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Collections & departments Department of Prints and Drawings

One of the Louvre’s eight departments is home to the museum’s extensive collection of drawings, pastels, miniatures, prints, books, manuscripts, autograph works, woodcuts, copperplates, and lithographic stones.

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The particularity of the Department of Prints and Drawings stems from a characteristic of the works in its care: their technical fragility and sensitivity to light prevent their permanent display. As a result, the department is organized like a library; the works are kept in storerooms, and only taken out for viewing in the reference room or for exhibitions subject to strict conditions: a maximum duration of three months, an illumination of 50 lux on the surface of the object, a temperature of 20°C, a relative humidity of 50%, and a subsequent rest period of three years.

The Department of Prints and Drawings comprises three different institutions: the Cabinet des Dessins (drawings), the Chalcographie (engraved plates), and the Edmond de Rothschild collection (essentially prints). The first of these originated in the royal collection established subsequent to Louis XIV’s purchase (in 1671) of some 5,542 drawings from Everhard Jabach, the most famous collector of the period. At the end of the century, this initial collection was enriched with studio works by court painters Charles Le Brun and Pierre Mignard. Several important acquisitions were made at the Mariette sale in 1775 before the collection was more than doubled by works confiscated during the Revolution (collections of the Comte d’Orsay, Saint-Morys, the dukes of Modena…). The policy of expansion adopted during the Directory has continued to the present day. To preserve the coherence of the collection and optimize accessibility, the Musée d’Orsay’s collection of drawings – except for pastels, and drawings in the fields of architecture and the decorative arts – has remained at the Louvre. If reverse-side drawings are included, the Cabinet des Dessins now comprises over 150,000 items.
The second institution, the Chalcographie, was founded in 1797. It is home to a collection of copperplate engravings derived from various sources including the royal cabinet of engravings (instituted by Colbert) and the former Academy of Painting and Sculpture.
The third and final section houses the Edmond de Rothschild collection, essentially composed of prints, which entered the department in 1935; its donation status requires it to be separated from the rest of the collection.

The Department of Prints and Drawings devotes much of its activity to the organization of temporary presentations, as a permanent exhibition is impossible. Some of the museum’s rooms are reserved for temporary displays on themes such as Italian cartoons, French drawings, pastels, miniatures, new acquisitions, and current research projects. The exhibitions themselves are an opportunity to present the collections from a wide range of angles corresponding to the extraordinary material, historical, and iconographical richness of the department’s collection.

Practical information

Click here to take a look at the online inventory of the Department of Prints and Drawings (in French only).

Department viewing room

In line with the measures taken by the government to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the department viewing room is closed up until Tuesday 1 December, 2020.

Research center

In line with the measures taken by the government to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the research center is closed until further notice.