The Decorative Arts galleries and Napoleon’s (the III – not THE Napoleon) Apartments were probably my favourite parts of the Louvre. Not having a lot of money to spend on furniture, I’ve never really thought of it as art – I generally consider it firstly based on price, then functionality, then how it looks (unless it’s something I really REALLY want, like my cosy red armchair). Needless to say after wandering through these galleries my mind has been completely changed and I now have a greater appreciation for the beauty of furniture.Words such as sumptuous, decadent, luxurious, and opulent are the only apt ones to describe these rooms.
Decorative Arts Furnishings
While the Louvre is perhaps most famous for its paintings, the Decorative Arts galleries are no less amazing. The collection is made up of a wide variety of objects such as “jewellery, silverware, enamels, ivories, bronzes, semi-precious stone work, ceramics, glassware, stained glass, furniture, and rugs, and spanning the period from the early Middle Ages to the first half of the 19th century” (louvre.fr).
While the vases and silverware and jewellery were very beautiful, it was the furnishings that I found the most spectacular. With rich fabrics placed against a background of contrasting wallpapers and illuminated by stunning chandeliers, the galleries were nothing short of vibrant. I appreciated these rooms even more for the amount of care taken in the placing of pieces to achieve balance. With patterned floors, walls, decorations, and fabrics it would have been easy for these rooms to be overpowering to the eye, but they were so perfectly put together each element seemed like it was made for the other. While they may not have made the objects in these galleries themselves, the curators of this department are definitely artists in their own right.
These apartments are named after Napoleon III, who was the nephew of Napoleon Bonaparte, and the emperor of France from 1852 to 1870. During his time as the ruler of France, he initiated the reconstruction of Paris, advanced French agriculture – including turning the nation into an exporter and ending famines – and seemed to generally make like a lot better for the French people; until the end of his reign at least.
The apartments themselves were installed between 1856 and 1861 and were built as reception rooms for the Ministry of State. The furnishing and decorations in the style of Louis XIV, known as the Sun King and probably the most famous Louis of them all (he’s that Louis from Alexandre Dumas’ novel, The Man in the Iron Mask). I can just imagine Louis strutting through here, entourage in tow.
There are two pieces of note here. The first is the large black buffet that stands at the end of the dining room. Along with the table, chairs, and other smaller pieces of furniture, it is made from ebonized wood and has gilt bronze decorations as well as an inbuilt clock. The most impressive thing about it, however, is its size and I can only imagine how much more impressive it would have been when laden with food. The second item of note, is the bed of Charles X. It’s original home was in the Tuileries and it was made in 1824 in order to reuse the silk bed hangings of the previous monarch, Charles’ brother, Louis XVIII. As you can see from the chairs placed either side of it, it was not meant to be used for sleeping but for ceremonial purposes, “the royal bedchamber [being] a place of symbolic significance” (louvre.fr).