National museum and art gallery of France, in Paris. It was built as a royal residence, begun under Francis I in 1546 on the site of a 12th-century fortress. It ceased to be used as a palace when the court moved to Versailles in 1682, and plans were made in the 18th century to turn it into a public museum. In 1793 the revolutionary government opened the Grand Gallery; Napoleon built the northern wing; and two major western wings were completed and opened by Napoleon III. The completed Louvre included a vast complex of buildings forming two main quadrilaterals and enclosing two large courtyards. A controversial steel-and-glass pyramid entrance designed by I.M. Pei opened in 1989. The painting collection is one of the richest in the world, representing all periods of European art up to Impressionism; its collection of French 15th–19th-century paintings is unsurpassed.
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