Located on the Rue de Rivoli, the Louvre is one of the largest palaces in the world, and was a former residence of the kings of France. In 1793, during the Revolution, the first state museum was opened in the Louvre, consisting of the former royal collection of paintings and sculptures. Present displays in the Louvre include, Oriental antiquities, Egyptian antiquities, Greek and Roman antiquities, sculpture from the Middle Ages to modern times, furniture and paintings representing all the European schools, plus there is a further section devoted to Islamic art.
The Louvre Pyramid is a large metal and glass structure that reaches a height of 20.6 meters, at its base, the sides measure 35 meters. Commissioned by the then French president François Mitterrand, it was built in 1989 by the New York architect I. M. Pei. After its construction, the pyramid triggered considerable controversy, many people feeling that this futuristic looks were out of place with the classical architecture of the museum. The pyramid is in fact only the largest of several glass pyramids that were constructed near the museum, including the downward pointing La Pyramide Inversee that functions as a skylight in an underground mall in front of the museum.
The Aphrodite of Milos, more commonly known as the Venus de Milo is one of the most famous sculptures in the world. It is thought to represent Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love and beauty, who was later renamed Venus by the Romans. The statue is sculptured in marble, and is slightly larger than life size. Both the arms and the original plinth are now missing. Originally it was thought to be the work of the master sculptor Praxiteles, but nowadays the work is attributed to Alexandros of Antioch. Created in around 150 B.C. the statue was discovered on the Greek island of Milos in 1820, by a farmer named George Kentrotas. He was digging in his field, when he discovered what he first thought was a small cave, which was later found to be part of the platform of an ancient stadium. Inside was the statue of Aphrodite (Venus). it was badly damaged and broken into two parts. Found along with the statue were a pedestal, a piece of an upper left arm, and a left hand holding an apple. It is unclear if these fragments belonged to the statue, and have since been lost.
An obligatory stop on the Louvre tour is at the Portrait of Lisa Gherardini, also known as the Mona Lisa. It is displayed in its own room on the first floor, behind a glass case. This well known work by Leonardo da Vinci 1479-1528, was stolen from the museum on Monday August 21, 1911. That morning, museum employees noticed that it was missing from its usual place, but assumed the painting had been taken by the museum photographer to his photographic studio. By Tuesday morning, when the painting hadn't been returned museum officials were notified that the painting had gone. Luckily, the painting was recovered 27 months later. An Italian man named Vincenzo Perugia tried to sell the painting to the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy. Perugia claimed he stole the work out of patriotism, saying that such a famous Italian masterpiece should not be kept in France. What Perugia didn't realize was that Leonardo had taken it with him to France and had sold it himself to King Francis I.
Today the Louvre houses more than 6000 European paintings dating from the 13th century to the 19th century. Its largest collection is of prints and drawings with an inventory exceeding 130,000.
Originally constructed in 1190 as a fortress, Charles V oversaw the first modernization of the building which resulted in what was to be the beginnings of one of the largest palace complexes in the world. Many additions and renovations were carried out over the next three centuries until Louis XIV, in 1674, put an end to construction at the Louvre and made Versailles the official residence of the French monarch. In 1765 the Louvre was earmarked to become a Palace of Arts and Sciences. It was not until after the Revolution in August 1793 that the Louvre museum was established by the French Republic.