Edouard Baldus
A Group of People in the grounds of the Château de la Faloise

A Group of People in the grounds of the Château de la Faloise
Edouard Baldus (1813-1889)
A Group of People in the grounds of the Château de la Faloise
1857
Salt paper print from a glass negative
H. 29; W. 40.9 cm
© RMN-Grand Palais (Musée d'Orsay) / Christian Jean

Personnages dans le parc du château de la Faloise [A Group of People in the grounds of the Château de la Faloise]


This image capturing a group of elegant people at leisure in the grounds of a county house tells us much about that era. Its harmonious composition attracted attention at the Art in France during the Second Empire exhibition held in the Grand Palais in 1979, when the photograph was presented alongside paintings, sculpture and objets d'art of its time. Since then, the location of the shot has been identified by Jim Ganz who exhibited the complete series of images in 2003 in Williamstown. Baldus had been commissioned to take them by the painter and man of letters Frédéric de Mercey (1805-1860), who wished to have a souvenir of his country house in the Somme area, the Château de la Faloise, and of the estate, while he was entertaining friends there.

A childhood acquaintance of Delacroix, Frédéric de Mercey was then director of the State Fine Arts Department. His interest in photography is confirmed by a commission he entrusted to Charles Nègre in 1859 for an album of prints of the statues in the Tuileries. This project would never see the light of day because of the premature death of de Mercey in 1860. It was, however, his exceptional feeling for perspective and dramatic compositions that that led to Baldus becoming so highly sought-after by the administration of the Second Empire: he took part in the famous Heliographic Mission in 1851, and was entrusted with a succession of photographic reportages on the new Chemins de Fer du Nord railway line in 1855, on the flooding of the Rhône in 1856, and on the greatest construction project of Napoleon III's reign in which Visconti and Lefuel united the Louvre and the Tuileries.

However, it would be a mistake to consider Baldus merely as a landscape and architecture photographer. His few ventures into portraiture were rare but masterly. It was probably he who produced the very beautiful nudes in an album that had once belonged to the sculptor Pierre Charles Simart (1806-1857), and the series taken in La Faloise certainly confirms his skill in handling the figures in his views.


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