Salt print from a glass negative 45 x 34.5 cms (17.69 x 13.56 ins) c.1855 JHG9658 Inscribed 'no 79' in the negative, lower left and signed in the negative lower right 'E. Baldus'
Stamped E. Baldus on the lower right of the mount and titled lower left 'Pavillon Richelieu Nouveau Louvre'
Mount: 61 x 43.9 cms
Image: 45 x 34.5 cms
Baldus's large-format photographs made using massive glass plate negatives are amongst his finest achievements.
Commissioned by the French government once again, Baldus was charged with documenting every aspect of the new Palace's construction, which was to be the Second Empire's largest building project. Consequently, over the course of two years, it also evolved into the largest photographic commission to date, and Baldus took over two thousand photographs ranging in subject matter from individual statuary to the grand frontal views of each completed pavilion, such as this exemplary image of the completed Pavillon Richelieu.
An image that the Metropolitan Museum of Art describes as 'among the most spectacular of all Baldus photographs,' it is clear that Baldus took full advantage of the opportunity to use larger equipment, which was necessary to capture his tremendous subject. The technical advantages afforded by glass plate negatives allowed him to create equally large contact prints without joining separate negatives, as was his practice with many of his earlier images. Here, the resulting photograph depicts the Pavillon Richelieu in a striking range of tonality, from the crisp texture of the street to the glowing reflection of the pavilion's new tiled roof.
The subject of this picture also brings to bear the importance of the symbolism of the architecture of the Nouveau Louvre for the reign of Napoleon III, particularly in terms of the French spirit and achievement which inspired the new structure. The temple relief demonstrates the liaising of the Sciences and the Arts, as typified by the Palace structure as a museum of archaeology and fine art. Beyond fulfilling an obvious documentary function, however, this oversized contact print is sharper than any contemporary enlargement, and evokes the new Louvre's monumentality with clarity that continues to astound.