... courageous and erudite ... Gardner is bold to take in, and take on, what few mortals have the chance or the stamina to do. Think of reading this book as the full experience you are temporarily denied today, or may never have had the energy to undertake ... Gardner is intent on persuading us to see the Louvre for itself, to appreciate the container as much as the content ... Open the book and enjoy the visit.
Gardner’s book will be an eye-opener to some readers (I’m one of them) who take the Louvre for granted as a semi-eternal and unchanging part of Paris’s cultural furniture. Just the fact that it first opened its doors as a public art museum smack in the middle of the French Revolution’s Reign of Terror may be news to you. But the surprises don’t stop there ... In recounting this history, Gardner makes every phase and transformation vivid ... Gardner’s minutiae on architectural detail can be dense going at times, but the human stories and accounts of art acquisitions he digs up are fascinating ... Gardner helps readers keep France’s tangled royal and republican lines of succession clear by always contextualizing key figures as needed, and his daunting cultural erudition is equally user-friendly. His writing is shrewd and witty, and even catty when it comes to architectural 'improvements' that draw his displeasure. Anyone curious about how the Louvre evolved into its present configuration will find this diligent book richly informative.
... comprehensive ... A detailed, clearly marked floor plan helps readers navigate the different wings of this enormous and complicated building from the Louvre’s days as a palace under various rulers to those as a museum ... Recommended for readers interested in the history of France, the history of architecture, and museology.