Donors and art patrons have played a key role in the museum's history. Of these, the association known as the Société des Ams du Louvre (the Friends of the Louvre) is the most important. Created one hundred years ago, it has purchased a considerable number of works from all periods and schools, many of exceptional artistic value.
The museum's individual donors include a number of distinguished names that have become closely linked with collection's history and with the rediscovery of certain painters or periods. These include La Caze, Moreau-Nelaton, Rothschild, and more recently, Lemme, Kauffmann, and Schlageter. The La Caze collection, for example, brought the first significant influx of 18th-century works to the museum, while the Lemme donation recently filled important gaps in the collection of 18th-century Italian paintings. Among the most significant donated collections, three have been preserved intact, in keeping with the wishes of their former owners: Carlos de Beistegui's remarkable collection of portraits, donated in 1942; Dutch works from the collection of the comte de l'Epine, donated by his daughter, Princess Louis de Croy in 1930; and the more heterogeneous collection of Impressionist and older paintings bequeathed in 1961 by Victor Lyon. These remarkable donations are exhibited on the second floor of the Cour Carrée.
In recent years, companies and major financial groups have become important new donors and supporters. Private donations have often provided little-known or rare works, reinforcing the distinctive character of the department's collection.