Marville is best known as the official chronicler of the urban planification of Paris under Baron Haussmann. He was also one of the great “primitives”of photography, whose talent was revealed by the studies after nature published by Blanquart-Evrard in the early 1850s. Working in the same vein, this print is one of a series of cloud studies that he photographed from his Parisian home, some of which he exhibited in Paris and London in 1857.
Much was made of the interest of such an ensemble for artists who immediately saw its value as a document and not only as a work of art. For one thing, clouds could rarely be admired in photographs at the time, unless they were retouched (sensitized plates responded in different ways to the various colors of the spectrum, with the result that a correctly exposed negative of a landscape often meant an overexposed sky, and photographers therefore used to sacrifice the latter, either painting it black on the negative to produce a uniformly white sky, or simply putting in false clouds).
For another, it was among the first successes in the field of photography applied to the study of atmospheric variations, just between the painted studies of Valenciennes and Constable and the pastels series of Boudin, the “king of skies” who introduced Monet to outdoor painting.