Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Louvre

ornithopter drawing

Leonardo da Vinci was not only a brilliant artist, but an ingenious inventor. The public has been showered with ‘da Vinci’ media these past couple years with the release of Dan Brown’s best-selling novel, The Da Vinci Code, as well as universities and engineering firms beginning to recreate many of his old ideas that were only left on paper. One can see how much confidence da Vinci had in his own intellect; he never attempted to build any of his inventions because he knew they would work. My favorite design was his ornithopter, a man-powered machine that attained flight with the flapping of artificial wings. While this idea has been proven to work in small scale, humans are still developing a machine that can transport us with the grace of birds.


Yet to most, Leondardo is the painter of The Mona Lisa housed inside the Louvre in Paris, France. Properly known as the Grand Louvre, this is the most visited museum in the world. It is also one of the largest museums at 652,300 square feet (60,600 square meters) containing nearly 35,000 objects dating from the dawn our beginning to the 19th century.

The museum was originally a fortress built in the late 12th century under King Philip II of France. Charles X converted the building into the royal family’s quarters in 1546. After that, it underwent multiple additions and remained the primary residence of the king and queen until 1672 when Louis XIV switched to the Palace of Versailles. Since then, its vast halls have been mainly used to exhibit artwork from the royal families.

Did you know?- During the Second French Empire (Napoleon III ruled from 1852-1870) the museum gained 20,000 pieces of art!

The current collection is divided into eight departments:

• Egyptian Antiquities
• Near Eastern Antiquities
• Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities
• Islamic Art
• Sculpture
• Decorative Arts
• Paintings
• Prints and Drawings

Although not highly publicized, the Louvre is actually owned by the French government. Since 2003, they have required the museum to generate funds for municipal projects. The government currently provides 62% of the museum’s funding with the remainder coming from private contributions and ticket sales.

Did you know?- In order to keep everything running, the museum employs 2,000 people!

One of the Louvre’s main architectural features is the glass pyramid in the central courtyard. Architect I. M. Pei was appointed the task and was completed in October 1988. The second phase of Pei’s plan, La Pyramide Inversée (the Inverted Pyramid), was completed in 1993. Upon reaching the year 2002, the museum’s attendance had doubled due to its completion!

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