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The Louvre is not only a museum, but also a palace worth seeing for the almost unimaginable scope of its architectural beauty. Following the French Revolution, it became a museum in 1793 and is now one of the world's largest, with over 650,000 square feet of permanent collection. (See more information below the photo gallery.)

Since 1989 the main entrance has been via architect I. M. Pei's pyramid. It is a successful execution of modern glass and metal juxtaposed against the 18th century carved-stone French palace. Part of the reason its transparency and tracery works is because of sheer size: 71 feet high, with sides of 115 feet each on its square base. Despite rumors that the pyramid consists of 666 segments (which gave rise to some bizarre theories) there are actually 673. The plaza also contains three smaller pyramids.


A few of the most notable possessions at the Louvre include the Winged Victory of Samothrace. A marble sculpture dating from the 2nd century BCE, Winged Victory was uncovered in the Aegean Sea in 1863. Despite the damage it had sustained, she is displayed in a place of honor. Another is Venus (or Aphrodite) de Milo, circa the 2nd century BCE.


The most famous and popular work of art at the Louvre is undoubtedly the Mona Lisa, which dates from 1503-19. How did such a painting by Leonardo Da Vinci end up in the hands of the French?


In his later life, Leonardo was invited by King Francis I to live in France, where the artist was provided a small chateau near the king’s residence in Amboise, in the Loire Valley. The king enjoyed conversing with Leonardo, and it is said that he was at his bedside when the artist died. On the grounds of Chateau d’Amboise is a small but ornate chapel containing the grave of Leonardo Da Vinci. So how did France get the Mona Lisa? Leonardo took it with him when he moved there. Turned out the invitation was a smart move on the part of King Francis I!

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