[Large Figures on the North Porch, Chartres Cathedral]

Henri-Jean-Louis Le Secq (French, Paris 1818–1882 Paris)
Salted paper print from paper negative
32.8 x 22.1 cm (12 15/16 x 8 11/16 in.)
Credit Line:
Purchase, The Howard Gilman Foundation and Harriette and Noel Levine Gifts, Samuel J. Wagstaff Jr. Bequest, and Rogers Fund, 1990
Accession Number:
Not on view
Seen obliquely from the eye level of a cathedral visitor, the portal sculptures in Henri Le Secq's photograph appear disengaged from their stone support. The figures' corporeality is animated by sharp focus and by their position between shadowed columns and a blur of moving foliage. Le Secq's inspired photography of French cathedrals won critical praise and government support, because he demonstrated the new medium's capacity to provide detailed and accurate records. This photograph, made in 1852, is also an eloquent poem about the passage of time and the life of art, ideas resonant in an age that clung to Romantic notions of the fragment even as it embarked on archaeological investigation and restoration. This melding of the objective and the personal in architectural photography made Henri Le Secq a central figure in the small group of French photographers who pioneered the aesthetics of the new medium.
Inscription: Signed and inscribed in negative, bottom right: "H. Le Secq. // Chartres. // 1852."; inscribed in ink on mount, recto, bottom right: "Grandes figures au porche Nord. (cathédrale de chartres.)"; stamped in ink on mount below photograph, recto, bottom center: "THE // NEWBERRY // LIBRARY // CHICAGO"
(sold by Elison, Flersheim & Co., general auctioneers, Chicago); The Newberry Library, Chicago, 1893; (sold Sotheby's, New York, April 24, 1990, lot 5); [Lunn Ltd., New York and Paris]

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Nineteenth Century European Photographs: Recent Acquisitions," October 2, 1991–December 1, 1991.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Johnson Gallery, Selections from the Collection 3," October 3, 1993–March 1, 1994.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Johnson Gallery, Selections from the Collection 59," May 15, 2012–September 9, 2012.