The Louvre Museum was inaugerated in the year 1800 as the Musée Central des Arts, a repository and gallery for France’s great art treasures. It was founded under the principal that its collection would be enlarged by such treasures of Italy and Europe that could be taken by conquest. Accordingly, when Napolon victoriously invaded Italy and the papal states in the late 18th Century, many priceless antique marble statues and works of art were ceded by treaty to France, and were delivered there in 1798. They were subsequently installed in the Louvre. After the defeat of the French, most of these works of art were returned to their rightful owners in 1815.
This lavish collection of prints records the great works of art displayed at the Louvre before 1815. As such, it is a catalog of a substantial number of the greatest sculptures of antiquity. These engravings were of interest both to art historians and to world travelers on the Grand Tour eager to take home with them a piece of the classical past. The images art at once accurate accounts of the Greco-Roman statues they depict, and also elegant works of art in their own right, created by some of the leading engravers of the period.