Musée du Louvre, Paris

Musée du Louvre
Musée du Louvre or the Louvre as most of the world knows it, has become synonymous in modern language with the phrase "art museum." The Louvre is the quintessential art museum against which all other museums are measured. The Louvre's collection is massive, comprised of over 350,000 unique pieces of art, representative of most major artistic movements from prehistoric times till the end of the 19th century. The Louvre houses Leonardo Da Vinci's famous Mona Lisa painting.

The Louvre resides in Palais du Louvre, or the Louvre Palace o­n the Right Bank in Paris, the site of a medieval fortress. In 1750, King Louis XV allowed portions of the royal art collection to be displayed in the Louvre to the public for a couple of days every week. After the 1791 French Revolution, the Louvre officially became a national museum open to the public in 1793. During Napoleon Bonaparte's post-revolutionary reign, the Louvre's collections expanded through acquisitions from his military campaigns. For a brief time the Louvre donned his name, although this was revoked following his exile from France. Over the years, the Louvre's collection has grown to the world's finest collection of Western art. In the early 1980s, French President Francois Mitterrand initiated an ambitious renovation plan. Famed architect I.M. Pei oversaw the renovation and designed a glass pyramid and underground lobby which caused great controversy among the conservative French. Since then, the pyramid and later its underground reverse image have become iconic parts of the Louvre.

The Louvre is famed for its massive collection of Egyptian antiquities, paintings by European masters, Near Eastern art, sculpture and classical masterpieces. The Louvre is the most visited museum in the world. Although officially owned by the French government, the Louvre has virtual autonomy over its own administration.