Henri Le Secq was a learned and cultivated man, a painter and a passionate collector of old master prints and medieval ironwork. He counted among his close friends the peintre-graveur Charles Meryon and the photographers Charles Nègre and Gustave Le Gray (both colleagues from the studio of Paul Delaroche); from the latter he learned the process of paper-negative photography. In the early 1850s, Le Secq applied his artistic training to the production of photographs notable for their expressive interpretation of historic architecture, quiet landscapes, and intimate still lifes. The Commission des Monuments Historiques was so impressed with the results of Le Secq's "mission héliographique" of 1851, which meticulously documented the cathedrals of Reims and Strasbourg, that they asked him to photograph Chartres cathedral in a similar manner. Le Secq fulfilled this second commission in 1852, producing more than forty views of the Gothic monument and its sculptural program. It was characteristic of Le Secq that he should also have explored the side streets of the pilgrimage town and made this view of the sixteenth-century spiral staircase of carved oak, known as the Staircase of Queen Berthe.