Visitors at the National Gallery Washington, 1948. (1948), UnknownGemäldegalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin
While crowds of people in galleries may have become a less familiar sight since 2019, staggering numbers of people have sought out a real-life parley with the world's most renowned artworks. Scroll on to discover, in reverse order, 6 of the most popular paintings by footfall...
Art: Leonardo Da Vinci (Sforza, Last Supper) par Dmitri KesselLIFE Photo Collection
6. The Last Supper - 460,000 per year
At number six is Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper, the seventh most-visited painting in the world overall. Painted in the late 15th century, it’s aptly located in the dining hall of the monastery of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan.
Despite numerous restoration efforts, little of the original painting remains. In an effort to preserve the masterpiece, the managers of the property allow just 25 people to see the painting at a time. This adds up to around 460,000 visitors per year.
The Scream (1910), Edvard MunchThe Munch Museum, Oslo
5. The Scream – 500,000 per year
Edvard Munch’s 1893 work is another instantly recognisable image. Over the years, it’s inspired horror movie masks, pop artists, musicians, and even kids’ films, making it one of the most familiar faces of the 20th century.
Munch painted four different versions of The Scream, two of which have been stolen and recovered over the years. Of the two most famous works, one is housed in Oslo’s National Gallery and the other in the Munch Museum.
La Jeune Fille à la Perle (c. 1665 (digitized by Madpixel)), Johannes VermeerMauritshuis
4. Girl with a Pearl Earring – 1.5 million per year
Girl with a Pearl Earring was already very well known before the 2003 film came out. However, in the years since the movie’s release, the painting’s popularity has gone through the roof and today, it’s one of the best known works from the Golden Age of Dutch painting.
Johannes Vermeer’s portrait is currently in the collection of the Mauritshuis in The Hague. In an average year, the Mauritshuis gets just over 400,000 visitors. However, on a recent world tour the painting was seen by around 1.5 million visitors in a year.
The Starry Night (1889), Vincent van GoghMoMA The Museum of Modern Art
3. The Starry Night – 3 million per year
Also on display in MOMA, The Starry Night is the most famous piece in the museum’s collection. Painted by Vincent Van Gogh during his stay in the Saint-Paul-de-Mausole Lunatic Asylum in 1889, the work is often regarded as van Gogh’s Magnum Opus.
As the most famous painting in MOMA’s collection, it’s safe to assume that most of the museum’s 3 million visitors make a beeline for the piece. This makes it the third-most visited painting in the world.
Pai Michelangelo. Sistine Chapel.LIFE Photo Collection
2. The Sistine Chapel – 5 million per year
Painted by Michelangelo in the early 16th century, the huge fresco filling the walls and ceiling of the Sistine Chapel depicts various scenes from the Bible, including this famous Creation of Man scene, and is one of the most iconic works from the Renaissance period.
Every year, an incredible five million people head to the Sistine Chapel, with up to 20,000 walking through its doors every day. This makes it one of the most visited rooms in the world.
Portrait de Lisa Gherardini, épouse de Francesco del Giocondo, dite "Monna Lisa, la Gioconda" ou "la Joconde" (1503/1519), Leonardo di ser Piero DA VINCI, dit "Léonard de Vinci" (1452 - 1519), Paris, musée du LouvreSource d'origine : Paris, musée du Louvre-Acquis par François Ier en 1518.
1. The Mona Lisa – 10 million per year
Unsurprisingly, the most visited painting in the world is also the most famous portrait ever painted – the Mona Lisa. Created by Leonardo da Vinci at the start of the 16th century, it’s valued at well over $660 million.
The painting has been on display in the Louvre on and off since 1797. Every year, around 10 million people visit the museum. It’s thought that a staggering 80% of them are there just to see the Mona Lisa.
Par Ralph MorseLIFE Photo Collection