The hallmark of the museum's collection is its 11,900 paintings (6,000 on permanent display and 5,900 in deposit), representing the second-largest holding of Western pictorial art in the world, after the Hermitage, Russia. There are large holdings from such artists as Fragonard, Rembrandt, Rubens, Titian, Van Dyck, Poussin, and David. Among the well-known sculptures in the collection are the Winged Victory of Samothrace and the Venus de Milo.

Besides art, the Louvre displays a host of other exhibits, including archaeology, sculptures, and objet d'art. The permanent galleries showcase large holdings of furniture, whose most spectacular item was the Bureau du Roi, completed by Jean Henri Riesener in the eighteenth century, now returned to the Palace of Versailles.

Curatorial departments

Winged Victory of Samothrace

The Louvre's collection covers Western art from the medieval period to 1848, formative works from the civilizations of the ancient world, and works of Islamic art. The collection is grouped into eight departments, each shaped and defined by the activities of its curators, collectors, and donors.

Near Eastern Antiquities

The Department of Near Eastern Antiquities is devoted to the ancient civilizations of the Near East and encompasses a period that extends from the first settlements, which appeared more than 10,000 years ago, to the advent of Islam.

Assyrian human-headed, winged bull

The first archaeological excavations in the mid-nineteenth century unearthed lost civilizations, and their art was rightly considered to be among humanity's greatest creative achievements. The Department of Near Eastern Antiquities-the youngest of the Louvre's departments up until the recent creation of the Department of Islamic Art-was established in 1881. The archaeological collections were essentially formed during the nineteenth century and in the twentieth century up until World War II. Rivaled only by the British Museum and the Vorderasiatisches Museum in Berlin, this collection offers a comprehensive overview of these different civilizations, drawing on scientific excavations conducted on numerous archaeological sites.

The first of these excavations took place between 1843 and 1854 in Khorsabad, a city constructed by King Sargon II of Assyria in the eighth century B.C.E. This site brought to light the Assyrians and lost civilizations of the Near East. One of the aims of the Louvre, which played a leading role in this rediscovery, is to reveal the depth of the region's cultural roots and its enduring values.

Egyptian Antiquities

Isis and Horus with Osorkon II. Gold, lapis, and red glass, 874-850 B.C.E.

The Department of Egyptian Antiquities presents vestiges from the civilizations that developed in the Nile Valley from the late prehistoric era (c. 4000 B.C.E.) to the Christian period (fourth century C.E.). This includes, among other works:

  • Egyptian statues from the former royal collections, including those of Nakhthorheb and Sekhmet
  • extraordinary works gathered by European collectors
  • finds from excavations at Abu Roash, Assiut, Bawit, Medamud, Tod, and Deir el-Medina
  • notable examples of Egyptian arts donated by individual collectors

Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities

Venus de Milo at the Louvre

The Department of Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities oversees works from the Greek, Etruscan, and Roman civilizations, illustrating the art of a vast area that encompasses Greece, Italy, and the whole of the Mediterranean basin, spanning a period that stretches from Neolithic times (fourth millennium B.C.E.) to the sixth century C.E.

The nucleus of the Greek, Roman, and Etruscan antiquities came from the former royal collections, enriched by property seized during the French Revolution. The Venus de Milo, presented to Louis XVIII by the Marquis de Rivière in 1821, further enhanced the collection.

The antiquities section was enriched during the nineteenth century by contributions from archaeological expeditions, notably fragments of the temple at Olympia (a gift from the Greek Senate in 1829), ancient reliefs from Assos (presented by Sultan Mahmoud II), and the frieze from the Temple of Artemis at Magnesia ad Maeandrum (Texier excavation, 1842).

The Winged Victory of Samothrace, discovered by Champoiseau in 1863, was installed at the top of the Daru staircase, on a ship's prow brought back in 1883.

Islamic Art

An Iranian ewer, thirteenth century

The Department of Islamic Art displays over 1,000 works, most of which were intended for the court of a wealthy elite. They span 1,300 years of history and three continents, reflecting the creativity and diversity of inspiration in Islamic countries.


Equestrian stature of Louis XIV

The rooms devoted to "modern" sculpture, opened in 1824, gradually became the Department of Medieval, Renaissance, and Modern Sculpture. Separate collections were founded in 1848 for antiquities and in 1893 for objets d'art.

When the Muséum Central des Arts opened in 1793, little modern sculpture was on display. Among the few works that went on show were Michelangelo's Slaves, confiscated from émigrés in 1794, and a few busts by artists like Raphael and Carracci. There were also commissioned busts of artists, displayed alongside the painting collections, and above all copies of works from antiquity, including numerous bronze busts. After the French Revolution, when the Musée des Monuments Français was closed, some of its finest works were transferred to the Louvre.

Decorative Arts

Serpentine paten with fish from the court of Charles the Bald (second half of the ninth century)

The Department of Decorative Arts presents a highly varied range of objects, including jewelry, tapestries, ivories, bronzes, ceramics, and furniture. The collection extends from the Middle Ages to the first half of the nineteenth century.

The decree issued by the convention at the founding of the Muséum Central des Arts on July 27, 1793, stipulated that the exhibits would include objets d'art. The nucleus of the display was formed by furniture and objects from the former royal collection. Small bronzes and gems joined the collection a little later, in 1796.

Venus Crowning Beauty, after a model by Louis-Simon Boizot (French, 1743-1809)

The department was subsequently enriched by two important treasures, from the Sainte Chapelle on the nearby Ile de la Cité and the abbey of Saint-Denis to the north of Paris (including Abbot Suger's collection of vases and the coronation regalia of the kings of France).

The collections were further supplemented thanks to the decree of Germinal 1 year II (March 21, 1794), authorizing the museum to confiscate property belonging to émigré aristocrats who had fled abroad to escape the Revolution.


Henriette Delacroix, elder sister of Eugène Delacroix, 1798-1799.

The Department of Paintings reflects the encyclopedic scope of the Louvre, encompassing every European school from the thirteenth century to 1848. The collection is overseen by 12 curators, who are among the most renowned experts in their field. The Louvre painting collections examine European painting in the period from the mid-thirteenth century (late medieval) to the middle of the nineteenth century. Later period paintings like Picasso and Renoir are not found at the Louvre. The paintings are divided into three main groups, The French School, the Italian (Da Vinci, Raphael, and Boticelli) and the Spanish Schools (Goya), and Northern Europe, English, German, Dutch, and Flemish Schools.

Da Vinci's Mona Lisa, the Louvre's most popular possession

Among the fifteenth-century masterpieces in the collection are: Saint Francis of Assisi Receives the Stigmata, Giotto (about 1290-1300); The Madonna and Christ Child Enthroned with Angels, Cimbue (about 1270); Ship of Fools, Hieronymus Bosch (1490-1500); The Virgin with Chancellor Rolin, Jan van Eyck (about 1435), seized in the French Revolution (1796); Portrait de Charles VII, Jean Fouquet (1445-1448); The Condottiero, Antonello da Messina (1475); St. Sebastian, Andrea Mantegna (1480); and Self-Portrait with Flowers, Albrecht Dürer (1493).

The museum's most popular work is the sixteenth-century Mona Lisa of Leonardo da Vinci (1503-1506), acquired by Francis I in 1519. Other works from this century include: The Virgin and Child with St. Anne, Leonardo da Vinci (1508); The Virgin and Child with Saint John the Baptist, called La belle jardinière, Raphael (1508); Portrait of Balthazar Castiglione, Raphael (about 1515); and The Wedding at Cana, Paolo Veronese (1562-1563).

The Lacemaker, by Johannes Vermeer

Seventeenth-century works include: The Lacemaker, Johannes Vermeer, (1669-1670); Vermeer's famous Milkmaid (circa 1658); Et in Arcadia ego, Nicolas Poussin (1637-1638); The Pilgrims of Emmaus, Rembrandt (1648), seized in the French Revolution in 1793; Saint Joseph charpentier, Georges de la Tour (1642); The Club Foot, Jusepe de Ribera (1642); Le young mendicant, Murillo (about 1650), bought by Louis XVI about 1782; Bathsheba at Her Bath, Rembrandt (1654); and Ex Voto, Philippe de Champaigne (1662), seized in the French Revolution in 1793.

Eighteenth-century works include: The Embarkation for Cythera, Antoine Watteau (1717); Portrait of Louis XIV, Hyacinthe Rigaud (1701); La Raie, Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin (before 1728); Oath of the Horatii, Jacques-Louis David (1784); and Master Hare, Joshua Reynolds (1788-1789).

Among the nineteen-century works are: The Turkish Bath, Ingres (1862); The Raft of the Medusa, Théodore Géricault (1819); Liberty Leading the People, Eugène Delacroix (1830); and Bonaparte visitant les pestiférés de Jaffa, Antoine-Jean Gros (1804).

Prints and Drawings

Albrecht Dürer, a study for heraldic paintings around 1500

One of the Louvre's eight departments is devoted to the museum's extraordinary collection of works on paper, which include prints, drawings, pastels, and miniatures. These fragile works feature in temporary exhibitions and can also be viewed privately by arrangement.

The Louvre's first exhibition of drawings featured 415 works and took place in the Galerie d'Apollon at 28 Thermidor of the year V (August 15, 1797). This initial collection was subsequently enriched with drawings by the first royal painters (Le Brun, Mignard, and Coypel) and works from the collection of P.-J. Mariette. Further works were seized during military campaigns (the collection of the dukes of Modena), from the Church, and from émigré aristocrats (Saint-Morys and the comte d'Orsay).

The department continued to grow, notably with the acquisition in 1806 of four collections comprising nearly 1,200 drawings amassed during the seventeenth century by Filippo Baldinucci, an adviser to Leopoldo de' Medici. The collection of Prints and Drawings were significantly supplemented with the donation of Baron Edmond de Rothschild's (1845-1934) collection in 1935, containing more than 40,000 engravings, nearly 3,000 drawings, and 500 illustrated books.


  • Bonfante-Warren, Alexandra. Louvre. Universe, 2000. ISBN 978-0883635018
  • D'Archimbaud, Nicholas. Louvre: Portrait of a Museum. Harry N. Abrams, 2001. ISBN 978-0810982154
  • Gowing, Lawrence. Paintings in the Louvre. Stewart, Tabori, and Chang, 1994. ISBN 978-1556700071
  • Laclotte, Michel. Treasures of the Louvre. Tuttle Shokai, 2002. ISBN 978-4925080026
  • Mignot, Claude. The Pocket Louvre: A Visitor's Guide to 500 Works. Abbeville Press, 2000. ISBN 978-0789205780

External links

All links retrieved August 2, 2018.