viernes, 28 de febrero de 2014

The Architecture of the Louvre

The building of the Louvre Palace is one of the longest and most complex in the history of European architecture. The Louvre was originally a fortress built in the 12th century, which later became a royal residence and was expanded and embellished over the next two centuries.  

The transformation into a renaissance palace began during the reign of Francis I, who in 1527 had ordered the demolition of the round keep at the centre of the fortress. It took another twenty years, however, before the king returned his attention to the Louvre and hired Pierre Lescot to replace the fortress with a new building.

The first section of the new courtyard palace was built in 1547-51, by which time the crown passed to Henry II. The courtyard has since quadrupled in size and several of the facades have been altered, but the original Lescot wing has survived mostly intact. The relief work is attributed to Jean Goujon, though the statues in the niches are from the 19th century.

Lescot clearly modelled his facade on the courtyards of Italian palaces, though the result is both more ornate and complex. The projections introduce a vertical element to the composition, which is absent in most Italian examples. Arranging the facade in this way would later become typical of French architecture, but doesn't seem to have been the original intention. Lescot was following the French tradition of creating a projection in the facade to accommodate the staircase. He wanted to place it in the centre but this became difficult when the king insisted on having a reception hall across the entire ground floor. The ramp of the staircase was therefore pushed to the right, but Lescot still kept the central frontispiece of the original design and introduced a third on the left for the sake of symmetry. The idea of having a ground-floor arcade with recessed windows probably came from the project to build a new city hall, which was initiated in 1533. The roof is the first known mansard, which would also become a staple of French classical architecture. The break in angle of the sloping roof was probably used to diminish the visual impact.

The attic storey is richly decorated in relief sculpture, executed by Jean Goujon.
The figures in the central frontispiece are the god and goddess of war, Mars and Bellona, while the window is flanked with kneeling captives. The theme of war is further emphasised in the winged victories on the pediment. The monogram of Henry II is also displayed.


Work began on a second wing in 1553. This was to be known as the Queens' wing and was intended primarily as living quarters for the queen and the queen mother, who had been widowed when Henry II died in a jousting accident in 1559.  The decoration had not been fully completed when Lescot died in 1579 and the attic floor was replaced in the 19th century. Lescot also built a tower-like pavilion (Pavillon du Roi) at the corner of the two wings, which was removed in the 18th century.
The queen mother, Catherine de Medici, ruled France to varying degrees during the reigns of her three sons: Francis II, Charles IX and Henri III. She apparently didn’t like the still half-medieval Louvre very much and chose instead to build an entirely new palace outside the city walls to the west of the Louvre. Construction on the Tuileries palace began in 1564 to designs by the architect Philibert de l’Orme, while work on the Queens' wing at the Louvre came to a halt the year after and would only be completed during the reign of Henri IV.

Nevertheless, work at the Louvre did not stop completely and the idea of a long gallery to link the Louvre with the Tuileries appears to have originated during this time.

The first step in this plan was the little gallery, which was built as an extension of the Louvre toward the river. The ground floor design appears to be from 1566-67, but the first floor was only completed by Henry IV and its design is probably of a later date. The original architect is not known but could have been Philibert de l’Orme or Pierre Lescot, who after all was still the architect in charge of the Louvre. The gallery was rebuilt after a fire in 1661 to an altered design by Louis le Vau but some elements of the original was restored by Felix Duban in the mid-19th century.

The little gallery was initially built as a ground-storey terrace overlooking the Louvre gardens. The use of black marble strips on the Doric pilasters suggests some influence from de l'Orme's design of the Tuileries palace, though the result is more conventional. The decoration of the frieze may also point to de l'Orme in adhering to a 'correct' formula for the Doric order, though the decoration in the spandrels of the arches has been seen as indicative of Lescot's style. The absence of pilasters in some of the bays on the ground floor is due to le Vau's rebuilding in the 17th century, while the dormers and the frontispiece is the result of 19th-century restoration.

Meanwhile, Jean Bullant took over as architect of the Tuileries when de l’Orme died in 1570. Catherine de Medici soon lost interest and work ground to a halt after 1572, though plans to expand the palace were made.


Things really started to pick up with the end of the religious wars and the ascension of Henry IV. The Queens' wing was finally completed, the first floor of the little gallery was built in 1594-96 and the 400-metre grand gallery linked the Louvre and the Tuileries in 1603-06.  

The job of designing the grand gallery was given to two architects, resulting in two different designs. The first section has been attributed to Louis Métezeau, who designed a single-storey building with a mezzanine between the ground and first floors.

The composition is based on alternating triangular and segmental pediments, except over the main entrance, where a more elaborate frontispiece is introduced. Paired columns and a balcony also adds emphasis to this part of the facade, which has been named Porte Barbet de Jouy after a 19th-century curator.

Certain changes have been made to Métezeau's original design. The two-storey pavilion at the eastern end, adjoining the little gallery, was built by Louis le Vau in the 17th century, and a corresponding pavilion at the other end was later added for symmetry. Most of the statues and the ornament in the pediments and central frontispiece is from the mid-19th century.

The rest of the grand gallery was originally designed by Jacques Androuet du Cerceau, but his work was entirely demolished in the 1860s. The earlier facade consisted of colossal pilasters, which can still be seen in copy on the Rivoli wing built under Napoleon I, while the new river facade is closer to Métezeau. 

At the transition between the two different sections stood Pavillon Lesdiguières, which still exists though incorporated into a wider composition, known as les Guichets du Carrousel.  The pavilion was previously named after the lantern at the top of its cone-shaped roof.


After the assassination of Henri IV, a second Medici queen became regent and royal building works shifted to the new Luxembourg Palace. It was only after Louis XIII came of age that attention returned to the Louvre.

Work began in 1624, on a scheme that apparently originated with Henri IV: to quadruple the size of the Louvre courtyard. The northern walls of the fortress were razed and a pavilion was built adjoining the Lescot wing. A new wing, which has since been named after the architect in charge Jacques Lemercier, was then built, as an extension of the western side of the courtyard.

The Clock Pavilion (Pavillon de l’horloge) has since been renamed after the duke of Sully, a minister of Henri IV. The design of the of the caryatids has been attributed to Jacques Sarrazin and were executed by sculptors Guérin and De Buyster.

The Lemercier wing (right) is identical to the original Lescot wing (left), except in the details of the relief work, which was mostly completed in the early 19th century. At least one of the motifs on the ground have been attributed to Gerard van Opstal and dated to 1638.    


Louis XIII died in 1643 and his widow, Anne of Austria, moved the royal residence across the street to a palace originally built for Louis XIII’s chief minister, Cardinal Richelieu. This building is still known as the Palais Royal. Anne of Austria was forced to flee Paris due to a revolt of aristocrats, and the Fronde, as the conflict was known, was only ended in 1653. Anne of Austria subsequently moved back to the Louvre and employed a new architect, Louis le Vau.

One of his first jobs was on the little gallery, which had originally been connected to the main part of the Louvre via a bridge-like structure. Replacing this, he wrapped new buildings around the little gallery to the north and west; creating the Apollo gallery, Pavillon du Salon Carrée and an open courtyard to west, named Cour de la Reine (now Cour du Sphinx). As part of this work, a section of the grand gallery was replaced with a new three-storeyed river front. The northern facade is decorated with a rotunda, but was originally quite sparse in its decoration, in keeping with Lescot's and Lemercier's outward facades. The columns, recessed arcades and statues of the ground floor are later 19th-century embellishments.

Le Vau rebuilt the little gallery after a fire in 1661, before turning his attention to the completion of the palace courtyard. The north and south wings were both created as replicas of Lescot's and Lemercier's work, with pavilions modelled on the King's Pavilion at the corners and a domed pavilion  modelled on the Clock Pavilion in the centre. Le Vau's original contribution was on the river front of the southern wing where he added his own design to the central pavilion. He had planned to build a bridge across the river to the Collège des Quatre-Nations on the left bank, which is also his.

Work continued on the northern wing and some progress was also made on the final eastern wing. Meanwhile, the facade of the Tuileries had been extended in 1659-61 and le Vau and his assistant François d'Orbay redesigned the facade there in 1664-66.

But the Louvre was soon to take a completely new direction, which would erase almost all of le Vau's original contribution. He was challenged in his role as chief architect and the work was stopped. In 1665, the Italian architect and sculptor Bernini was invited to Paris and submitted designs. But in the end, the east front was designed by a committee of three members: Louis le Vau, Claude Perrault and Charles le Brun. Le Vau died in 1670 and the east facade, known as the Colonnade, is mostly attributed to Claude Perrault, though François d'Orbay may also have played a significant role.

In 1964-67, the moat in front of the east front was redug and surrounded with a balustrade. It had been filled in during construction in the 17th century.

The colonnade is taller and wider than the other wings, and in 1668 work started on a completely new facade on the south-facing side, even though Le Vau had completed the work here as recently as 1663. Perrault apparently also produced a design for the outward facade of the northern wing, though the angle to the colonnade was in that case not corrected.

All work on the Louvre was stopped in 1672 when Louis XIV made Versailles his permanent residence. The three new wings were all left in a state of incompletion. The new riverside facade by Perrault was left as an empty shell obscuring the previous one by le Vau, with the domed and coned shaped pavilions still visible on the skyline.

Not much happened in the 18th century, but the top storey on the courtyard-side of the colonnade was designed by Soufflot and Gabriel around 1756. The flat and taller roofline of the Colonnade made it impossible to copy Lescot fully and the top storey was completed in full height instead of an attic. The central pavilion was capped with a pediment, originally carved by Guillaume Coustou.

The southern and northern wings were also finally roofed. The domed and cone-roofed pavilions, including that of the King's Pavilion, were removed, leaving Lemercier's Clock Pavilion as the only silhouette above the now flat palatial skyline. The Colonnade, which had suffered damage during its decades of semi-completion, was restored.

Further work of any significance had to wait for the revolution and Napoleon. The emperor employed architects Charles Percier and Pierre Fontaine to complete the courtyard and finalise the grand design, which would link the Louvre with the Tuileries via a gallery, equivalent to the one completed at the start of the 17th century, along the new street of Rue de Rivoli.

The architects first completed the courtyard, with an outward facade to the north, following a design attributed to Perrault.

The mis-match of facades within the courtyard was also addressed, with the architects favouring the 18th-century design of Soufflot and Gabriel. A compromise was found, resulting in the removal of the Lescot attic storey on the northern and southern wing but not on the original western part. The new courtyard pediments on the northern and southern wings were carved by Claude Ramey and Jean Pierre Sueur in 1811. Some of the niches on the colonnade were made into windows and the decoration on the pediment was replaced. This was only completed after Napoleon's time, in 1822, by François-Frédéric Lemot.

The architects subsequently turned their attention to the new gallery, beginning with the section adjoining the Tuileries and working eastward. On the side facing what would become the courtyard of Cour du Carroussel, Percier and Fontaine copied the design of Androuet du Cerceau and its thanks to this copy that we preserve any trace of his contribution. The facades on the opposite side of Cour du Carrousel no longer correspond, as the original was demolished and replaced in the 1860s.

Percier and Fontaine introduced a new design on the side facing Rue de Rivoli, where the same architects had created a long line of uniform facades in line with a decree issued by Napoleon. The new gallery is now referred to as the Richelieu wing and is designed to fit the austerity of Rue de Rivoli.

Pavillon Rohan was completed in 1816 and can be seen as the counterpoint to the 17th-century Pavillon Lesdiguières, which faces the river. Percier and Fontaine did not get much further east than this point, leaving the rest of the grand design to be completed by later architects. They did, however, get started on the section adjoining the courtyard, which essentially became a copy of Le Vau's Apollo building.

Percier and Fontaine had also built the Arc du Carrousel in front of the Tuileries palace in 1806-08. The design is based on the Arch of Constantine in Rome and originally featured the horses of St Mark, which were returned to Venice in 1815 and replaced with a quadriga by Francois Joseph Bosio in 1828. The name carrousel first appeared in 1662 and refers to the military drill staged in front of the Tuileries palace.

Some work was carried out during the reigns of Louis XVIII, Charles X and Louis Philippe; but it was under Napoleon III that really ambitious plans developed, beginning in 1852. The architect Louis Visconti developed a plan for the completion of entire Louvre-Tuileries complex and work was continued after his death in 1853 by Hector-Martin Lefuel.

The first step was to complete the gallery on Rue de Rivoli begun by Fontaine and Percier. The new section has some similarities with Métezeau's riverside facade of the grand gallery, but omits the mezzanine and features a central pavilion, named Pavillon de la bibliothéque, opposite Palais Royal. The caryatids were sculpted by Astyanax Bosio, nephew of Francois Joseph Bosio.

Visconti's plan was to obscure the difference in angle between the Louvre west front and the Tuileries palace, by creating new wings with inner courtyards to frame the space between old Louvre and Place du Carrousel. This space was named Cour Napoléon, with the work completed in 1857.

Lefuel completed six new pavilions: Daru, Denon and Mollien on the south side of Cour Napoléon; and Colbert, Richelieu and Turgot (pictured above) on the north side. Visconti had planned to copy the style of Lemercier, Lescot and le Vau but Lefuel opted for something a bit more ornate.

The Louvre west front as designed by Lescot and Lemercier in the 16th and 17th centuries had been a simple affair compared to the lavish courtyard facades, but was heavily revamped in the 1850s. Lemercier's Clock Pavilion, now usually referred to as Pavillion de Sully, was covered in relief decoration, while the idea of embellishing the ground floor with half-columns was borrowed from Fontaine and Percier. The columns are capped with a total of 86 statues representing various figures of prominence.

Lefuel also added profuse decoration to Pavillon de Rohan on the side facing Place du Carrousel.

At this point, the whole complex was finished. But in 1861-69, work resumed. Pavillon de Flore was redesigned and much of the grand gallery was demolished and replaced. Lefuel also pierced the river facade with the Grands Guichets.

Pavillon de Flore was given a lot more florid look than the original designed by du Cerceau. It is one of only two pavilions of the Tuileries that was restored after the fire in 1871. The rest of that palace was demolished in 1883.

Lefuel destroyed du Cerceau's part of the grand gallery in 1863 and replaced it with a copy of Métezeau’s section. The central gateway is knows as Porte de Lions. Lefuel added an annex to the new gallery on the north side in 1863-68, called Pavillion des Sessions.

The Grand Guichets were built in 1866-69. It incorporates the old Pavillon Lesdiguières with a copy added for symmetry, named Pavillon La Trémoille. The decoration in the pediment was changed after the fall of Napoleon III. 

The Tuileries was damaged in a fire during the commune in 1871 and was subsequently demolished in 1883. The pavilions at either end were rebuilt. Pavillon de Marsan was rebuilt as a copy of the redesigned de Flore.

Lefuel also started work on remaking Percier and Fontaine's copy of du Cerceau's design for the grand gallery on the same lines as had been done with the original. Work was carried out in 1875-78 but seems to have been interrupted and the new and old is left at an awkward juncture.

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