On any given trip to the Louvre in Paris, you can only see a fraction of its collection. The grande dame of museums is staggering in its size and breadth: about two miles long, if you walk its perimeter, with more than 35,000 artworks on display and 10 times that in storage. Add in the queues, the crowds, the jostling in front of the Mona Lisa, and it could take you a year just to experience every artwork on display. (A tour guide once estimated 200 days if you spent roughly 30 seconds with each piece, per Condé Nast Traveler.)
Thanks to that anti–patron saint of culture, COVID, the Louvre has been closed to the public since late October—but as of Friday, some 480,000 artworks have been digitized and made available online for free for all to enjoy.
“The Louvre is dusting off its treasures, even the least-known,” said Jean-Luc Martinez, President-Director of the Musée du Louvre, in a statement on Friday. “For the first time, anyone can access the entire collection of works from a computer or smartphone for free, whether they are on display in the museum, on loan, even long-term, or in storage.”
Consider this a lesson unto itself in art history: You can sort and browse based on medium (sculpture, painting, textiles, etcetera), artist, or eight curatorial departments (Near Eastern Antiquities; Egyptian Antiquities; Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities; Islamic Art; Paintings; Medieval, Renaissance, and Modern Sculpture; Prints and Drawings; Medieval, Renaissance, and Modern Decorative Arts).
You can also view dedicated albums, such as the one for National Museums Recovery, works that were recovered after World War II and pending return to their rightful owners. Works on loan from other French museums (such as the Musée des Arts Décoratifs and the Petit Palais) and international sites (such as the British Museum and the archaeological museum of Heraklion) will also be available.
Although it’s not quite the same as being in the shadow of the Winged Victory of Samothrace or beneath the gaze of the Great Sphinx of Tanis, this digital collection is a welcome treat for art lovers, students, and researchers alike.
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