Top 12 Louvre Museum Facts
Louvre Museum Paris is a symbol of the evolution of French culture in all its glory. Situated on the bank of the Seine, the Louvre Museum is a sprawling structure that has been standing tall for centuries and has witnessed both war and peace. Generations of viewers have been left in awe due to its sheer size and extraordinary collection. Read on to find out some really interesting facts about the museum.
Louvre Museum Facts
1. The Louvre is the Most-Visited Art Museum in the World
The Louvre is the most visited museum in the world followed by National Museum of China, the Tate Modern in London and the Vatican Museums. It reached the status of being the most-visited museum in 2018 when it crossed the 10 million visitor mark. Of course, the number of visitors that the Louvre sees was affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, which forced the museum to shut for 150 days in 2020. That year, the Louvre attendance dropped by 72 percent from 2019. Despite this, the Louvre continues to see millions of visitors and continues to be the most visited museum in the world with about 15,000 people visiting the Louvre daily..
2. The Louvre’s Galleries Span Over 15 Acres
Along with being the most-visited museum in the world, the Louvre is also the largest museum in the world. Originally built as a fortress in 1190, the Louvre was reconstructed in the 16th century to serve as a royal palace. During its time as a royal residence, the Louvre saw tremendous growth. Today, as a museum, the Louvre covers a total area of 652,300 square feet (60,600 square meters). Which makes sense, because where else would it hold its impressive collection of 480,000 pieces of artwork?
3. The Lourve was Originally a Fortress
The history of the Louvre dates all the way to 1190 when it was constructed as a fortress by King Phillip II of France to protect the city from outsiders. The fortress was completed in 1202, and in the 14th century, King Charles V turned the Louvre into the royal residence. It was amidst the riots and the bloodshed during the French Revolution that the Louvre museum was born. Once Louis XVI was imprisoned, the royal collection became national property. In 1793, the Louvre opened to the public as Muséum central des arts de la République. At the time, the museum's collection included 537 paintings and 184 objects of art.
4. Louvre was Named After Napolean for 11 Years
In 1803, the Louvre was renamed to Musée Napoléon, and the name remained till 1814. The renaming was inspired by the expansion project undertaken by Napoleon III. With his conquests, the collection at Louvre increased exponentially triggering a need to expand the space available to showcase these treasures. In 1815, when Napoleon abdicated, nearly 5,000 works of art were sent back to their country of origin. Some stolen works continue to be housed in the Louvre, one of the most important ones being “The Wedding at Cana” by Veronese.
5. The Mona Lisa was Stolen in 1911
On 21 August 1911, Italian handyman Vincenzo Peruggia stole the masterpiece from the Louvre. The painting, which at that point had not quite yet captured the attention of millions, suddenly was brought to everyone's attention. Images of the artwork appeared in international newspapers and eventually became a household name. For two years, as Mona Lisa catapulted to fame, she remained in the dark. Even Pablo Picasso was a suspect until the glazier tried to sell the painting to an Italian art dealer, who alerted the authorities. The Mona Lisa was recovered and by the time she returned home, she had become the most famous painting in the world.
6. The Louvre was Empty During World War II
As soon as the conquests began, Hitler's army engaged in systematic plunder of artworks from museums as well as private art collections. The assistant director of the French National Museums, Jacques Jaujard, foresaw that Louvre needed to be protected. Ten days before the war was declared. ordered that 3,690 paintings, as well as sculptures and works of art, be wrapped, boxed, and carried to safe places. A behemoth undertaking considering the risks involved, Jaujard managed to pull it off nonetheless. Between August and December 1939, two hundred trucks carried the treasures of the Louvre in nearly 1,900 boxes. Each track was accompanied by a curator. During the German invasion of France, 40 museums were either destroyed or badly damaged. However, when they arrived in the Louvre, the Nazis were greeted with empty frames.
7. "Mona Lisa is Smiling": Coded Messages were Used to Communicate with Allied Forces
The artworks were moved several times during the course of the war. When the Allies entered France, Jaujard sent a codded message on the BBC radio (“La Joconde a le sourire,” meaning “The Mona Lisa is smiling”) to let them know of the coordinates so they wouldn't be bombed. They even put huge signs that read “Musée du Louvre” on the grounds of castles, so pilots could see them from above. Not a single of the Louvre, or two hundred other museums that were were damaged or missing.
By 1947, all the dispersed artwork returned to Louvre. The few reminders of this part of the Louvre history are the bullet holes that were shot during the liberation of Paris as the museum's courtyard was used as a prison for German soldiers. The second is the inscription of Jaujard's name on the Louvre walls, at the entrance of the Louvre School. You would notice it above the door when walking towards the Tuileries Garden.
8. Nazis Stored Looted Art In The Louvre
As per Hitler’s order, Jewish private property was to be taken into custody. To this end, the ERR, a task force dedicated to conducting looting and destruction, was created. The empty rooms of the Louvre presented an opportunity for the Nazis: a space to hold the artworks they were "safeguarding". They requisitioned three rooms of the Louvre for this. Jaujard believed this would help in keeping a record of the objects.
These Nazi-looted artworks are a part of the Louvre's collection and in an attempt to right the wrongs of history the museum has been working towards returning the works to rightful owners. They have even put many artworks on display. However, since 1951, the Museum has only been able to return 50 such works of art and still has about 1,752 artworks that were looted by the Nazis.
9. 66% of the Paintings in the Louvre are Works of French Artists
A significant portion of the artworks that the Louvre holds is made up of paintings. By most recent estimates, 7,500 paintings by artists across the world grace the museum’s iconic art gallery. The paintings are displayed across eight departments. And, more than 66% of these paintings were made by French artists. Some of the most famous French paintings to see include The Raft of the Medusa, Liberty Leading the People, and The Coronation of Napoleon.
10. There are Actually Five Pyramids in the Louvre
Not many people are aware that the iconic I. M. Pei Pyramid is not the only pyramid at the Louvre. In fact, there are a total of five pyramids at the Louvre. Three of them are the small glass pyramids surrounding the I.M. Pei pyramid. These three have been positioned so that they create light shafts that help highlight the museum's collection. The fifth pyramid is the Louvre Pyramide inversée (inverted pyramid) in Carrousel du Louvre.
11. Some Think the Louvre is Haunted
The Louvre is close to 800 years old, so it won't be all that surprising that people believe that it is haunted. Apparently, there are three harmless spirits inhabiting the museum. The most famous apparition is that of Jean l’Ecorcheur, a butcher who earned himself the nickname 'Jack the Skinner'. Queen Catherine de Medici had him murdered because she was afraid he knew too many unsavory secrets about the royal family. He can still be spotted around the Tuileries Gardens dressed in red, earning him the nickname the Red Man of the Tuileries. The halls of the museum are also thought to be haunted by a mummy called Belphegor.
12. The world has two Louvre Museums
Apart from the one in Paris, there is another Louvre museum in the world. In 2016, Abu Dhabi finished constructing the second official Louvre museum in the world. This Louvre is the second-largest art museum on the Arabian peninsula. It cost Abu Dhabi over €600 million to finish constructing the museum. At present, the museum sees about one million visitors per year, which of course is nothing compared to the number of visitors that the Louvre Paris sees.