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Collections & departments Department of Sculptures

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.

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Building up the Collections

As early as the ancien régime, the Louvre housed a number of medieval and modern sculptures. Unwanted or dismantled royal commissions—Charles V and Jeanne de Bourbon, Della Robbia's Catherine de Medicis, groups by Pilon, Puget's Alexander and Diogenes, busts, and a series of famous men made for the future museum—were stored in what was known as the "salle des antiques," now the Salle des Caryatides, on the ground floor of the Cour Carrée. The sculptor Pajou was in charge of the works from 1777 to 1792. The collections of the Académie de Peinture et de Sculpture were kept nearby, including a complete collection of morceaux de réception, busts of patrons, and donations such as Marie Serre and a self-portrait by Coysevox.

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. During the Revolution, the most important sculpture collection was in the Musée des Monuments Français, which Alexandre Lenoir set up in the former monastery of the Petits Augustins. This museum faced competition from the museum devoted to the French school in the Palais de Versailles, opened in 1801–2, which displayed, among other works, morceaux de réception for entry to the Académie. The Musée des Monuments Français was closed after the Restoration and some of the finest works were transferred to the Louvre.

The Museum of Modern Sculpture

The "musée de sculpture moderne" was opened in 1824 on the ground floor in the west wing of the Cour Carrée, in what was known as the Galerie d'Angoulême. Nearly one hundred sculptures were displayed in the five rooms, with varying styles and periods elegantly juxtaposed. Thereafter, only a few sculptures were purchased using the civil list. Under Louis-Philippe, the government focused its attention on the new historical museum in Versailles. But from 1847 on, Léon Laborde, head of modern works in the Department of Antiquities, set out to give the gallery a new lease on life. His policy was followed by the new director, Jeanron, and his assistant, Longpérier. They brought the morceaux de réception back from Versailles, along with works by Pilon and Puget. Three of the rooms in the gallery were refurbished in a more historically appropriate style. The Renaissance collections were transferred to the south wing in the Cour Carrée, to the east of the Pavillon des Arts, and the Galerie d'Angoulême was given over to the modern sculpture collection. A new acquisitions policy was implemented. A hall devoted to medieval sculpture was opened. The first new acquisition—the Blanchelande Virgin, purchased in 1850—was given pride of place, facing the statue of Childebert. In 1855, Barbet de Jouy drew up a catalog listing 388 works.

The Creation of the Department of Sculptures

In 1871, the sculpture collections moved from the Department of Antiquities to join the Objets d'Art under Barbet de Jouy, who purchased the Olivet Virgin and the first Italian work to join the collection, the portal from the Palazzo Stanga in Cremona. In 1893, the sculpture collection became a department in its own right, with its own curator, Courajod. He purchased the department's first Roman works, donated a large Burgundian Christ, acquired a number of major Italian works, and encouraged numerous donations. In 1900 his successor, Michel, published a catalog of 867 works. Michel and Vitry continued Courajod's important work. Collectors increasingly gave or bequeathed works, and the Société des Amis du Louvre donated a number of important sculptures.

Director Henri Verne's new plan for the museum involved moving the collections to the ground floor of the Pavillon des Etats and the Flore wing. Vitry oversaw work on the new rooms, opened in 1934 and 1936. However, it was not until 1968 that the collections of 18th- and 19th-century sculpture were put on display in the Pavillon de Flore, under the direction of Pradel. In 1986, sculptures dating from the 2nd half of the 19th century were transferred to the Musée d'Orsay, and shortly after the rest of the collection was moved to its new location in the Louvre. As part of the Grand Louvre project, the sculpture collection was installed in two exhibition spaces, inaugurated in 1993 and 1994. The French collections are on the ground floor of the Richelieu wing, in and around the covered Puget and Marly courtyards, while the foreign collections are on the mezzanine and ground floor of the Denon wing.

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