Visitors look at a version of 'The Last Supper' during the night and free opening of the 'Leonardo da Vinci' exhibition at The Louvre Museum on February 21, 2020 in Paris. (AFP/Lucas Barioulet)
It's a half hour after midnight, and a huge crowd is massed in front of the illuminated glass pyramid at the Louvre for a rare night-time visit to the museum's most ambitious show in years, a landmark collection of works by the Renaissance master Leonardo da Vinci.
"It's a cozy atmosphere, quite unusual. It feels almost private," says Cherifa Tadjouri, admiring "The Battle of Anghiari" with her family at a time when most Paris nightbirds would be lining up for concerts or clubs.
Since Friday, the Louvre has opened its door for three nights of free visits to the show-stopping exhibition before it wraps up on Monday.
The 30,000 tickets were snapped up in just three hours when they were made available on the museum's website earlier this month, with people assigned time slots to avoid overcrowding.
Odile Poitier, 32, enjoyed the coffee, tea and madeleine cakes offered after the visit with her brother and some friends.
"Usually after a museum visit, you're ready to head home, but here we can stay and chat, there's no hurry, everyone's relaxed," she told AFP.
Jean-Luc Martinez, the museum's director, said the goal was for people to "feel at home" while soaking up the blockbuster show of 162 works, including loans by Queen Elizabeth II and the British Museum, Russia's Hermitage and the Vatican.
"It's really well organized, we were able to get pretty close to all the works," said Cora Yuan, a Chinese woman who lives in Paris, who was visiting with two friends.
The exhibition, which opened in late October, marks 500 years since the death of Leonardo in the historic town of Amboise in the Loire Valley on May 2, 1519.
It does not include Leonardo's most famous work, the Mona Lisa, which organizers decided to leave in its usual, highly protected wing of the museum.
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