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The Louvre as a temple of the arts, sciences, and taste

Enlightenment intellectuals regularly went to the Louvre, which housed the various Academies, whose realms concerned not just literature, history, architecture, painting, and sculpture but also science and technology. These Academies turned the Louvre into a place of learning, discussion, and theoretical reflection; furthermore, the collections that it housed and the temporary exhibitions it hosted (such as the famous art Salons) made it a forerunner of today’s museum. The proposal to install the royal library there would have made it a veritable “museum” in the ancient sense of a “home of the muses” or, in the words of architectural theorist Jacques-François Blondel, “a temple of the arts, sciences, and taste.”
The comte d’Angiviller sought, without success, to exhibit the royal collection in the Grande Galerie, a project that the Revolution later adopted on a more modest level. This plan sparked inquiry into the theory of museum display: what kind of premises were needed for the public exhibition of artworks? Artist Hubert Robert contributed to the debate by painting imaginary views of the Grande Galerie based on ideas solicited by renovation committees from major architects such as Soufflot and De Wailly.