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Thursday, 29 March, 2001, 10:25 GMT 11:25 UK
New boss at Louvre's helm
Louvre
The Louvre is one of the world's most famous museums
The French Cabinet has named the man who is to take over the running of Paris's Louvre Museum, home to the famous Mona Lisa painting.

Henri Loyrette, currently chief of the Musée d'Orsay, is an expert on the French artist Degas, and is expected to begin work at the illustrious museum on 14 April.

He will replace Pierre Rosenberg, who is retiring after a 39-year career at the Louvre.

The Louvre, one of Europe's oldest museums, houses artworks from the ancient Mediterranean civilizations to the first half of the 19th Century.

It was built as a medieval fortress, became the palace of the kings of France, and for the last two centuries has been a museum, bearing witness to more than 800 years of history.

Henri Loyrette
Henri Loyrette: Several areas of expertise
But despite its worldwide acclaim, the museum is not without its problems - Loyrette's appointment follows a four-day strike by security guards that forced it to close.

It cost the Louvre an estimated £151,000 in lost revenue, with staff taking action because of long-running grievances over under-staffing and working hours.

Outgoing director Pierre Rosenberg has acknowledged that the staff shortage means that the museum is only 80% open most days.

"We are still short of about 100 people for reception and surveillance and my successor will have to get freedom to manage staff at the museum, where exhibition space has doubled."

Despite this the museum still draws an average of 15,000 visitors a day.

Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci
Leonardo da Vinci's enigmatic Mona Lisa
However Loyrette does not plan to comment publicly about his new role until taking over the post, a spokeswoman said.

Loyrette, 48, has several areas of expertise to bring to the job - he is the author of three books on turn-of-the-century artist Degas.

He currently deals with France's largest collection of 19th-Century art at the Orsay, including major exhibits of impressionist works, a collection of the still-life paintings of Edouard Manet and a retrospective on satirist Honore Daumier.

He has also published books and articles on subjects ranging from the Eiffel Tower to French writer Marcel Proust's view of modern art.

Loyrette was inducted into the Academie des Beaux-Arts, France's prestigious fine arts institution, in 1997.

Flea market fan

Rosenberg became the Louvre director in 1994, after joining the painting department in 1962 and rising through the ranks.

He is a specialist in 17th and 18th Century French and Italian painting, and is stepping down just a month before his 65th birthday.

He has garnered a reputation for focusing on the smallest detail, answering every letter and granting every interview.

A fan of flea markets and other unpromising venues, he also has a knack for finding unacknowledged masterpieces.

Regrets

Rosenberg once spotted a canvas at an auction in Paris' Drouot showrooms that he eventually established was by 17th Century French painter Georges de la Tour, known as the French Caravaggio.

The masterpiece had been part of a job lot of refrigerators that were up for auction.

But he leaves the job with two main regrets - the theft of a painting by Camille Corot, never recovered, and the fact that the government is has still not set up a special lottery to protect the country's heritage.

"If this lottery - aimed at defending our heritage, protecting masterpieces threatened with export, but also the preservation of our cathedrals - was set up, the French would back it," he said.

See also:

29 Mar 01 | Arts
Louvre's new wonder boy
06 Feb 01 | Entertainment
Mona Lisa to move home
06 Jul 98 | Europe
Painting stolen from Louvre
19 Dec 97 | Europe
Grand Louvre opens its doors
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