Feature Archive: Musée du Louvre Graphic Arts Department Consultation Room

Each month, a postgraduate student or an early career researcher shares their experiences of using a particular archive. The overall aim of this section is to create a database of the different archives available to those working on French and Francophone studies that will be of help particularly to students just starting out in research. 

Sarah Lund (Harvard University) works on female printmakers during the long revolutionary period of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century France. Here, she discusses her research at the Graphic Arts department of the Louvre Museum in Paris.

Louvre Graphic Arts Consultation Room, or le Cabinet de dessins

The Louvre Museum holds one of the world’s largest collections of art and visual culture. Despite the museum’s large grounds, this means that many of the works in the collection are not on view. This is particularly the case for the often fragile and light sensitive works of the Graphic Arts department, which conserves the Louvre’s collection of European and North American drawings, pastels, miniatures, prints, books, and manuscripts from the 13th – 19th centuries. Luckily for researchers, these works are consultable in the department’s “Salle de consultation” in one of the most beautiful study rooms in Paris.

Graphic Arts Department homepage

Access to the consultation room is strictly by reservation only. The Graphic Arts department’s website (here) and subsequent “salle de consultation” tab details the viewing process. This page lists the center’s hours, location, and contact information. The first step is to email the department stating your research focus, preferably with specific works you would like to see. The Graphic Arts department email is: cabinet-des-dessins@louvre.fr. To facilitate this, consult the department’s collection online beforehand to build your list of requested works. The department’s webpage links to the general Louvre collection’s site, but I recommend using the Graphic Arts department site (here), which more easily allows for targeted searches by title or artist. Note that the department homepage details specific instructions and a different email for consultation of works in the Rothschild collection: for my visit in September 2021, I included Rothschild objects in my overall list sent to the general “cabinet des dessins” email noted above and that seemed to be fine. After sending your email, you should receive a response that may ask for additional details on your research topic and propose dates for your appointment.

Graphic Arts Department search page

On the day of your appointment, arrive directly at the Graphic Arts department’s location – this is not through the museum’s pyramidal main entrance! The department and its consultation room is accessed through the “Porte des Lions” – an archway cutting through the museum’s long façade closest to the Seine. The door is located in the passage, on the left if you are facing the Tuileries gardens. Introduce yourself at the security desk and present your email confirming your appointment (I pulled up my email on my phone). Security will ask for identification: I presented my passport, my student ID or American driver’s license was not sufficient. After checking you in, security will give you a paper badge and tell you to take the elevator to the 1st floor.

Porte des Lions

Upon arriving at the Consultation room, I was greeted by the curator, asked to sign in on a paper ledger, and leave my things in a locker (laptops, phones/cameras, notebooks, and pencils are allowed in). I was directed to my seat and the curator brought me my requested items, one folder or folio at a time. Pictures are allowed but note that the department is very strict about not holding cameras or phones directly over artworks – this works fine for individual drawings that can be propped up on stands but poses problems for getting good photographs of works that are in folios and viewed flat on the table. If you are curious about more information on specific works or artists you encounter, think about visiting the Graphic Arts department’s Centre de documentation, addressed in a separate post here.

Louvre Cabinet des Dessins

During your appointment, take a moment to take in the beautiful interior decoration and architecture of the room itself, which dates to the Second Empire. After you’ve finished, reward yourself with a break in the Tuileries gardens and admire the architecture from the outside!

Sarah Lund is a PhD Candidate studying French female printmakers of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries at Harvard University. She is particularly interested in the relationship between print technique and period discourses on gender and how female artists mobilized their artistic practice to assert their political agency and citizenship.

Thank you very much for this, Sarah!


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