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Hippolyte Bayard 
[Place de la Concorde] 
Salted paper print 
17.5 × 22.9 cm (6 7/8 × 9 in.) 
J. Paul Getty Museum 
Object Number: 84.XO.968.74 
Hippolyte Bayard likely made this photograph while taking a break from his bureaucratic job at the Ministry of Finance, where he worked from 1825 to 1863. If he had angled his camera just a bit more to the right to face further east down rue de Rivoli, he might have been able to include the ministry in this composition as well. As one of the earliest practitioners of photography, Bayard consistently explored new chemical formulas in the early 1840s in an effort to improve his results. Bayard had to seize opportunities to create photographs when the sunlight was strong, which meant making time during the middle of his day. Thus, it’s not surprising that he gravitated toward nearby subjects in the streets surrounding his office building. On occasions, he also climbed to the ministry’s rooftop to capture elevated views of Paris. The iconic Luxor Obelisk, the ancient Egyptian column, offers the focal point in this image. The Hôtel de la Marine dominates the mid-ground and a portion of La Madeleine Church can be seen in the distance to the left. The presence of a gas lamp that seems to float on the photograph’s left edge, along with the other gas lamps that ring the obelisk, are a reminder that the city of Paris was undergoing significant changes and modernization in the 1840s and ‘50s.
The building where Bayard worked was the subject of a later 1871 photograph by an unknown photographer also in the Getty’s collection (See: 84.XP.720.54). The Ministry of Finance had just suffered a major fire during the Paris Commune which led to its demolition.
Carolyn Peter, J. Paul Getty Museum, Department of Photographs

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