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The everyday Louvre

By the 17th century the monarchy had begun to grant housing in—or building plots near—the palace complex to various high-ranking courtiers. Premises in the Louvre and the Tuileries Palace next door were either allocated to members of the king’s family and ranking courtiers who needed to reside in the capital, or else were the object of transactions between the king and his nobles. Concessions conferred upon grandees often became, in effect, hereditary, so little by little lodgers assumed full control, no longer consulting the administration about building work they wished to carry out.
Also housed in the Louvre were favored artists, grouped in the Grande Galerie and the unfinished sections of the quadrangle known as the Cour Carrée. Small businesses then sprang up: porters set up refreshment stalls while hawkers offered various merchandise, and passageways into the Cour Carrée housed sellers of books and prints. There were also many luxury-goods merchants. The wooden edifices built against the palace walls required a permit from the Office of Royal Works, which labeled them “sheds” and retained the right to revoke the permit, without compensation, should work to finish the palace recommence. The shops around the Louvre survived into the early 19th century. Compared to the grand plans proposed by Enlightenment thinkers, the construction work actually carried out at the Louvre was minimal. It progressed slowly, was regularly halted due to lack of funds, and generally transformed the palace into a permanent building site. However, it seemed important to complete the Louvre, so in 1755 a major campaign was begun on the Cour Carrée.