One of the world’s largest museums and a historic monument is a central landmark of Paris, France, and located on the Right Bank of the Seine in the 1st arrondissement. Nearly 35,000 objects from prehistory to the 21st century are exhibited over an area of 60,600 square meters. With more than 8 million visitors each year, the Louvre is the world’s most visited museum. The museum is housed in the Louvre Palace, originally built as a fortress in the alte 12th century under Phillip II. Remnants of the fortress are visible in the basement of the museum. The building was extended many times to form the present Louvre Palace. In 1682, Louis XIV chose the Palace of Verailles for his household, leaving the Lourve primarily as a place to display the royal collection, including, from 1692, a collection of ancient Greek and Roman sculpture. In 1692, the building was occupied by the Academie des Inscriptions et Belles Lettres and the Academie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture, which in 1699 held the first series of salons. The Academie remained at the Louvre for 100 years. During the French Revolution, the National Assembly decreed that the Louvre should be used as a museum to display the nations masterpieces.
The museum opened on August 10, 1793 with an exhibition of 537 paintings, the majority of the works being royal and confiscated church property. Because of structural problems with the building, the museum was closed in 1796 until 1801. The collection was increased under Napoleon and the museum renamed the Musee Napoleon. After the defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo, many works seized by his armies were returned to their original owners. The collection was further increased during the reigns of Louis XVII and Charles X, and during the Second French Empire, the museum gained 20,000 pieces. Holdings have grown steadily through donations and gifts since the Third Republic. As of 2008, the collection is divided among eight curatorial departments: Egyptian Antiquities; Near Eastern Antiquities; Greek Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities; Islamic Art; Sculpture; Decorative Arts; Paintings; Prints and Drawings.