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Visitor trails Living in the Louvre, The former palace of the French kings

Thematic trail - Length: 1h30 - Tour days: Monday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday

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Salle des Caryatides
Salle des Caryatides

© Musée du Louvre / A.Dequier

00Introduction

When we wander through the Louvre — now one of the largest museums in the world —
it’s hard to imagine that it was first a fortress, then a royal residence for several hundred
years.

Some of its royal residents stayed for a short time only, preferring the calm of the Loire valley or the splendors of Versailles. Although the palace furniture and decorative objects have long since gone, the walls and ceilings still bear traces of this distant past. So follow the royal trail, from the vestiges of the medieval Louvre to the dazzling interiors of the reign of Sun King Louis XIV, and as you walk the rooms, staircases, and stables of the former palace, imagine what it was like to live in luxury in the Louvre!

How to get to the next stop:
Starting from the Pyramid, head toward the Sully wing.

Go up the escalator, then walk straight ahead and go through the doorway at the end of the corridor.
Climb the stairs on your right, and walk straight ahead from the landing, then turn right.
The first stop is in the Salle Saint-Louis, at the far end on the right.

Louvre médiéval (Salle 5)
Louvre médiéval (Salle 5)

© Musée du Louvre / A. Dequier

01Salle Saint-Louis

Medieval Louvre

When King Philippe Auguste ordered the construction of the Louvre, in about 1190, he intended it to house soldiers rather than kings. Little is known about the resulting building, so the exact purpose of this room remains a mystery.

This dimly lit room contains shadows of the Louvre’s most distant past: it is the only interior that has survived from the medieval period. There are traces of three different periods here: the walls date from the reign of Philippe Auguste (1180-1223); the supports of the (now destroyed) vaults date from that of King Louis IX (1226-1270) — the “Saint Louis” who gave his name to this room; and the robust arches that take up a third of the surface area date from the 16th century. Notice how they “showcase” one of the columns that used to support the vault. The decoration of the room is simple but finely detailed. Look at the elegant foliage on the column capitals and the grimacing faces adorning the spring of the vaults (on the walls). The room itself was partly dug out of the ground; it is windowless now, but was once lit by windows set high in the walls.

How to get to the next stop:
Retrace your steps as far as the landing then climb the stairs on your left.
The first door on your right leads to the Salle des Caryatides.

Salle des Caryatides
Salle des Caryatides

© Musée du Louvre / A. Dequier

02Salle des Caryatides

Department of Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities - Room 17

The medieval Louvre disappeared after 1547 and was gradually replaced by a modern palace with the Salle des Caryatides at its heart. In June 1610, a wax effigy of Henri IV was put on public display here, so that the people of Paris could pay their respects to the “good king” who had been assassinated by the fanatic Ravaillac. And in this same room, Molière  performed before King Louis XIV for the first time, on October 24, 1658.

Notice the size and decoration of the room. Henri II wanted a grand, innovative setting for the reception room of his palace, and entrusted the task to the architect Pierre Lescot and the sculptor Jean Goujon. Look up at the musicians’ gallery above the entrance to the room: it is supported by four sculpted female figures — the first examples in France of these classical-style female columns, or “caryatids”. The room originally boasted a partially gilded wooden ceiling, which added color and warmth to the setting. Although splendid festivities were held here, the room was not used for pleasure only.
Take a look at the area sectioned off by columns and dominated by an imposing fireplace: it was once used as a “court” from which the king delivered justice.

How to get to the next stop:
Leave the room the way you came in, and take the large staircase on your right.
Pause on the firstlanding.

Escalier Henri-II
Escalier Henri-II

© Musée du Louvre / A. Dequier

03Escalier Henri-II

Staircase leading to the Salle Henri II

When the Louvre was a Renaissance palace, the Escalier Henri II was its grand staircase.  A host of courtiers went up and down these steps every day on their way to or from the king’s apartments. These walls must have heard many friendly or enemy voices discussing the king’s personal life or hatching treacherous plots!

As you climb, admire the monumental staircase with its two flights of steps. It was very modern in its day. Unlike the spiral staircases of the Middle Ages, this one is straight — a fashion imported from Italy. The ornate decoration includes King Henri’s monogram, the letter H, and references to one of his favorite pastimes in the form of heads of deer and other animals symbolizing Diana, the goddess of hunting. Medieval staircases were purely functional, but the new staircase in the Louvre was a ceremonial space in its own right, connecting the reception room on the ground floor (Stop 2) to the king’s apartments on the floor above (Stop 7).

How to get to the next stop:
When you reach the first floor, turn right.
Walk straight on, and stop in the second room you come to.

 

Salle Henri-II
Salle Henri-II

© Musée du Louvre / A. Dequier

04Salle Henri-II (Antechamber)

Department of Greek, Etruscan and Roman Antiquities - Room 33

When the king was in residence at the Louvre, the antechamber served as a waiting room for his supplicants, but it was also used for festivities. Every morning, numerous courtiers, musicians, tailors, hosiers, and doctors waited for the end of the king’s rising ceremony, ready to attend to His Majesty’s every need.

The antechamber, where you are now, was the first room of the king’s apartments. Its present appearance dates from the reign of Louis XIV; in 1660, the Sun King decided to have two Renaissance rooms — the dressing room and antechamber — converted into one larger room. The central part of the ceiling wood paneling dates from the 16th century.
Admire the ornate carved and gilded wood decoration, adorned with the cypher of Henri II; it was made by the carpenter Francisque Scibec de Carpi and the sculptor Etienne Carmoy. The double L that appears in several places indicates the additions made by Louis XIV.
The paintings may surprise you: they date from 1953, and are the work of Georges Braque. They replaced the previous, timeworn decoration.

How to get to the next stop:
Go into the next room and turn immediately to your left.Walk straight ahead through the string of rooms displaying ancient Greek pottery then Egyptian Antiquities. When you reach the staircase landing, turn left and make your way to Room 25.

Chambre de parade du roi
Chambre de parade du roi

© Musée du Louvre / E. Revault

05Chambre de parade du roi (State Bedchamber)

Department of Egyptian Antiquities - Room 25

This room was used for the royal rising ceremony, as the king actually slept in an adjacent bedroom (Stop 6). Members of the king’s close circle often gathered here too, for what was known as the "Council of Affairs". In the 16th century, Charles IX and Henri III listened to the reproaches of their mother Catherine de Medici in this room, or to advice from the Duc de Guise.

In the 19th century, the wood paneling from the king’s bedchamber on the first floor of the Pavillon du Roi (Stop 7) was remounted here. Henri II had commissioned it from the woodcarver Scibec de Carpi; the result is the finest example of Renaissance wood paneling still to be seen in Paris. Admire the richness of the gilt wood decoration on the ceiling, doorframes, and lower part of the walls.
The decoration includes trophies of arms and armor symbolizing the king’s military power and ascendancy over his rivals. Imagine how magnificent this room must have looked when it was richly furnished, adorned with brightly colored tapestries, and floored with parquet made of precious woods imported from Brazil (an unheard-of luxury at the time).

How to get to the next stop:
Retrace your steps to the previous room.

 

Le Nouvel Empire (anciennement Salle des boiseries) (salle 26)
Le Nouvel Empire (anciennement Salle des boiseries) (salle 26)

© Musée du Louvre / A. Dequier

06Chambre à alcôve (Alcove Bedchamber)

Department of Egyptian Antiquities - Room 26

The king slept in this alcove bedchamber. The Sun King Louis XIV surrounded his bed with silver basins containing plants, so that he could awake to sweeter smells than those of the nearby city! The king ate here too, at a preprepared table that was brought to him readylaid and piled with food.

Elements of Louis XIV’s original bedchamber (which, like that of Henri II, was located on the
first floor of the Pavillon du Roi) were preserved and reassembled here, and Louis Le Vau designed the decoration of this new bedroom in 1654.
Look up at the ornate ceiling, which was carved by the sculptors Gilles Guérin and François Girardon (among others): the four female allegories of Fame and the seated figures of slaves in chains originally surrounded a painting representing Victorious Royalty. The bed was placed in the alcove to protect it from draughts, and during the daytime the king used this bedchamber as a living room.

How to get to the next stop:
Go back to the landing, then turn right and go back
through the series of nine rooms to Room 74.

Salle des sept-Cheminées
Salle des sept-Cheminées

© Musée du Louvre / A. Dequier

07Salle des Sept-Cheminées

Department of Greek, Etruscan and Roman Antiquities - Room 74

In 1674, Louis XIV moved to Versailles and the “Old Louvre” ceased to be used as a royal residence. From 1699 onwards, the royal apartments were taken over by the Royal Academies of Painting and Sculpture. The Louvre museum was created in 1793. Extension work began in 1817, and the wood paneling in the King’s apartment was dismantled to make way for this vast room.
On June 5, 1851, the future emperor Napoleon III inaugurated the Salle des Sept Cheminées as a room devoted to contemporary French painting.

It’s hard to imagine that the two bedrooms you’ve just visited were once contained within this space.  Look up at the vault: its extraordinary height is explained by the fact that the present room encompasses the three floors of the former Pavillon du Roi (King’s Pavilion). The first floor, where you are now, contained the two bedrooms with their wood paneling decoration, and a smaller study; on the floor above were a royal bedchamber and another room; and the top floor was a luminous,  high-windowed apartment... so the huge room you are standing in once comprised several different rooms on three different floors.
The room is named after the chimney flues (cheminées) that once served to heat it.

How to get to the next stop:
Go through the door opposite you, then walk straight ahead to the Victory of Samothrace.
Go down the stairs and turn right just before you reach the bottom.
Continue as far as Room 5 (a circular room), then turn right.

Art romain. Antiquité tardive. IIIe - Ve siècle après J.-C. (Salle 27)
Art romain. Antiquité tardive. IIIe - Ve siècle après J.-C. (Salle 27)

© Musée du Louvre / A. Dequier

08Anne of Austria’s Summer Apartments

Department of Greek, Etruscan and Roman Antiquities - Room 22 to 26

In 1655, Louis XIV ordered the architect Louis Le Vau to design an apartment here for his mother, Anne of Austria. A little Spanish Infanta, who was betrothed to Louis XV, lived here for a while in the 18th century. The wedding never took place, but the garden in front of the windows continued to be known as "the Infanta’s Garden".

It was customary for the queen mother to live on the ground floor of the Louvre’s south wing,  overlooking the Seine. This new apartment was designed to face east and open onto the gardens; it was less stifling, and therefore ideal as a summer residence. Each room led into the next, as was the preference at the time. Anyone entering the queen mother’s apartment had to go through a drawing room, an anteroom, a vestibule, a large study, a state bedchamber, and finally a small study. Only the ceilings have survived. If you walk on to the fourth and fifth rooms, you can admire delicate stucco work by sculptor Michel Anguier and splendid paintings by the Italian artist Giovanni Francesco Romanelli. The representations of classical and biblical heroes evoke the queen’s virtues.

How to get to the next stop:
Retrace your steps to Room 4, under the Victory of Samothrace staircase. Go down the stairs leading to the pre-classical Greek collection.Walk through Rooms 3 and 1, then go down the stairs and through the hall. Climb the stairs facing you: you’ll arrive in Room 1 of the Department of Sculptures.

Galerie Donatello
Galerie Donatello

© Musée du Louvre / A. Dequier

09Galerie Donatello

Department of Sculptures - Room 1

In 1852, Napoleon III commissioned the architect Louis Visconti to create a connection between the Louvre and the Tuileries Palace. The imperial family lived in the Tuileries at that time, so stables were built to accommodate their horses. Although the stable rooms were decorated fairly simply, they were luxuriously equipped: the emperor’s horses fed from Alpine marble troughs, and the racks were made of gilt copper!

Unlike the rooms you have already visited on this trail, this gallery has no stuccoed or painted decoration. Every palace needed outbuildings such as kitchens, storerooms, workshops etc. The “Old Louvre” had many of these, but they all disappeared a long time ago. The gallery you are standing in now was built as a stable in the time of Napoleon III.
The floors were paved, to make them easier to clean. Oak stalls for the horses were built between the pillars. If you look through the windows, you’ll see a huge watering trough and an elegant horseshoe staircase that led to the imperial riding hall (Salle du Manège).

How to get to the next stop:
Retrace your steps.The exit is on your left.