Salt print from a glass negative 43.2 x 34.1 cms (16.98 x 13.40 ins) c.1855 JHG9660 Stamped 'E. Baldus' on the lower right of the mount and titled lower left 'Pavillon Colbert Nouveau Louvre'
Mount: 61 x 43.9 cms
Image: 43.2 x 34.1 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 example of the Pavillon Colbert.
This particular photograph is an astounding example of the precision and clarity wet plate negatives afforded Baldus in capturing the texture of New Louvre's stonework. Each part of the façade, from the temple relief statuary to the columns flanking the entryway, is bathed in a bright light that emphasises the three-dimensionality of the new pavilion. The sense of crisp stonework evident in this image is only heightened by the blurred tree in the bottom left corner, as well as the trace of a ghostly figure in the foreground - a horse and cart that paused long enough to be captured, just barely, in Baldus' long exposure.
The subject of this picture brings to bear the importance of the symbolism of the architecture of the Nouveau Louvre for the reign of Napoleon III. The relief and figures on the façade of the Pavillon Colbert highlight France's greatest realms of achievement, from the conquering of nature through to industry. The upmost relief represents Earth and Water, while the figures to either side personify Science and Industry.
Baldus has also ensured that a human figure on the right-hand side of the central entrance has stood still long enough to provide the viewer with a sense of the imposing scale of the statuary, as well as the entire façade. The result is a striking image that is sharper than any contemporary enlargement, exemplary of Baldus' ability to isolate and capture architecture while giving a slight hint to the life that continued to move around it.