The Splendour of the Second EmpireThe Napoleon III Apartments
The Louvre was a palace before it became a museum. Kings, emperors, ministers and courtiers wandered its maze of hallways long before the first museum visitors arrived. And the palace’s dazzling past is best reflected in the Napoleon III Apartments.
An almost intact historical setting
To walk through the Napoleon III Apartments is to travel back in time! Imagine the impression these apartments must have made in 1861, when Napoleon III’s Minister of State discovered the new residence reserved for him on the first floor of the brand new Richelieu wing, overlooking the Cour Napoléon.
The minister’s apartment
The Minister of State and his family occupied modestly-sized private rooms resembling those of a wealthy bourgeois home, furnished without extravagance. These first rooms lead into the large state apartments, where the atmosphere changes completely! The drawing and dining rooms are a riot of gold, velvet, paintings and stucco decorations – a sumptuous setting for all kinds of receptions. From prestigious dinners to masked balls, the high society of the Second Empire cultivated the art of conviviality, and the imperial couple could often be spotted among the minister’s guests.
From palace to museum
Today’s visitors can still enjoy the splendour of this setting that has survived almost intact for nearly 150 years. After housing the Minister of State during the Second Empire (1852–1870), the apartments became home to the Ministry of Finance, which occupied them until 1989 when the whole Louvre palace finally became a museum. The apartments have been open to the public since 1993.
The Napoleon III Apartments
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Did you know?
The large drawing room could be transformed into a theatre seating up to 250 guests! And for performances involving music, there was a special musicians’ platform above the stage.
Gallery of works
Portrait of Empress Eugénie
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Did you know?
This kind of strange three-seater armchair originated in the opulent drawing rooms of the Second Empire, when all sorts of new furniture designs were created in the interests of practicality and comfort. The two-seater version of this armchair is called a confident (for confidential conversations); the three-seater is an indiscret (for obvious reasons!).