August 10, 1793, marked the opening of the Louvre Museum in Paris by the French revolutionary government. Here are five things you didn’t know about the world's largest art museum...
It Only Had 721 Works of Art When it First Opened When the Louvre first opened, there were only 721 works of art at first (537 paintings, 184 objects). Today, it houses over 38,000 pieces of art from all over Europe. Covering 60,000 square meters, it is estimated that a visitor would need around 100 days to completely tour the museum and see it all. Trying to tour the Louvre in one day is impossible.
The Museum Started Out as a Fortress The original Louvre was a moated fortress constructed in 1190 by King Philip II. The fortress became a palace in the 16th century, and when the Palace of Versailles became the home of the French monarchy, a section of it was used to house the Louvre and its art academies and was expanded over the years. It houses many famous works of art such as the “Mona Lisa” and paintings by Johannes Vermeer.
Napoleon Temporarily Renamed The Museum After Himself Interestingly, Napoléon Bonaparte actually (and temporarily) renamed the Louvre after himself. He called it the Musée Napoléon. In addition, during his rule Napoleon had the Mona Lisa hung in his private bedroom! After the emperor's reign ended in exile in 1815, the museum was given its current name, the Musée du Louvre.
The “Mona Lisa” Is Smaller Than People Think Those lucky people who’ve seen the “Mona Lisa” are surprised at how small it is, measuring only 21 x 30 inches. The painting has bodyguards who shield it from harm and is surrounded by bulletproof glass. The 1911 theft of the Mona Lisa and its subsequent return was reported worldwide, leading to a massive increase in public recognition of the painting. About 6 million people view the painting at the Louvre each year.
The Louvre May Be Haunted The Louvre goes back to 1190, so it is reported to have an eclectic collection of ghosts that haunt it. Some of those said to be ghostly wanderers in the Louvre include a mummy named Belphegor, a WWII German soldier, Roman soldier, painter, and a young muse. The most famous ghost is that of Jean l’Ecorcheur, nicknamed “Jack the Skinner,” who was a henchman of Catherine de Medici and probably someone you wouldn’t want to meet in the dark.