Monday, February 21, 2011

The Louvre's Back Story

When you're visiting the Louvre and ogling all those amazing masterpieces from your art history books, it's easy to forget that the Louvre was first and foremost, not a museum, but a royal residence.  That is, it was until Louis XIV decided to decamp Paris for the grander setting of Versailles.  And despite the many renovations over the centuries, the galleries still bear the marks of the kings who used to live there.  Here are just a few I captured on a recent visit:

There's the H for Henri II, intertwined above with D for his mistress, Diane de Poitiers.  Some say there's also a C for his wife, Catherine de Medici, but I'm guessing that's just rationalizing.

You've got K for Charles IX, the second son of Henri II.

L intertwined with A representing Louis XIII and his wife Anne of Austria who by the way was Spanish, not Austrian.

A generic L sometimes with a B for Bourbon, perhaps representing Louis XIV, XV, and XVI.

NL for Louis-Napoleon, not the short guy from Corsica, but his nephew who became Napoleon III, leader of the Second Empire.

Not all of these initials are authentic to the time period of the kings they represent.  Many were destroyed during the Revolution and in the subsequent upheavals during the 19th century.  If you want to learn more, read this interesting article on the Louvre's Web site.   And next time round, go on your own treasure hunt for remnants of French history.


Starman said...

I never noticed those when I was there, but then, there's so much to see, they could easily go unnoticed.

Sweet Freak said...

What a great little history lesson... merci, Anne!

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