BERNINI, Gian Lorenzo
(b. 1598, Napoli, d. 1680, Roma)

Project for the Louvre

Courtauld Gallery, London

Undertaken in three stages during the seventeenth century, yet ultimately abandoned without ever being truly completed, work on the Louvre in Paris was at the heart of a set of urban and architectural issues of primary importance. During the reign of Henri IV, the Long Gallery was built along the Seine leading beyond the Pavillon du Flore (c. 1600) to the Petit Galerie of the Tuileries and the main body of the château. The large Cour Carrée had begun by doubling the Lescot wing beyond the Pavillon d'Horloge, but this raised the question of the eastern façade, that is the palace's monumental entrance. Twenty-five years later the north wing was extended to close the Cour Carrée. According to Le Vau's plans, the foundations for the immense eastern façade, centred on an oval pavilion, were begun in 1662. But works came to a halt when Colbert was named Superintendent of Royal Buildings in 1663.

Colbert commissioned new plans from French architects and their Italian counterparts. This produced an amazing quantity of proposals. Mansart produced several proposals, all focusing on a grand oval entrance crowned by a dome. There were also proposals from Charles Le Brun and Léonor Houdin. Of the Italians who sent plans, Pietro da Cortona proposed a kind of temple, Rainaldi a large avant-corps with bulbous dome.

In the spring of 1665 Louis XIV invited Bernini to come to Paris and suggest on the spot how to complete the great Louvre 'carré' of which the west and south wings and half of the north wing were standing. Before he traveled to France, Bernini had already sent two different projects to Colbert, in whose hands rested all proceedings connected with the Louvre. Although Bernini worked on the whole area of the 'carré', the focus of his design was the east façade. However, his proposals were not accepted.

The picture shows Bernini's first project of June 1664. He created an open rectangle with two projecting wings of four bays each, between which he placed a long colonnade consisting of a convex centre between two concave arms.

View also Le Brun's project, and Cortona's proposal.