You’ve likely heard of the Mona Lisa or the Venus de Milo, two great masterpieces famously housed in the Louvre Museum in Paris. But how about this cat sarcophagus from Egypt’s Late Period, this très suggestif 16th-century tableau, or this endearing engraving of two Frenchmen feasting on a giant wheel of cheese? Now you can discover the best, the worst, and the profoundly peculiar the Louvre has to offer by perusing its new online database, featuring nearly half a million artworks recently digitized from the collection.
“The Louvre is dusting off its treasures, even the least-known,” said Jean-Luc Martinez, the museum’s President-Director, in a statement. “For the first time, anyone can access the entire collection of works from a computer or smartphone for free, whether they are on display in the museum, on loan, even long-term, or in storage.”
“Entire collection” may be a bit of a stretch, but treasures are to be found indeed, with 482,000 entries so far and new ones added and updated by different curatorial departments every day. The website replaces the museum’s former Atlas database, which only included works on display. Themed albums dedicated to the art of portraiture, historical events, and recent acquisitions, among other groupings, offer a more focused way for visitors to explore the trove.
One such album, titled Musées Nationaux Récupération (National Museums Recovery), contains objects that may have been looted by Nazis or colonial forces. After World War II, tens of thousands of artworks were recovered in Germany, many stolen from Jewish families, and brought to France. A total of 2,143 works were entrusted to the Louvre and other French national museums for safekeeping until they can be returned to their legitimate owners, an ongoing process, according to the museum’s website.