Facts About Musée d’Orsay

By Harshitha Jagathiesh

Nestled in Paris’s 7th Arrondissement, the Musée d’Orsay boasts a unique history, having evolved from a bustling train station to a renowned museum. 

Today, it is one of the city’s top tourist destinations, mesmerizing visitors with its rich cultural offerings.

While the Orsay Museum is celebrated for its impressive collection of French and Impressionist artworks, several lesser-known facts add to its allure. 

This article will examine some of the most intriguing facts about the Musée d’Orsay in Paris.

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1. Former Railway Station Turned Iconic Museum

Before becoming a renowned art museum, the space was once occupied by a grand train station that welcomed countless travelers to Paris. 

Known as Gare d’Orsay, it was the world’s first urban rail terminal powered by electricity.

2. Preserved Clock Holds Historical Charm

Despite its transformation into a museum, the original architecture of the building remained intact, including the iconic clock. 

This clock not only serves as a timekeeper but also carries the legacy of the station’s past.

3. Contribution from Other Museums Enriches Collection

Before its establishment, several prominent museums faced space constraints for their collections. 

As a solution, the National Museum of Modern Art, Jeu de Paume Museum, and the Louvre contributed significant artworks to the Orsay Museum from the mid-19th to the 20th century.

4. Experience the Finest Views of Paris from the Museum

For the ultimate panoramic vistas of Paris, look no further than the Musée d’Orsay. 

This iconic museum offers unparalleled views of the city from two prime locations.

One prime spot is on the museum’s second floor, behind the grand clock, providing a beautiful view of the Seine River below.

Another breathtaking viewpoint awaits on the terrace, positioned just above the Café des Hauteurs on the museum’s top floor. 

From here, visitors can see the scenic beauty of the Seine River, its charming bridges, and iconic landmarks like the Louvre Museum and the Garnier Opera House.

5. The Building Has More Metal than the Eiffel Tower

An astounding 12,000 tons of metal were utilized during its construction as a railway station. 

The museum’s dimensions of 574 feet in length and 246 feet in width surpass even the Eiffel Tower in metal consumption, which used 7000 tons.

6. Abundant Natural Light Filters Through 35,000 Square Meters of Glass

Designed to maximize natural illumination, the Orsay Museum boasts nearly 35,000 square meters of glass, equivalent to the size of five football fields. 

This architectural feat allows ample daylight to penetrate the interior, reducing dependence on artificial lighting.

7. Unconventional Role During World War II

Amidst the turmoil of World War II, the Gare d’Orsay ceased functioning as a train station.

It became a vital mailing center for sending parcels to prisoners at the war’s onset in 1939.

8. It Took 6 Months to Set Up the Museum 

Due to the vast size and extensive collection comprising 2000 artworks and 600 sculptures, it took curators six months to meticulously arrange the museum. 

9. Treasure Trove of Impressionist Masterpieces

The Orsay Museum boasts the largest collection of Impressionist paintings from the 19th century. 

Among its prized possessions are renowned works by artists such as Vincent Van Gogh, Edouard Manet, Renoir, and Gustave Courbet.

10. Collaborative Architectural Endeavors Shape the Museum

Originally designed by architects Emile Benard, Lucien Magne, and Victor Laloux, the railway station was inaugurated in 1900. 

Later, when the decision was made to convert it into a museum, French architect Victor Alexandre Frederic Laloux was commissioned to oversee the building.

About the author

Harshitha’s heart lies where greeny mountains meet stretches of beach. She believes getting lost is the best way to explore