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Collections & departments Department of Decorative Arts

The Department of Decorative Arts is home to an extremely varied collection comprising jewelry, silverware, enamels, ivories, bronzes, semi-precious stone work, ceramics, glassware, stained glass, furniture, and rugs, and spanning the period from the early Middle Ages to the first half of the 19th century.

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A collection steeped in history

When the Museum was founded by decree on July 27, 1793, it had already been established that its exhibits would include decorative art objects from the royal furniture repository. The bronze statuettes and the royal gem collection joined the department a little later in 1796, together with prestigious treasures from the Sainte Chapelle and the abbey of Saint-Denis (including Abbot Suger’s vase collection and the coronation regalia of the kings of France). This initial collection, which also comprised items confiscated from émigré aristocrats, was further enriched by objects acquired through Revolutionary and imperial conquests, and by exceptional purchases such as the shield and helmet of Charles IX. When Dominique-Vivant Denon became director of the museum in 1802, the decorative arts collection was administered by the Department of Antiquities (headed by Ennio Quirino Visconti, succeeded at his death in 1818 by the Comte de Clarac). In the meantime, the original collection had been somewhat diminished: sixteen objects from Saint-Denis were sold in 1798, numerous items were requisitioned by Napoleon I for the imperial palaces, and many spoils of the Napoleonic conquests were returned to their owners in 1815.

Spectacular expansion during the 19th century

An active acquisitions policy adopted during the Restoration led to the purchase of several complete private collections, including those of wealthy art-lover Edme-Antoine Durand (1825) and painter Pierre Révoil (1828); these comprised some remarkable series of medieval and Renaissance works representing a variety of techniques. Although this policy was not pursued under Louis-Philippe, the Louvre acquired the treasures of the Order of the Holy Spirit when the latter was abolished in 1830. On the death of the Comte de Clarac in 1847, the decorative arts collection (together with sculpture, and Greek and Roman antiquities) was entrusted to the Marquis de Laborde, who resigned in 1854.
The collection was further expanded during the Second Empire when Napoleon III founded the short-lived Musée des Souverains on February 15, 1852; it assembled works associated with the French monarchy from Childeric to Louis-Philippe, taken from the Louvre, the royal furniture repository, and the Bibliothèque Nationale. Its curator was Comte Horace de Viel-Castel, who was succeeded in 1863 by Henry Barbet de Jouy. The principal additions to the department during this period were the Sauvageot and Campana collections (in 1856 and 1861 respectively).
From 1870 onward, the collection was gradually expanded to include 17th and 18th century works, with a series of contributions from the Mobilier National, including furniture and objects salvaged before the fires at the Tuileries and Saint-Cloud palaces. When the Musée des Souverains was closed in 1872, the decorative arts and sculpture collections were reunited under the direction of Barbet de Jouy, then of Edmond Saglio. The decorative arts collection became a department in its own right in 1893, and a section devoted to 18th century furniture was established by Emile Molinier in 1901.

Major collections and donations

The history of the Department of Decorative Arts in the late 19th and throughout the 20th century is punctuated by donations and bequests of important collections, and by regular donations from the Friends of the Louvre. The Thiers bequest in 1880, and that of the baroness Salomon de Rothschild in 1922, enriched the department with Renaissance artworks and 18th century jewelry and porcelain. Other period-specific collections (Davillier, Adolphe de Rothschild, and Arconati Visconti) tended to focus on medieval and Renaissance objects, while the Isaac de Camondo and Basile de Schlichting collections were primarily devoted to the 18th century. The department was further enhanced by numerous post-war donations, especially those of M and Mme David David-Weill (1946), Stavros S. Niarchos (1955), and M and Mme Grog-Carven (1973). From 1972 onward, high quality objects were added to the collection through acceptance “in lieu”.
The collection moved to new premises in the Richelieu Wing vacated by the Ministry of Finance; new galleries devoted to the Middle Ages and Renaissance were inaugurated in 1993, and a gallery of 19th-century artworks, adjoining the Napoleon III apartments , opened to the public in 1999.

Practical information

Study and research center of the department
Opening hours: open from Monday to Friday (except Tuesday), from 2 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Admission: free admission
Location: Porte Rohan, 5th Floor
Email: sledoc@louvre.fr
Tel.: +33 (0)1 40 20 56 42