After running its course, the numbers are finally out for the Louvre’s blockbuster Leonardo da Vinci exhibition and a blockbuster it was. A staggering 1,071,840 people ended up waiting their turn, waking up in the middle of the night, and filing through the museum’s corridors to see the exhibition in honour of the artist’s death 500 years ago.
The total attendance absolutely shattered the Louvre’s past exhibition record set in 2018 when an exhibition of works by Delacroix brought in 540,000 – a number that now seems meagre in comparison! The exhibition also contributed to the museum’s hefty 9.6 million visitors during 2019.
The museum’s president and director, Jean-Luc Martinez, gave credit for the exhibition’s success to Louis Frank and Vincent Delieuvin, the curators of ‘Leonardo da Vinci.’ ‘It’s wonderful that 500 years after his death, an Italian Renaissance artist continues to fascinate the general public,’ Martinez said in a press release. ‘Today, there are two things I’m proud of: managing to assemble the greatest number of Leonardo’s works ever, and welcoming such a large and diverse audience.’
Over its 104-day stint, the exhibition showcased 160 artworks including five paintings and 22 drawings. Of those, the Mona Lisa, of course made it into the show, and highlights included Saint Jean Baptiste and Virgin of the Rocks, but the Salvator Mundi, which broke records at auction in 2017, was notably not included in the end. Institutions around the world loaned their da Vinci’s to the Louvre and sparks flew between Italy and France concerning the loan of several masterpieces that call Italy home. After a lot of back and forth, Italy upheld their agreement and later this year, France will return the favour by lending a number of works by Raphael to Italy in celebration of 500 years since his death.
On average, more than 10,000 visitors attended the exhibition each day and 46 evening openings were added before the exhibition closed allowing for 175,000 extra tickets. Just a few weeks before it wrapped, the Louvre announced that for three nights only, that it would be open all night for lucky visitors who snagged a free ticket to see the exhibition when the museum is usually empty. School groups were brought to the museums on Tuesdays, the day the museum is typically closed, to ease congestion.
Over the course of ‘Leonardo da Vinci,’ the Louvre faced a number of contentious moments. Overcrowding and staff strikes led to the museum’s closure one Friday in January. Protests by yellow-vest demonstrators also affected the museum’s normal function and the Louvre has continued to face backlash over their relationship to the Sackler Family, though the family’s name was removed from a gallery and their website last year.
Obviously, in the end, these events didn’t deter visitors too much from getting their chance to see so many works by da Vinci under one roof.