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Henri IV - An unfinished reign

The Louvre and the Tuileries

The Louvre Palace – the Parisian residence of the kings of France – was the first building to which Henri IV turned his attention. He ordered the completion of the southern wing of the Cour Lescot. Determined to make a modern palace out of what had up to then been an irregular and unfinished construction, Henri IV devised an extensive renovation, a sort of "Grand Design" for the Louvre.

Two architectural drawings on parchment from circa 1595–1600 that have survived, tell the story. The project called for the last medieval vestiges (towers and corps de logis) to be pulled down, for the quadrupling in size of the Cour Carré and the elimination of all neighbouring houses. Above all, it was Henri IV's intention to connect the Louvre to the Palace of the Tuileries via a grand gallery, construction of which had begun under Charles IX. Difficulties in expropriating residents in the neighbourhood and Henri's early death meant that the project was not completed in his lifetime. The present-day Louvre stands as testimony to the wide-ranging transformations that the project entailed.

Henri entrusted two architects with the task of carrying out these projects: Jacques II Androuet du Cerceau who was already the Louvre's architect, who was joined by Louis Métezeau in 1594. Both worked on the construction of the Grande Galerie - called "the Gallery on the Water" because it ran alongside the Seine – joining the Louvre to the Tuileries nearly half a kilometre away! To avoid monotony, each architect was assigned a section. On the eastern end, Métezeau decorated the bays with sculptures, columns, fluted pilasters, pediments and friezes. To the west, Androuet du Cerceau devised a more sober style with large pilasters topped with capitals and alternating straight and arched pediments.

The "grand design" also addressed the interior decoration of the Palais des Tuileries, which was joined to the Louvre by the Grande Galerie. Artists such as Toussaint Dubreuil (1561-1602), Jacob Bunel (1558-1614) and Frans Pourbus (v. 1569-1622) worked on decorating the Tuileries' Grande Salle and the Petite Galerie. Each vault was adorned with portraits of the kings and queens of France; only the portrait of Marie de Médicis survived the fire of 1661.

Related multimedia

Title: Grand dessein d’Henri IV (château du Louvre)

Grand dessein d’Henri IV (château du Louvre)
© RMN / Gérard Blot
Comment:
The upper floor of the Grande Galerie allowed Henri to leave his apartments in the Louvre and reach the Tuileries gardens without having to use the public roadway. The gallery was so long that the Dauphin Louis was seen hunting foxes and quail within its walls! The lower floor housed workshops for the royal artists and artisans, who enjoyed certain privileges. In his own words, Henri conceived of this like a "nursery for apprentices, that would – under the tutelage of talented masters – produce many others, who would consequently spread throughout the entire kingdom."
Caption:
Henri IV's grand design for the Louvre, circa 1600–1615. Wall map by Louis Poisson. Château de Fontainebleau, Galerie des Cerfs. Musée national du château de Fontainebleau

Title: Le Louvre, le palais des Tuileries et la Grande Galerie

Le Louvre, le palais des Tuileries et la Grande Galerie
Comment:
The Grande Galerie spanned Paris's former western moat. It started from the corner of the richly decorated Pavillon de Flore and ran north towards the Palais des Tuileries built by Catherine de Médicis. At the start of Henri IV's reign, it was in an incomplete state; in 1594, the king ordered the completion of the galleries of the building's central axis and the construction of a large dome. He also had a central stairwell completed, work on which had been interrupted in 1570 by the death of Catherine de Médicis's architect, Philibert de L’Orme. Henri then ordered the landscaping of the gardens and fountains and the construction of an orangerie.
Caption:
The Louvre, the Palais des Tuileries and the Grande Galerie in 1615. From the Plan de Merian

Title: Contract for the completion of the Grande Galerie of the Louvre

Contract for the completion of the Grande Galerie of the Louvre
© Archives nationales
Caption:
Contract for the completion of the Grande Galerie of the Louvre (19 February 1603, manuscript, 6 sheets), Paris, AN, Inv. MC III, 462 bis, 128

Title: The Louvre, the Tribune des Caryatides

The Louvre, the Tribune des Caryatides
© BnF
Caption:
Engraving of the Tribune des Caryatides, by Androuet du Cerceau

Title: The Louvre's "Gallery on the Water"

The Louvre's "Gallery on the Water"
© Musée du Louvre / Étienne Revault, 1996
Caption:
The Louvre's "Gallery on the Water"

Title: The Pont Royal and the Pavillon de Flore

The Pont Royal and the Pavillon de Flore, drawing
© BnF
Comment:
Caption:
The Pont Royal and the Pavillon de Flore, brown ink and wash drawing, 1814. Département des estampes et de la photographie de la Bibliothèque nationale de France

Title: The Samaritan Pump

The Samaritan Pump
© BnF
Comment:
This hydraulic apparatus was built on pilings next to the Pont Neuf, under the reign of Henri IV. It supplied the Louvre and the Tuilieries with water from the Seine.
Caption:
The Samaritan Pump, collection of drawings of Paris, by Destailleur, 18th c. Département des estampes et de la photographie de la Bibliothèque nationale de France
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