Notre-Dame de Paris in Pictures

Many of those around the world watching news coverage of the terrible fire at Notre-Dame in Paris likely either reflected on a visit to the cathedral in their lifetime or felt a pang of regret at having not made it there before the fire. I personally thought back on my trip to Notre Dame as a young architecture student more than 20 years ago. Standing just inside the entrance, I was overwhelmed by the sheer size and struck silent by the centuries of history surrounding me. Like most architecture students, I was trained to record and analyze what I saw through both pen and camera. Looking through our collections yesterday, I found wonderful examples of how artists, photographers and architects have captured Notre-Dame de Paris over the years through their own medium. As we learn what was saved and what was lost in the fire, let’s take a look back.

I’ll start with how two American architects whose works appear in our collections sketched Notre Dame. On the left, we have the work of Cass Gilbert, architect of the Woolworth Building in New York and the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C. as well as hundreds of other buildings. During a visit to Paris in 1880, he put ink to paper, recording meticulous detail of the cathedral. Gilbert visited not long after extensive renovations added a spire back to the cathedral under the guidance of Eugène Viollet-le-Duc. Sadly, the spire, in the background of the sketch, collapsed in the fire this week.

On the right, modernist architect Victor Lundy took a much bolder approach when he created this vibrant watercolor of the cathedral during a 1948 visit.

Sketch of bit of restored work on Notre Dame de Paris, restored by Viollet-le-Duc. Ink drawing by Cass Gilbert, 1880 May 6. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cph.3c31784

Sketch of bit of restored work on Notre Dame de Paris, restored by Viollet-le-Duc. Ink drawing by Cass Gilbert, 1880 May 6. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cph.3c31784

Notre Dame, Paris. Watercolor drawing by Victor Lundy, 1949 January 18. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.49823

Notre Dame, Paris. Watercolor drawing by Victor Lundy, 1949 January 18. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.49823

The photochrom process, a combination of black-and-white photography and color lithography, was used to create these vivid views of the cathedral in the last decade of the 19th century:

Paris. Notre Dame. Photochrom, circa 1890-1906. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.52497

Paris. Notre Dame. Photochrom, circa 1890-1906. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.52497

Notre Dame, interior, Paris, France. Photochrom, between circa 1890 and 1900. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsc.05187

Notre Dame, interior, Paris, France. Photochrom, between circa 1890 and 1900. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsc.05187

Notre Dame, and St. Michael bridge, Paris, France. Photochrom, between circa 1890 and 1900. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsc.05188

Notre Dame, and St. Michael bridge, Paris, France. Photochrom, between circa 1890 and 1900. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsc.05188

The two photographs below show an earlier Notre Dame. A stereograph from circa 1865 shows the 19th-century renovations still underway. The second view, taken between 1851 and 1870 by early French architectural photographer Edouard Baldus places Notre Dame in the landscape of Paris:

Notre Dame, Paris. Photo, published by George Stacy, circa 1865. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/stereo.1s05235

Notre Dame, Paris. Photo, published by George Stacy, circa 1865. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/stereo.1s05235

Paris. Panorama. Photo by Edouard Baldus, between 1851 and 1870. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ds.04857

Paris. Panorama. Photo by Edouard Baldus, between 1851 and 1870. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ds.04857

Printmakers have also been fond of the subject of Notre Dame, as seen in the views below:

Paris. Notre Dame. Lithograph by Charles Rivière, between 1870 and 1879. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/pga.14323

Paris. Notre Dame. Lithograph by Charles Rivière, between 1870 and 1879. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/pga.14323

Notre Dame I, bookstalls. Print by Hans Figura. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/pga.06348

Notre Dame I, bookstalls. Print by Hans Figura. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/pga.06348

West front of the Church of Notre Dame. Engraving by J. Tingle, 1828 Sep. 30. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cph.3c15131

West front of the Church of Notre Dame. Engraving by J. Tingle, 1828 Sep. 30. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cph.3c15131

In the coming years, we hope rebuilding the lost parts of the cathedral will inspire new drawings, photos and prints for us to reflect on in the future.

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5 Comments

  1. Eric H Roth
    April 18, 2019 at 3:59 pm

    Thank you for sharing this classic images of Notre Dame, our damaged and endangered UNESCO world heritage site. This great medieval cathedral has inspired Catholics, French citizens, international visitors, and architectural admirers across the globe.

    It’s a sad cliche, but we often fail to sufficiently appreciate the beauty around us until it is gone.

  2. Liana
    April 19, 2019 at 7:23 pm

    I am saddened to have seen this historical landmark go up in flames the other day. Hopefully something positive will be learned about how to avoid fires like this one.

  3. Jean Foggo Simon
    April 20, 2019 at 10:14 am

    As an international visitor to the Notre Dame on my last trip to Paris in 1992, it saddens me to know that students and visitors from around the globe will not be able to see this world heritage Cathedral as it was. Bermuda College took language students to Paris every summer. I served as a chaperone and remember so well the peace and solitude that came over our group as we entered the Cathedral. All were in awe. It was as if a cloak of magical silence of respect engulfed us.

  4. Donn Dufford
    April 20, 2019 at 6:05 pm

    Thank you for these images and history. While the images of the fire destroying our beloved Notre Dame are forever etched in my mind, what I’ll truly remember is the thousands of French citizens and Paris visitors standing together, singing hymns, and praying for her. Notre Dame has always brought people together. Let’s pray she recovers quickly.

  5. Elisabeth Parker
    April 22, 2019 at 3:31 am

    Thanks for mining P&P’s collections for all of these images beyond the more commonly seen photographs.

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