[Angel of the Passion, Sainte-Chapelle, Paris]

Auguste Mestral French

Not on view

Serendipity occasionally aids the muses, as here, where a worker's fatigue, a gentle breeze, and a bit of sunshine have helped one of the medium's early masters achieve something far beyond his original intention. Mestral was commissioned by the sculptor Adolphe-Victor Geoffroy Dechaume to document one of his angels of the passion before it was lifted to a high and inaccessible perch at the base of the flèche of the Sainte-Chapelle. Working at the restoration site, the photographer strung up a white canvas to provide a neutral background for the sculpture; however, during the long exposure (perhaps ten or fifteen minutes) that drapery blew in the breeze, softening its edges and folds in a blur of light. As a result, one has the sense that the sculpted angel has come to life and descended a beam of light to appear to the sleeping workman in a dream—like the angel appearing to Jacob—while his companion remains oblivious to the vision taking place a few feet away.

[Angel of the Passion, Sainte-Chapelle, Paris], Auguste Mestral (French, Rans 1812–1884 Rans), Salted paper print from paper negative

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