Bernini, "Second Project for the Louvre, East Elevation," 1665,

Fig. 8.  Bernini, “Second Project for the Louvre, East Elevation,” 1665, Musée de Louvre, (source– University of California, San Diego)

Projects for the Louvre: Second Project

Isabel Smith

On October 3, 1664 Colbert sent a letter to Rome asking Bernini to revise the first plan he had sent to Paris. Colbert also sent a letter to the Abbé Elpido Benedetti that contained much harsher criticism for Bernini’s plan, demanding an improvement. Benedetti eventually passed this letter on to the Cardinal Chigi who in turn gave it to Bernini. Bernini was infuriated and wanted to abandon the project, but the Cardinal Chigi persuaded Bernini to submit another design, which he did.[1] However, these harsh criticisms from Colbert to Bernini marked the beginning of the pair’s turbulent professional relationship. Colbert and Bernini never agreed and Bernini consistently failed to meet Colbert’s demands. In his memoirs Claude Perrault, designer of the Louvre’s famous colonnade writes:

“‘ It would have been very difficult [he wrote] to find two natures more opposed. The Cavaliere never went into detail. He was only concerned with planning huge rooms for theatricals and fêtes, and would not bother himself over practical considerations– the amenities, and the arrangement of the living quarters…Monsieur Colbert, on the other hand, wanted precision. He required to know where and how the King was to be housed and how the service could be most conveniently arranged…'” [2]

Bernini’s second project for the east façade of the Louvre arrived from Rome to Paris on March 6, 1665 (fig. 8). This project originally included an elevation for the east façade and a floor plan; however, the floor plan was lost. Bernini’s second project for the Louvre is similar to his first. The façade is uses the dramatic curves of the first facade, which are in an Italian Baroque style. The central rotunda has been removed and the arcade, which was originally located on the curved wings of the façade has now taken the place of the missing rotunda. This design also includes a third floor that the first plan did not. However, there do not seem to be many changes to façade and the absence of the floor plan means that the changes made to floor plan will remain unknown. Colbert rejected this second project almost immediately, although it is unclear if Bernini received Colbert’s criticisms before he left for Paris.

[1] Michael Hall, “ Gianlorenzo Bernini’s Third Design for the East Façade of the Louvre of 1665, Drawn by Mattia De Rossi,” The Burlington Magazine 1 (July 2007), 478-479.

[2] Cecil Gould, Bernini in France: An Episode in Seventeenth-Century History (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1982), 13.