After 10 months’ work on refurbishment and new lighting, the Apollo Gallery is finally equal to the treasures it houses, including the famous Crown Jewels of France.
The 60-meter-long Apollo Gallery contains 105 extraordinary pieces, the most famous being the Crown Jewels of France. “This generic term covers not just the jewels that belonged to the kings of France but all the regalia as well: the precious stones and glyptic pieces,” says Pierre Rainero, director of style and heritage with the jeweler Cartier, which has sponsored the renovation work.
Three new showcases in the center
The chronological presentation gives an all-round view of the 23 pieces in the collection. These miraculously survived being pawned and stolen, before being partially recovered and finally sold at auction in 1887. Over the years, the Louvre has bought back Louis XV’s crown, displayed in the first showcase dedicated to the pre-Revolutionary period, and Empress Eugenie’s bow brooch, now in the one devoted to the Second Empire. Between them can be seen the Empress Marie-Louise’s emerald and micro-mosaic jewelry sets, and the Duchess of Angouleme’s tiara.
Louis XIV’s hardstone vases
This new museographical staging highlights some magnificent pieces: the vases in hardstone (i.e. opaque stones) from Louis XIV’s collection, which once contained nine hundred and fifty. Made of agate, jasper, lapis lazuli, rock crystal and sard, they often take imaginative forms (ships, fish, etc.) set off by intricately-worked handles and bases. Another singularity: they consist of components from different periods and from all over the world.
Craftsmanship meets art
« The Apollo Gallery emphasizes the royal aspect of this incredible collection,” says Pierre Rainero. “Above all, it shows how craftsmanship was equated with art, as the distinction between Applied and Fine Arts only goes back to the 18th century. It was only then that poetry, sculpture and painting began to be considered superior forms of art.”
We recommend exploring the new-look Apollo Gallery in the evening, when the subtle lighting on the stuccoes, woodwork and Gobelins tapestries creates an atmosphere worthy of the 17thcentury. Another occasion not to be missed is the Masterclass on the Crown Jewels at The School of Jewelry Arts on 2 and 3 March: as the museum is closed to the public, you will be alone with the lecturer: a huge privilege.