Painting the Eiffel Tower

black and white sepia photograph of the Eiffel Tower in silhouette against a cloudy sky

Vintage photography of the iconic Paris landmark

Beth Daley (opens in new window) (Europeana Foundation)

Everywhere needs a bit of a spruce up now and then. At home, that means getting the vacuum out or going outside with a tin of paint and a ladder.

Imagine the task though, if the building you're trying to give a face-lift is the Eiffel Tower in Paris. The Tower is made of over 18,000 individual parts, joined by 2.5 million rivets - that would take a lot of painting!

The pictures below are all from the National Library of France (Bibliothèque nationale de France). They show men at work painting the Tower in 1910, 1924 and 1932.

The first image, from 1924, seems like a European equivalent to that iconic black and white photograph of New York workmen taking a rest on the girder of an emerging skyscraper.

It took just over two years to build the Eiffel Tower. It was opened on 31 March 1889 as part of the Paris World Fair, named after Gustave Eiffel, whose company designed and built the Tower. The Tower was supposed to be a temporary fixture on the Paris horizon - it was due to come down in 1909 but was allowed to remain.

It is 324 metres tall. More than 7 million people climb the Tower every year, ascending the 600 or so steps to its second floor, then taking a lift to the top.

Not everyone loved the design of the Eiffel Tower, thinking it useless and monstrous. Guy de Maupassant is said to have dined in the Tower's restaurant every day as it was the one place from which he couldn't see the Tower itself!

Enjoy these vintage photographs of the Eiffel Tower!

And finally, what better way to explore the Eiffel Tower than by bike?