A holiday in the French city of Paris can’t be complete without a visit to Louvre Museum. After all, it is the World’s most popular art-museum.
The French call it Musée du Louvre, while its official name is Great Louvre.
Did you know the fact that the Museum has 380,000 objects out of which it only displays 35,000 works?
Or the fact that Louvre Museum attracts more than 9 million tourists visit every year?
This Museum’s collection spans work from ancient civilizations to the mid-19th century.
Facts about Louvre
Over the years’ lots of interesting facts about Louvre Museum have been unearthed. Some are documented Louvre facts and some are just legends or myths. Some are academic and some are just Louvre Museum fun facts.
Check out some of the best Louvre Museum facts –
Louvre Museum is massive
As you are aware, out of the 380,000 artefacts available the Museum only displays 35,000 works of art in eight curatorial departments.
If you spent eight hours every day in the Louvre museum, to see each of the items on display for only 30 seconds, it will take you 36 days.
If you decided to see all of the 380,000 pieces of art for 30 seconds in eight hours /day shift you will take almost 400 days to finish them all.
This is why you need the Louvre Museum audio guide to help you go around the Museum.
Louvre Museum is quite popular
Louvre Museum is quite popular attracting more than nine million visitors every year. That is almost 25,000 tourists a day.
Of this, 30 % are local French tourists while the rest are foreign tourists.
The United States and China contribute the most to Louvre Museum crowd. More than a Million US citizens check out this Museum every year.
With so many people visiting Louvre, you must buy your Louvre Museum tickets online and skip the line.
Musée du Louvre had humble beginnings
Musée du Louvre was not planned to be a museum. It was built as a fortress in 1190 AD and converted into a royal palace in the 16th century.
The French Monarchy stayed there till the French revolution moved them to the Palace of Versailles in 1793.
The same year, on 10 August 1793 the Louvre museum was born.
On show were the paintings and artwork confiscated from the royal family and French nobility – 537 in all.
Louvre Museum is divided into eight departments
Louvre Museum is divided into eight departments. They are Near Eastern Antiquities, Egyptian Antiquities, Greek, Etruscan and Roman Antiquities, Islamic Art, Sculptures, Decorative Arts, Paintings, and Prints and Drawings.
The department of paintings at Louvre is the most popular with almost 7500 paintings.
You can get lost in Louvre
The total area of Louvre’s galleries measures 652,300 square feet. That is almost 15 acres!
The galleries are divided into three wings – the Denon, Richelieu, and Sully wings. Each of these wings has more than 70 rooms.
That’s why many tourists get lost in the Louvre.
Louvre Museum was once called Musée Napoleon
Napoleon Bonaparte was once the chief patron of Louvre Museum. Napoleon who was fighting battles on every front would bring back the exploits of his war for display in the Museum.
Once he added more than 5000 pieces to Louvre Museum and got it named after himself – Musée Napoleon.
After Bonaparte was defeated in the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, the Museum returned most of the items to their rightful owners and went back to its original name.
Louvre is bang in the middle of Paris’s monumental zone
The Axe Historique, also known as the historical axis of Paris is a line of monuments and buildings that extends from the center of Paris, France, to the west.
This 5 KMs (3.1 Miles) architectural line of monuments is also known as the Voie Triomphale.
The Louvre is the nucleus and is bang in the middle of this axis.
There are two Louvre Museums in the World
Yes, that’s right. There are two Louvre Museums – one in Paris and another in Abu Dhabi.
Louvre Abu Dhabi was inaugurated on 8 Nov 2017 and is an art and civilization museum.
This first museum of its kind in the Middle East is the result of a 30-year partnership between the city of Abu Dhabi and the French government.
The French artists dominate Louvre
The Louvre galleries contain a total of 35,000 items on display out of which 7,500 are paintings.
Sixty-six percent of these paintings were created by French artists.
Mona Lisa is Louvre’s most popular item
Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa is the most famous pieces of art in the Louvre Museum.
It attracts the maximum number of tourists and is almost always crowded.
So much so that Mona Lisa has her own bodyguards and is protected by bulletproof glass.
Many tourists are surprised when they see Mona Lisa for the first time. For everybody assumes it to be a big painting but it is just 21 x 30 inches (53 x 77cms) big.
Louvre Museum is haunted
Louvre Museum is known to be haunted. Two ghosts keep cropping up often.
The first of course is an Egyptian mummy called Belphegor.
The second ghost is that of a man who when alive was called ‘Jack the Skinner.’
Jean l’Ecorcheur the butcher was one of the henchmen of French Queen Catherine de Medicis. The Queen had him murdered because he knew too many secrets about the Royal family.
Feeling cheated, the butcher rose from the dead and cursed the French royals who lived in the Louvre.
Tourists are known to see him at the museum and the adjacent Tuileries Garden. Since he is dressed in red, he is also known as the ‘Red Man of the Tuileries.’
Louvre’s glass pyramid had its share of controversy
Today we all accept the glass pyramid as part of the Louvre Museum. Not long back, it was seen as out of place.
In fact, even the glass pyramid’s architect IM Pei was seen out of place.
The Chinese-American architect was seen as being insufficiently French to be working on such a treasured Parisian landmark.
The glass pyramid is one of the four Louvre Museum entrances.
Mona Lisa was once stolen from Louvre Museum
Vincenzo Perugia, an Italian migrant working with the Museum as a security guard, stole Mona Lisa in 1911.
He claimed he wanted to return the Italian painting back to Italy and that was the only reason. Two years later he was caught trying to sell it to an art dealer in Florence.
As for how he stole it – he stayed inside the Louvre Museum when it was closing for the night and when it opened the next day walked away with the painting under his jacket.
It was the headlines this theft generated which made Mona Lisa as popular as it is today.
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Picasso was under suspicion for stealing Mona Lisa
During the investigation into Mona Lisa theft, Pablo Picasso was seen as a suspect.
A small-time artist had stolen a few sculptures from the Louvre Museum and sold them to Picasso. The Spanish master painter didn’t know that the items he had just bought were stolen.
Picasso was also a close friend of Guillaume Apollinaire, a poet, editor and art critic. Guillaume was no friend of the Louvre Museum and had made many public statements that the Louvre should be burnt down.
Because Picasso possessed items stolen from the Museum and because of his association with Guillaume, he was one of the prime suspects.
However, after a single meeting with the police and the judge he was let go.
Louvre officials saved a lot of art during WW
As the Germans marched towards Paris, France the Louvre officials got busy packing tens of thousands of pieces of art.
Every valuable and moveable artwork was packed in more than 35 trucks and sent to the French countryside. There it was distributed to private chateaus and individual homes for safe keeping till the war was over.
The heavy sculptures which were difficult to move were covered up by burlap bags.
German Army used Louvre as a clearinghouse for artwork
After its occupation of Paris was complete, German Army opened up the Louvre Museum. However, because there was hardly any art on display and because the war was on, there were hardly any visitors.
That’s when the Germans decided to use the Museum as a clearinghouse to catalog, package and ship art and personal items snatched from the rich French families.
These items were sent by the German soldiers to the Nazi high command in Germany or to their families back home.
The two statues which attract maximum visitors are…
Venus of Milo and the Winged Victory of Samothrace are the two most popular statues in Louvre Museum.
Venus de Milo is an ancient Greek statue created around 100 BC. The statue depicts Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love and beauty and is also known as Aphrodite of Milos.
The Winged Victory of Samothrace is a 2nd-century BC marble sculpture of the Greek goddess Nike. Nike represents victory.
The urban legend of 666 and Louvre Museum
French citizens thought that architect IM Pei wasn’t ‘French enough’ to work on Louvre Museum. Despite all the opposition, the architect finished the installation which is now synonymous with the world-famous Museum.
After the glass pyramid was ready, an urban legend got popular. Many believed that the pyramid had exactly 666 glass panes – a dedication to Satan himself.
The Louvre museum in an official release claimed that the structure has 673 glass panes (603 rhombi and 70 triangles).
An artist once made Louvre’s glass pyramid vanish
In 2016, French artist JR made the glass pyramid in front of Louvre Museum vanish.
The surface of Louvre Museum’s glass pyramid was pasted with black-and-white photographs of surrounding buildings on all sides.
This created the optical illusion that the pyramid didn’t exist.
Louvre Museum left this optical illusion in its place for a month, after which it was removed.
The Mona Lisa at Louvre Museum may not be the original
Mona Lisa is the most important art in Louvre Museum.
However, what if we told you that the Mona Lisa in Louvre Museum wasn’t the first one that the artist painted?
That Leonardo Da Vinci had painted one more Mona Lisa earlier.
It is believed that the artist started painting the first version in 1503, but left it unfinished. This version is known as the Isleworth Mona Lisa and is not part of a public display.
Musee du Louvre is NOT the most visited Museum
Louvre Museum in Paris, France is not the most visited Museum in the world. That credit goes to the Palace Museum in Beijing.
While Louvre Museum gets almost 10 million visitors annually, the Palace Museum hosts 16 million visitors annually.
The Palace Museum is located in the imperial palace of the consecutive Ming and Qing dynasties.
Louvre Museum once closed down for pickpockets
If you are visiting the Louvre Museum, beware of pickpockets.
In April 2013, Louvre Museum’s employees went on a strike to highlight the pickpocketing menace in the museum.
The employees were complaining that not much was being done of the pickpockets who were getting aggressive with both the visitors and the employees.
The employees said that the young criminals (admission is free for those below 18 years old) distracted and robbed the visitors. And when the employees intervened, they were spat at, insulted, threatened or kicked.
This strike led to tighter cooperation with the police and temporary bans for serial offenders.
Louvre Museum encourages copyists
Most museums don’t encourage copyists – artists who copy popular works of art. However, Louvre recognizes and appreciates artists who enjoy and learn by replicating famous works.
Every day from 9:30 am to 1:30 pm, copyists can set up their easels in front of the painting of their choice to work on their replicas.
The Louvre Museum has only two requests: The canvas size shouldn’t match the original and the replica shouldn’t be signed in the original painter’s name.
Mona Lisa has left Louvre Museum on four occasions
The first-time Mona Lisa painting left Louvre Museum was when Napoleon Bonaparte insisted that it be hung in his private bedroom. After his defeat in Waterloo, the painting was brought back to the museum.
The second time was in August 1911, when a thief stole it. It was recovered two years later and brought back to the Museum.
The third time it left Louvre Museum was when the invading Germans were closing in on Paris. It was packed along with other artworks and dispatched to the French countryside. After the war was over, Mona Lisa came back to the Museum.
The fourth and last time it left the confines of the Museum was because of US First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy. She borrowed Mona Lisa for a tour of the museums in Washington DC and New York.
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