"We walk through smoke; we breathe air that smells of charred wood and varnish, and on all sides we hear the hiss of pumps. In many places, there are lingering traces and the horrible debris of the battle," wrote Edmond de Goncourt on the 28 May 1871 after the first clashes of the Commune. At the very same time, François-Joseph Delintraz, a portraitist in the faubourg Saint-Honoré, decided to immortalise the event. He took a series of photographs of the Fire Brigade in action near his studio. This photograph, taken on the 24th of May right in the middle of ‘Bloody Week' was one of them.
The day before there had been desperate fighting until dawn in the Place de la Concorde then in the Rue Royale. The Saint Honoré gatehouse in the background of the photograph is still smoking. It collapsed the next morning. Four days later, the Commune's last barricade fell at Belleville. The Parisians then discovered a city deeply scarred by the fighting and the fires.