At the heart of the Louvre Palace, the Galerie Apollon—a showcase for rare diamonds—is re-opening its doors after a little less than a year of works.
This royal gallery (which originally, under Charles IX, hosted the portraits of the kings and queens of France) was designed for Louis XIV when he lived in the Louvre. It was one of the sources of inspiration for the incredible Hall of Mirrors in the Palace of Versailles. Above all, it houses the famous French Crown Jewels. The renovation* of the gallery consisted, in particular, of creating three new cabinets to present these diamonds, which were previously exhibited in two separate places in the Decorative Arts Department. They are therefore now reunited and visitors can admire the splendor of the Louvre Museum’s collection “at a glance”.
The French Crown Jewels are a collection of jewelry that belonged to the monarchs and emperors of France, and whose history dates back to François I (1532). This collection, which grew over the years (Louis XIV, a fervent art collector, was introduced to the beauty of diamonds by Cardinal Mazarin) and was cut and set into many adornments, was stolen in 1792, during the French Revolution. The collection was scattered, partially discovered, and almost entirely sold by France around 1887.
At the Louvre, you can admire in particular the famous Golconda diamond known as the “Regent”: 140.62 carats discovered in 1698 (426 carat rough diamond). Louis XV, Louis XIV, Marie-Antoinette and Napoleon I all claimed ownership of this diamond, which is reputed to be one of the purest in the world.
The 23 jewels in the collection are exposed in 3 showcases, at the center of the gallery, and classified by period:
- jewels from before the Revolution, including the Regent and the Sancy;
- jewels from the First Empire, the Restoration and the July Monarchy;
- jewels from the Second Empire that brings together all that remains of the adornments of the Empress Eugenie.
Finally, beyond the treasures that it houses, this gallery is in itself, as you will have understood, a work of art. The frescoes, paintings, stuccoes and tapestries that make it up, representing the four elements, the seasons, the sun’s path or the glory of Apollo, were created by renowned painters (Charles Le Brun and Eugène Delacroix), sculptors and tapestry artists (Manufacture Nationale des Gobelins).
As a side note:
The “French Blue” diamond was part of the incredible collection that once belonged to France. After being stolen, it was re-cut and is now the no-less famous “Hope Diamond” (45.52 carats), which has been kept since 1949 at the Smithsonian Institution of the National Museum of Natural History in Washington.
Galerie d’Apollon (Room 705)
Re-opening to the public on 18 December 2019, inauguration on 15 January 2020.
Opening times: 9 am to 6 pm, except Tuesdays. Late opening Wednesday and Friday, until 9.45 pm
Entry (Museum): €15.
On the same subject:
The Golconda diamonds, reunited by the School of Jewelry Arts Van Cleef & Arpels and the French National Museum of Natural History
Fascinating Diamond” – The day I took a class at the Van Cleef & Arpels School of Jewelry Arts
* The renovation was partly financed by patronage from the House of Cartier.