Late Night Leonardo: The Louvre Announces Free All-Nighters for the Final Days of Its Blockbuster Show

The Paris museum is offering 30,000 lucky visitors a unique chance to experience Leonardo's work after dark.

The Louvre Pyramid. Photo by Chesnot/Getty Images.

If you missed your chance to snap up one of the coveted tickets to the Louvre’s Leonardo da Vinci exhibition, now is the time to start caffeinating.

The Paris museum will be open all night long for the final three days of the exhibition. Bookings open tomorrow, February 11 to secure a slot during the night of Friday February 21 through Sunday February 23, when visitors will be able to see the show between 9 p.m. and 8:30 a.m. Time slots during regular opening hours have long been sold out.

The museum’s director, Jean-Luc Martinez, announced the novel openings in the French paper Le Journal du dimanche. “For visitors, this is a unique opportunity to view or review so many works gathered from this genius of the Renaissance in such a special atmosphere,” Martinez said. 

Not only will visitors be able to experience Leonardo like never before, they will be able to see the special exhibition free of charge. Close to 30,000 tickets are up for grabs for the once-in-a-lifetime deal. Those hoping to get a slot will have to make a reservation for a timed entry online. Bookings open on Tuesday at noon (that’s 6 a.m. EST) via the museum’s website. (Hopefully they’ve sorted out the kinks in the software that meant the site crashed first time around due to the unprecedented demand to land a timed slot to view the historic exhibition.)

The Louvre has never opened to the public all night before (although for one lucky couple it became an Airbnb for a night). Some 40 museum workers have volunteered to work overtime to make the all-nighter possible.

Martinez explained that the free-of-charge initiative is “a way of telling everyone that the museum is for all.” He emphasized that more than 40 percent of the museum’s 10 million annual visitors access the museum for free. 

“This event is the Louvre’s way of thanking the public for their interest in the exhibition,” the museum says in a press statement. “If you have not yet managed to see it, or if you loved it so much that you would like to come again, now is the final chance.”

The Louvre show, which marks the 500th anniversary of Leonardo’s death, is the largest-ever exhibition of the Italian master’s work. It brings together some 160 works, including nine paintings and 80 drawings by Leonardo, as well as works by his master, Andrea del Verrocchio, and his two main disciples, Marco d’Oggiono and Giovanni Antonio Boltraffio.

A sleepless night with Leonardo could mirror the conditions under which the Renaissance genius is believed to have created his masterworks. One of the many theories about the artist is that he practiced a polyphasic sleep cycle, napping for just 15 minutes every four hours in lieu of a full night’s sleep.

Sleep researcher Claudio Stampi cites the story in his 1992 book Why We Nap. In the Atlantic Codex, which is on loan to the exhibition from Milan’s Biblioteca Ambrosiana, Leonardo writes: “O sleepers! What a thing is slumber! Sleep resembles death.”

Artnet News reached out to exhibition’s co-curator Louis Frank, who recently read the entire Leonardo bibliography, to ask whether he had come across anything to support the theory about Leonardo’s unusual sleeping habits, but the curator did not get back by press time.

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