750: The Louvre
750: Laclotte, Michel and Jean-Pierre Cuzin. The Louvre: Paintings. Paris, France: Editions Scala, 2000. 284 pp. ISBN 2-86656-236-4.
- 700: Fine Arts and Recreation
- 750: Painting and paintings
On August 10, 1793, a wondrous building was made open to the public. Exactly one year before, Louis XVI was imprisoned and the monarchy felled. The National Assembly urged that the works of art hoarded by Louis and previous kings be collected and displayed so that they could preserve the national memory. At it’s opening, The Louvre showcased 537 paintings and 184 other objects of art. From there started an interesting and sometimes sordid history. Michel Laclotte and Jean-Pierre Cuzin’s The Louvre gives a history of each of the museum’s major collection, but more importantly, displays a wide variety of the museum’s pieces in glorious color plates.
The book is pretty straightforward. There is a cursory history of the collection and the building, and then each collection is given a sizable chunk of the book. Half the book is given over to French painting and other half to other European works of art. The authors discuss how each period’s works started in the collection and then gives a fair amount of detail on how they’ve progressed over the years. One of the more interesting bits of information that the text sometimes glosses over is that people used to pay estate or other taxes by handing over works of art to the museum. While each collection’s history is plenty intriguing, it’s the full color plates of works that make the book worth thumbing through. It will never replace actually going to the museum, but centuries’ worth of art is contained in this book, and that is worth at least the price of admission.