May 14, 2018

9 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About the Louvre

The Musée du Louvre, located in the city of Paris, is the world’s largest art museum. The museum opened its doors to the public on August 10, 1793. In 2017, it received a staggering 8.1 million visitors.

Spanning hundreds of thousands of square feet of gallery space, it houses approximately 70,000 pieces of priceless artworks, including Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa to Caravaggio’s The Death of the Virgin.

Other than being a famous museum, the Louvre is also considered an important landmark in Paris. It is easily recognisable by its unique entrance – the Louvre Pyramid – a large glass-and-metal pyramid surrounded by three smaller pyramids.

Below are 9 interesting facts you probably didn’t know about the Louvre.

The Louvre was originally a fortress in the late 12th to 13th century.

King Philip II, the first King of France, had the fortress built because he needed a defensive outpost along the Seine River to ward off the Anglo-Romans from the north. You can still see remnants of the fortress in the museum’s Lower Hall.

The museum was also a royal residence.

In 1547, Francis I ordered the conversion of the fortress into a luxurious Renaissance-style compound that served as the main residence for the Monarchs of the Kingdom of France. The structure underwent a series of expansions to form the famous Louvre Palace.

The Palace of Versailles once stole the limelight from the Louvre. 

In 1682, Louis XIV chose to live in the Palace of Versailles and the Louvre was primarily used to house the royal collection and host various cultural groups for about 100 years. After the fall of the monarchy and during the French Revolution, the National Assembly decided to turn the palace into a national museum so the public can view the nation’s masterpieces. When the museum opened its doors in 1793, it showcased more than 500 pieces of artistic content.

The Mona Lisa was once stolen from the Louvre. 

The Mona Lisa, da Vinci’s masterpiece, is arguably the top reason why tourists from the world over flock to the Musée du Louvre. In 1911, the famous painting was stolen right off the walls of its permanent home. One of the suspects was Pablo Picasso but the real culprit was an Italian handyman named Vincenzo Peruggia. The theft made the Mona Lisa a household name and it wasn’t until 1913 when it was returned to the Louvre after Peruggia was caught trying to sell the painting to an art dealer in Italy.

The art museum was once known as the Musée Napoleon.

When Napoleon Bonaparte became Emperor of the French, he renamed the museum Musée Napoleon. He added numerous artworks – seized by his armies during his successful campaigns across Europe – to the museum’s collection. The artworks were returned to their rightful owners after Napoleon’s abdication in 1814 when the Allies captured France. It is also interesting to note that when he came to power, Napoleon also ordered that the Mona Lisa be hung on his bedroom wall.

It was once a storehouse for stolen artworks.

During the WWII, the contents of the Louvre were evacuated to safety in the French countryside. So when Nazi Germany occupied Paris, the museum was nearly empty. When the Nazi officials found out about all the missing artworks, they decided to use the Louvre as a clearinghouse for all the artworks and personal items they sequestered from affluent French families. Many masterpieces were processed in the museum, among them the works of surrealists Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dali.

The Musée du Louvre is the nucleus of the Axe historique. 

The world-famous museum is the nucleus of  Axe historique, a must-see 5-kilometre line of monuments, buildings, and main roads, from the centre of Paris to the west. Aside from the museum, also included in the historical axis are the Arc de Triomphe, the Grand Arche, the obelisk of the Place de la Conorde, and the Tuileries.

There is a Louvre replica in Abu Dhabi.

Opened in 2017, the Louvre Abu Dhabi is part of an agreement between the French government and the city of Abu Dhabi, UAE. It is said that the collaboration will allow the Louvre to earn more than 400 million euros to be paid over 30 years for Louvre Abu Dhabi’s use of the brand.

It will take you 100 days to explore the museum in its entirety.

 With its sheer size, it is said that you will have to allot approximately 100 days to see all the artworks housed within the museum.

Looking to spend an amazing week in Paris? Explore the Louvre and other attractions with these tours.

By:  Brendelyn Balaga

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