Gustave Le Gray Church of Saint-Germain-l'Auxerrois, Paris
Medium Albumen print from wet plate collodion negative
Mount on original mount
Photo Date 1857-58 Print Date 1857-58
Dimensions 14-13/16 x 17-9/16 in. (376 x 446 mm)
Photo Country France
Photographer Country France
Contact Alex Novak and Marthe Smith
About This Image
One of Le Gray's large Paris views. Only three other prints are known of this image, although other close-up variants of the church are also known in three examples. Prints have come up at auction at Goxe & Belaisch (Enghien) and Binoche (Paris). One other print exists in the Alfred Armand collection in the Bibliotheque Nationale. All have the same slightly motion-blurred seated man and a more defined standing man further left. The two in the auctions had some damage to those prints, particularly the one at Enghien.
To quote a translation of the Binoche catalogue description: "We observe the quality of natural light, the moment chosen when the sun's rays illuminate exactly the background of the central porch. The church is barely clear of the medieval urban fabric that surrounded it, but the construction of the belfry tower of the town hall of the 1st arrondissement had not yet begun (construction was from 1858 to 1863). Located at the left limit of the building, an elegant man, arms crossed, seems to observe the quality of the photographing."
Founded in the seventh century, the church was rebuilt many times over several centuries. It now has construction in Roman, Gothic and Renaissance styles. The most striking exterior feature is the porch, with a rose window and a balustrade above which encircles the whole church, a work of Jean Gaussel (1435–39).
Among the treasures preserved inside are a 15th-century wooden statue of Saint Germain, a stone carved statue of Saint-Vincent a stone sculpture of Isabelle of France (saint), a Flemish altarpiece carved out of wood, the famous "churchwarden's pew" where important people sat, made in 1683 by François, Le Mercier from drawings by Charles Le Brun.
During the Wars of Religion, its bell called "Marie" sounded on the night of August 23, 1572, marking the beginning of the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre. Thousands of Huguenots, who visited the city for a royal wedding, were killed by the Paris mob. A splendid stained glass still remains, in spite of plunderings during the French Revolution. The north tower was added in 1860 and stands opposite the Mairie of the 1st Arrondissement (1859).
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