Friday, October 10, 2008

Le Vieux Louvre

The existing Louvre museum, which was once the French royal palace, is a wonderful collection of renaissance architectural styles. But before the palace we see today was built, a medieval fortress stood on the site, constructed by King Philippe Auguste in the thirteenth century.

Ken wanders around the underground foundations of the old Louvre.

The Louvre of that day was not a royal residence -- the king then lived on the Ile de la Cité -- until Charles V transformed the fort into a habitable palace. It wasn't until the sixteenth century when King François I razed the old fort that the first of the existing wings of the Louvre were built.

During the 1980s, under President François Mitterand, an expansive rehabilitation project brought major changes to the Louvre. The Ministry of Finance moved out of the building to its new home at Bercy and the museum was expanded. The famous pyramid entrance was built on what was previously being used as a parking lot.

Part of that vast construction project included archeological work that exposed the surviving foundations of the medieval fortress. Visitors to the museum can now walk through this part of the palace, and Ken and I did just that in 1988.

I took this photo down there, but the light was so dim (and I didn't carry a tripod into the museum) that the slide came out much too dark to be interesting. So, thanks to a little work with Photoshop, I think I've transformed it enough to give you an idea of what it was like.

This is part of a series of color slides that I took in Paris in the late 1980s. They are images that I didn't like much back then for one reason or another. I'm using Photoshop to try to give them a new life.


  1. I am loving all the old photos... I would definitely say thanks to Photoshop (as you have in each post). Thanks for sharing this photographic trip back in time with us!

  2. These archaeological excavations under the Louvre are very interesting. I was also very amused by the little display they have in this section of objects found abandoned in corners in the museum, all labelled up as if they were archaeological artefacts – the various items of makeup that have fallen out of handbags and rolled into a corner to be discovered by the cleaner (20th century pot, plastic, possibly used for unguents), a teddy bear (textile, possibly meant to represent a bear. Believed to be a child's toy.)

  3. This is a fun series! These photos appear to be timeless which is part of the wonder. I'm sure the Louvre is an architectural marvel to you. Its fascinating to see where François I and Napoléon added on for whatever purpose. Its such a neat collection of additions.

  4. I'm loving the photos from the '80s! I'm amazed to realize that when we were there in '81-'82, they still used the old entrance, and were only just beginning the excavation to give us the fabulous pyramid. I certainly had no idea what was going to become of that space! Are you one who loves the pyramid, or hates it? I LOVE it.

    Walt, it's a shame we didn't know each other better that year... it seems like we would have had lots of interests in common :)


  5. Every time I visit Louvre, Catherine de Medicis comes to mind- apart from her interests in arts and architecture in particular Les Tuileries-I always imagine what was going on in her mind when she decided to get rid of some of her enemies whilst living there.

  6. justin, set the way-back machine... oops, maybe you're too young for that.

    susan, I've never seen that! It sounds cool. I haven't been inside the Louvre in many years.

    rachael, one of my favorite exhibits in the Louvre is the one about the history of the building itself. Go figure!

    judy, yes, I do like the pyramid and all the improvements they've made. The museum needed a monumental entrance, and now it's got one!

    beaver, it's amazing how buildings, like music, can evoke images in one's mind!

  7. Beaver – I think the Louvre must have been a place of very mixed emotions for Catherine. On the one hand a fortress that she could feel safe in after the death of Henry, but on the other, part of the price was that she had to live there with those slimy Guise boys.


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