ministry of Culture and Communications. Martinez replaced
Henri Loyrette in April 2013. Under Loyrette, who replaced
Pierre Rosenberg in 2001, the Louvre has undergone policy changes that allow it to lend and borrow more works than before.
 In 2006, it loaned 1,300 works, which enabled it to borrow more foreign works. From 2006 to 2009, the Louvre lent artwork to the
High Museum of Art in Atlanta, Georgia, and received a $6.9 million payment to be used for renovations.
In 2012, the Louvre and the
Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco announced a five-year collaboration on exhibitions, publications, art conservation and educational programming.
 The €98.5 million expansion of the Islamic Art galleries in 2012 received state funding of €31 million, as well as €17 million from the
Alwaleed Bin Talal Foundation founded by the eponymous Saudi prince. The republic of Azerbaijan, the Emir of Kuwait, the Sultan of Oman and
King Mohammed VI of Morocco donated in total €26 million. In addition, the opening of the Louvre Abu Dhabi is supposed to provide €400 million over the course of 30 years for its use of the museum's prestigious brand.
 Loyrette has tried to improve weak parts of the collection through income generated from loans of art and by guaranteeing that "20% of admissions receipts will be taken annually for acquisitions".
 He has more administrative independence for the museum and achieved 90 percent of galleries to be open daily, as opposed to 80 percent previously. He oversaw the creation of extended hours and free admission on Friday nights and an increase in the acquisition budget to $36 million from $4.5 million.
In 2004, French officials decided to build a satellite museum on the site of an abandoned coal pit in the former mining town of
Lens to relieve the crowded Paris Louvre, increase total museum visits, and improve the industrial north's economy.
 Six cities were considered for the project: Amiens, Arras, Boulogne-sur-Mer, Calais, Lens, and Valenciennes. In 2004, French Prime Minister
Jean-Pierre Raffarin chose Lens to be the site of the new building, the Louvre-Lens. Japanese architects
SANAA were selected to design the Lens project in 2005. Museum officials predicted that the new building, capable of receiving about 600 works of art, would attract up to 500,000 visitors a year when it opened in 2012.
In March 2007, the Louvre announced that a Louvre museum would be completed by 2016 in
Abu Dhabi. A 30-year agreement, signed by French Culture Minister
Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres and Sheik Sultan bin Tahnoon Al Nahyan, will establish the museum on Saadiyat Island in Abu Dhabi in exchange for €832,000,000 (US$1.3 billion). The Louvre Abu Dhabi, designed by the French architect
Jean Nouvel and the engineering firm of
Buro Happold, will occupy 24,000 square metres (260,000 sq ft) and will be covered by a roof shaped like a flying saucer. France agreed to rotate between 200 and 300 artworks during a 10-year period; to provide management expertise; and to provide four temporary exhibitions a year for 15 years. The art will come from multiple museums, including the Louvre, the
Georges Pompidou Centre, the Musée d'Orsay, Versailles, the
Musée Guimet, the
Musée Rodin, and the
Musée du quai Branly.
Minister of Culture
Frédéric Mitterrand approved a plan that would have created a storage facility 30 km northwest of Paris to hold objects from the Louvre and two other national museums in Paris's flood zone, the
Musée du Quai Branly and the
Musée d'Orsay; the plan was later scrapped. In 2013, his successor
Aurélie Filippetti announced that the Louvre would move more than 250,000 works of art
 held in a 20,000 square metres (220,000 sq ft) basement storage area in
Liévin; the cost of the project, estimated at €60 million, will be split between the region (49%) and the Louvre (51%).
 The Louvre will be the sole owner and manager of the store.
 In July 2015, a team led by British firm
Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners was selected to design the complex, which will have light-filled work spaces under one vast, green roof.
The Louvre is involved in controversies that surround cultural property seized under Napoleon I, as well as during World War II by the Nazis. During
Nazi occupation, thousands of artworks were stolen. But after the war, 61,233 articles of more than 150,000 seized artworks returned to France and were assigned to the Louvre's Office des Biens Privés. In 1949, it entrusted 2,130 unclaimed pieces (including 1,001 paintings) to the Direction des Musées de France in order to keep them under appropriate conditions of conservation until their restitution and meanwhile classified them as MNRs (Musées Nationaux Recuperation or, in English, the National Museums of Recovered Artwork). Some 10% to 35% of the pieces are believed to come from Jewish spoliations
 and until the identification of their rightful owners, which declined at the end of the 1960s, they are registered indefinitely on separate inventories from the museum's collections.
They were exhibited in 1946 and shown all together to the public during four years (1950–1954) in order to allow rightful claimants to identify their properties, then stored or displayed, according to their interest, in several French museums including the Louvre. From 1951 to 1965, about 37 pieces were restituted. Since November 1996, the partly illustrated catalogue of 1947–1949 has been accessible online and completed. In 1997, Prime Minister
Alain Juppé initiated the Mattéoli Commission, headed by
Jean Mattéoli, to investigate the matter and according to the government, the Louvre is in charge of 678 pieces of artwork still unclaimed by their rightful owners.
 During the late 1990s, the comparison of the American war archives, which had not been done before, with the French and German ones as well as two court cases which finally settled some of the heirs' rights (Gentili di Giuseppe and Rosenberg families) allowed more accurate investigations. Since 1996, the restitutions, according sometimes to less formal criteria, concerned 47 more pieces (26 paintings, with 6 from the Louvre including a then displayed Tiepolo), until the last claims of French owners and their heirs ended again in 2006.
Serge Klarsfeld, since the now complete and constant publicity which the artworks got in 1996, the majority of the French Jewish community is nevertheless in favour of the return to the normal French civil rule of prescription acquisitive of any unclaimed good after another long period of time and consequently to their ultimate integration into the common French heritage instead of their transfer to foreign institutions like during World War II.
In June 2015, the Louvre was accused of discriminating against Israeli students.
Napoleon's campaigns acquired Italian pieces by treaties, as war reparations, and Northern European pieces as spoils as well as some antiquities excavated in Egypt, though the vast majority of the latter were seized as war reparations by the British army and are now part of collections of the
British Museum. On the other hand, the
Dendera zodiac is, like the
Rosetta stone, claimed by Egypt even though it was acquired in 1821, before the Egyptian Anti-export legislation of 1835. The Louvre administration has thus argued in favor of retaining this item despite requests by Egypt for its return. The museum participates too in arbitration sessions held via
UNESCO's Committee for Promoting the Return of Cultural Property to Its Countries of Origin.
 The museum consequently returned in 2009 five Egyptian fragments of frescoes (30 cm x 15 cm each) whose existence of the tomb of origin had only been brought to the authorities attention in 2008, eight to five years after their good-faith acquisition by the museum from two private collections and after the necessary respect of the procedure of déclassement from French public collections before the
Commission scientifique nationale des collections des musées de France.