Louis-Émile Durandelle

French, 1839–1917


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Louis-Émile Durandelle
French, 1839–1917
Masks for the Fireplaces in the Management Area, from The New Paris Opéra: Ornamental Sculpture
c. 1875
Albumen print
Lent by The Troob Family Foundation
 

Louis-Émile Durandelle first achieved renown in the mid-1850s, when he co-founded a commercial photography firm with Hyacinthe César Delmaet (1828–1862). Together, Delmaet & Durandelle specialized in engineering and topographical subjects. When Delmaet died suddenly in 1862, Durandelle married his business partner’s widow, Clémence, who kept her first husband’s surname and managed the studio until her death in 1890.
 
Beginning in 1865, Durandelle collaborated with architect Charles Garnier, systematically documenting the construction of the Paris Opéra (built 1861–75). Commissioned by Napoleon III, the opulent new opera house became the signature landmark of the central grands boulevards district redesigned by Haussmann. On site, Durandelle surveyed the opera house high and low, making hundreds of images of raw building materials, architectural elements, and ornamental sculpture, many of which show skilled masons and sculptors at work. Following this project, Durandelle published more than a hundred large-format photographs of the Paris Opéra, also known as the Palais Garnier after its architect, which he organized into thematic albums such as Ornamental Sculpture (1875). Later, the French government employed Durandelle to photograph such diverse, immense worksites as the Sacré-Cœur Basilica in Montmarte, the Mont-Saint-Michel Abbey in Normandy, and the Eiffel Tower.