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Cathedral of Notre Dame

In pictures: recently released photos show the past 200 years of Notre Dame

The Courtauld Institute of Art has launched an online exhibition which shows a selection of digitised images of the Paris cathedral

Since Notre Dame was engulfed by a devastating fire earlier this year, images of the Gothic cathedral set ablaze have flooded the internet. Now, an online exhibition charts the 200-year history of the building through newly released photographs, paying tribute to the emotive power of the striking building and its ability to survive. The photos, taken from the Conway Library at The Courtauld Institute of Art in London, show the cathedral before, during and after its mid-19th century restoration by Viollet-le-Duc.

A project to provide a digitised version of the Conway Library, which holds approximately one million photographic and printed images of architecture, sculpture and medieval painting is also underway.

You can view the Courtauld's full online Notre Dame exhibition here

Click here to read more on our coverage on the Cathedral of Notre Dame

The following two images were made by British artists travelling in France in the early 19th century and are not as well known as the many images of the cathedral pre-restoration printed in France. The print by John Coney, the architectural draughtsman and engraver (1786-1833), shows the west front of the cathedral in its pre-restoration state with clarity and sharp detail.
Notre-Dame, Paris, west front. Print by J. Coney (1830)

The following two images were made by British artists travelling in France in the early 19th century and are less well known than the many images of the cathedral pre-restoration that were printed in France. This print by John Coney, the architectural draughtsman and engraver shows the west front of the cathedral in its pre-restoration state.

Frederick Nash (1782-1856) also specialised in architectural drawing. His image of the south side of the cathedral, here in a proof print for the publishers Longman and Co, dated 1820, shows the battered state of the south side of the cathedral itself in the early 19th century. It also shows clearly the chapel of the palace of the bishops of Paris, commissioned by Bishop Maurice de Sully alongside his new cathedral in the 1160s.
Frederick Nash's Notre-Dame, Paris, from the south. Lithograph by John Byne: proof print for Longman and Co (c.1820)

This image by the draughtsman and painter Frederick Nash shows the battered state of the south side of the cathedral in the early 19th century. It also shows the chapel of the palace of the bishops of Paris, commissioned by Bishop Maurice de Sully alongside his new cathedral in the 1160s.

Notre-Dame, Paris, view of east end. Unknown photographer. Printed by Blanquard-Evrard, Blanquard-Evrard technique: 32.5cm x 23cm. Photograph taken late 1840s. This shows works on the east end.

When Viollet-le-Duc began his restoration of the cathedral in 1844, photography was in its infancy. Between 1847 and 1851, Blanquard-Evrard, a printer based in Lille, developed a new photographic technique to produce prints on salt-soaked paper from paper negatives. In 1851, he set up a short-lived company in Lille to publish images using this technique, including photographs of construction at Notre-Dame

Notre-Dame, Paris, view of the east end. Unknown photographer. Albumen print: 33.5cm x 26cm. Photograph taken c. 1860. This makes an interesting comparison with the photographs print- ed by Blanquard-Evrard, taken almost ten years earlier. The roof now has cresting and extra lucarnes (dormer windows), though the spire is still not in place. The nave aisle chapels and nave buttresses have been heavily restored. There is a clear view of the restoration workshop.
Albumen print: 33.5cm x 26cm. Photograph taken c. 1860. Notre-Dame, Paris, view of the east end. Unknown photographer.

This photo shows the cathedral under reconstruction around 1860. The roof now has cresting and extra lucarnes (dormer windows), though the spire is still not in place. The nave aisle chapels and nave buttresses have been heavily restored.

Notre-Dame, Paris, west front, central portal archivolts (c.1853) Albumen print: Bisson Frères.

This up-close photograph was taken from scaffolding as works took place on the tympanum (decorated wall surface) of the west portal

These are taken from a collection of photographs and negatives given to the Conway Library by Leicester Museum in 1959. The photographer, J.M. Stewart, was a doctor by profession. He travelled widely between circa 1890 and circa 1940. Before the First World War, he visited and photographed Toronto, the West Indies, New York, St Petersburg, and many cities in Europe, including Paris. His photographs focus on famous buildings, but he always shows them surrounded by people, so that his photographs have a lively sense of both time and place. He visited Paris in the early 20th century, probably in 1911, and took several photographs of Notre-Dame, still fairly recently restored, but already blackened by industrial pollution.
J. M Stewart's Notre-Dame, Paris, west front, (c. 1911)

This image comes from a collection of photographs and negatives given to the Conway Library by the Leicester Museum in 1959. The photographer, J.M. Stewart, who was a doctor by profession, visited Paris in the early 20th century and took several photographs of Notre-Dame, still fairly recently restored, but already blackened by industrial pollution.

American Soldiers leave Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris after Thanksgiving Day Service, Notre-Dame, Paris, west front, Macmillian Commission Collection (c.1944-5)

The Macmillan Commission was set up in the Second World War to record war damage to buildings and the built environment in Europe. Many of the photographs from this collection were taken by journalists, or by art historians embedded with the Allied forces in 1944-5. This photo shows crowds entering and exiting the open doors of the cathedral shortly after the liberation of Paris.

Paris, Notre Dame, south side, A.F. Kersting, (c.1960)

A.F. Kersting was widely considered one of the eminent architectural photographers of his generation. For many years, his photographs were printed by the photographic department at the Courtauld Institute of Art, and he bequeathed his collection of negatives to the Conway Library after his death. The classic views of Notre-Dame shown here were taken in the early-post war years. They provide a point of comparison with the 19th-century photographs, and show how much the current cathedral owes to the vision of Viollet-le-Duc.