A universal receptacle of artistic knowledge, the Louvre houses an extraordinary cross section of the most important works of art created over a period stretching from antiquity to the early decades of the 19th century. Through analysis of the individual works and their relationship to other masterpieces from the history of art, this stunning book provides the insights and interpretation that allow the reader to make a true journey of exploration into the history of humanity's figurative culture. At the same time it reflects the intent behind the arrangement of the collections and the layout of the museum, which is conceived, in its new organization, as an immense manual of the styles and schools of every age. The process that led to the creation of the Grand Louvre spans centuries. Added to the first important nucleus of France's collection were the acquisitions made by Louis XIV, the Sun King, and the collections of Cardinal Mazarin and the banker Everhard Jabach. Louis XV began to think of the Louvre as a «palace of the Muses» in which masterpieces would be systematically assembled, conserved and displayed to the public. But only with the French Revolution did the Louvre become a true museum, a «national gallery» receiving a considerable quantity of new acquisitions, fruit for the most part of the wars fought first by the republic and then by Napoleon. With the Restoration, the looted countries regained possession of some of the stolen works, but many of them remained in Paris. From this time on there was no further letup in expansion of the museum, and when the Louvre was made the national museum in the 19th century its greatness was universally recognized.