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Volume 27, 2011 - Issue 2: Intersection of Photography and Architecture
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Original Articles

Construction Photography and the Rhetoric of Fundraising: The Maison Durandelle Sacré‐Coeur Commission

Pages 113-128 | Published online: 23 May 2011


Throughout the construction of the Sacré‐Coeur de Montmartre, built by public subscription between 1875 and 1914, the promoters commissioned the photographic studio Maison Durandelle as part of a program of public relations designed to solicit prospective donors. Although the resulting photographic prints would long remain inaccessible to the public, scores of hand‐drawn surrogates and other derivative engravings were publicly released in order to maintain the project in the limelight and keep donations flowing. This unprecedented use of construction photographs for fundraising purposes provided the organizers with a compelling source of raw material that could be molded to suit the propagandistic needs of the project. Often intentionally transformed during the transfer process from photograph to published drawing or engraving, the released images suggest that the promoters recognized how the limitations inherent in reproductive technologies could be turned to their advantage. This paper examines how these transformations were used to shape the public’s perception of the building process.


1 On Legentil, see Michel Bony, Vie et oeuvres de M. A. Legentil (1893; repr., Paris: Pierre Téqui, 1989) and Jacques Benoist, Le Sacré‐Coeur de Montmartre: De 1870 à nos jours, 2 vols. (Paris: Éditions ouvrières, 1992).

2 On Rohault de Fleury, see Alfred Van den Brule, Hubert Rohault de Fleury: Le Sacré‐Coeur de Montmartre (1928; repr., Paris: Pierre Téqui, 1995) and Benoist, Sacré‐Coeur.

3 Benoist, Sacré‐Coeur, 1:270–96. See also Jean‐Michel Leniaud, “La loi d’utilité publique,” in Le Sacré‐Coeur de Montmartre: Un Voeu national, ed. Jacques Benoist (Paris: Délégation à l’action artistique de la Ville de Paris, 1995), 79–87.

4 Gabriel Latouche, “La consécration de la basilique du Sacré‐Coeur,” pt. 2, L’illustration 154 (October 25, 1919): 336. See also Benoist, Sacré‐Coeur, 1:397.

5 Auguste Moreau, “Note sur le nouvel Opéra de Paris,” Mémoires et compte rendu des travaux de la Société des ingénieurs civils, 1884, pt. 2:245. See also Christopher Curtis Mead, Charles Garnier’s Paris Opéra (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1991), 197.

6 Legentil’s initial proposal even called for the demolition of the Opéra. See Benoist, Sacré‐Coeur, 1:228, 230–31, 250, and by the same author, “L’Opéra de Paris transformé en Sacré‐Coeur,” Revue de l’art, no. 82 (1988): 75–77.

7 On Abadie, see Musée national des Monuments français, Paul Abadie, architecte, 1812–1884, exh. cat. (Paris: Réunion des musées nationaux, 1988).

8 Rohault de Fleury to Abadie, Chauconin (Seine‐et‐Marne), October 23, 1878 (Rohault de Fleury’s italics, but my translation, as are all others hereafter). Archives du Sacré‐Coeur de Montmartre (ASCM), 22.03. Since September 2000, the Archives Historiques de l’Archevêché de Paris assume custody of the Sacré‐Coeur archives previously housed at the basilica. All references to ASCM point to the original numbering system. The archival research informing this article was made possible by a doctoral fellowship awarded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Council of Canada.

9 Minutes of the Comité de l’oeuvre du Voeu national, November 29, 1876. ASCM, 14.01.

10 Although no archival document attests to the precise origin or contractual arrangements of the commission, circumstantial evidence makes it clear that the initiative was not due to the architect, as might be assumed, but rather to the Committee, which initiated and paid for work orders.

11 On the Delmaet & Durandelle partnership, see Claude Baillargeon, “Religious Fervor and Photographic Propaganda: Durandelle’s Anatomical Studies of the Sacré‐Coeur de Montmartre” (PhD diss., University of California, Santa Barbara, 2002), 58–76. Following the death of Durandelle’s initial partner, Hyacinthe‐César Delmaet (1828–1862), the latter’s wife, Clémence née Jacob (1836–1892), took a leading role in the administration of the partnership. As fate would have it, this proved the beginning of a long‐lasting relationship that culminated in their marriage on April 9, 1885 (Archives de Paris, 5 Mi3 / 1213, entry no. 359).

12 According to the so‐called calepins du cadastre—a type of building‐by‐building census intermittently conducted in nineteenth‐century Paris by the municipal service overlooking direct taxation—the title deed for the business and the lease for its studio then located at 4, rue du Faubourg‐Montmartre, were transferred from Delmaet’s widow to Durandelle in a private agreement (acte sous seing privé) dated August 20, 1875 (Archives de Paris, D.1 P4 / 395, rue du Faubourg‐Montmartre, 1862 series). Despite this transfer of ownership, veuve Delmaet’s only son, Achille‐Paul‐Léonce (1860–1914), remained Durandelle’s chief assistant until at least 1887 (see Henri Rauline to [H. Rohault de Fleury], Vincennes, June 26, 1887. ASCM, 22.02).

13 The sale of the studio to Chevojon, who joined the firm as an apprentice in 1885, is documented in a formal agreement dated July 14, 1890, a copy of which was kindly provided to this author by Albert’s grandson, Bernard Chevojon. Given the evidence suggesting that both Albert Chevojon and Achille Delmaet took photographs bearing the Durandelle imprint, it is practically impossible (with a few exceptions) to sort out the authorship of individual images. For this reason, I favor using the company name Maison Durandelle for all photographs taken by the studio between August 20, 1875 and July 14, 1890 and Maison Durandelle, A. Chevojon, successeur (as the firm was advertised) for those taken afterwards, but prior to September 1, 1903, when Chevojon operated the studio in partnership with his cousin Jean‐Baptiste Dufour (partnership dissolved on May 31, 1907; thereafter, Ancne Maison Chevojon & Dufour, A. Chevojon, successeur).

14 For other accounts of the Sacré‐Coeur commission by this author, see “L’apport de la photographie à la construction,” in Benoist, Sacré‐Coeur: Un Voeu national, 147–55; “Au service de la propagande du Sacré‐Coeur: L’album de travail de Rohault de Fleury,” in Section française de l’Institut international de conservation, L’album photographique: Histoire & conservation d’un objet (Champs‐sur‐Marne, Seine‐et‐Marne: SFIIC, 2000), 77–94, and especially “Religious Fervor and Photographic Propaganda.”

15 Collection Centre Canadien d’Architecture/Canadian Centre for Architecture, Montreal, PH1991:0061:001–165. The authorship of this album was first established by this author in “Au service de la propagande du Sacré‐Coeur.” The argument put forth therein refutes the statement “provenant de la famille Abadie” made in the auction catalog where the album initially appeared (Drouot Richelieu, Paris, Photographies anciennes, cartes postales, livres anciens et modernes, June 23, 1989, lot B).

16 See Minutes, Comité du Voeu national, January 22 and March 6, 1872, October 1 and 15, 1873, and May 5, 1875.

17 Published on a monthly basis 1873–1893, thereafter twice a month. Hereafter cited as BVN.

18 “Avis important,” BVN 3 (March 1878): 113.

19 See “Note pour la rédaction du Bulletin,” in Hubert Rohault de Fleury, ed., Historique de la basilique du Sacré‐Coeur: Pièces et documents, 4 vols. (Paris: F. Levé, 1903–1909), 3:272.

20 “L’album du Voeu national,” BVN 9 (July 1884): 527.

21 On the gillotype engraving process, see Alphonse Davanne, La photographie. Traité théorique et pratique, 2 vols. (Paris: Gauthier‐Villars, 1886–1888), 2:323–36.

22 “D’après nature.” See BVN 7 (January 1882): 32; 7 (December 1882): 728; 11 (June 1886): 368; and Album du Voeu national, vol. 1 (Paris: F. Levé, [1884]), [26].

23 See Maison Durandelle, neg. nos. 94 (June 9, 1883), 102–4 (March 17, 1884), and 105–6 (March 25, 1884). For the corresponding drawings, see “Moyens les plus faciles d’arriver à la chapelle du Voeu national,” BVN 9 (April 1884): 280 and also 375, 431, and 619; BVN, suppl. (May 1884): 6–7; BVN, suppl. (May 1900): 47; as well as six unnumbered plates in Album du Voeu national, vol. 1.

24 See Benoist, Sacré‐Coeur, 1:411–13, and Émile Jonquet, Montmartre autrefois et aujourd’hui, ill. ed. (Paris: D. Dumoulin et Cie/Bureau du sanctuaire, [1891/1892]), 255–72.

25 The Committee’s awareness of this ancient practice was due to the archeologist Georges Rohault de Fleury, Hubert’s brother, who brought attention to it in his publications on medieval Italian architecture. See Rohault de Fleury, Historique, 2:109–13.

26 The costs for individual components are given in Chassaigne de Néronde, “La basilique du Sacré‐Coeur de Montmartre,” Le monde moderne 4 (1896): 861.

27 See “Les trous de louve,” BVN 4 (March 1879): 150–51.

28 Album du Voeu national, 1:[12].

29 Henri Rauline to [Honoré Daumet], Paris, September 25, 1885. ASCM, 14.02 (1885).

30 See Maison Durandelle, neg. nos. 143–46 (September 21, 1885) and nos. 147–52 (September 22, 1885). For the corresponding drawings, see BVN 10 (November 1885): 835; 10 (December 1885): 887; 11 (January 1886): 26; and 15 (February 1890): 93.

31 Used as a means to transfer the outline of a photograph, tracing was Rohault de Fleury’s preferred method to initiate his drawings, which he then fleshed out with pen and ink. Of the 165 albumen prints in his working album, fifty‐nine retain evidence of tracing.

32 “Notre gravure,” BVN 7 (February 1882): 96.

33 “Piliers et colonnes,” BVN 7 (April 1882): 207–9.

34 See, for example, BVN 4 (December 1879): 757; 5 (December 1880): 602; 8 (June 1883): 370; 16 (May 1891): 286–90; and 22 (1897): 321.

35 One can only imagine what Abadie’s response to these sketches might have been as they appear to encroach upon his dominion as chief architect. Such meddling by Rohault de Fleury in architectural matters is symptomatic of the rift that gradually emerged between Abadie and the Committee. The presence of such reworked photographs in Rohault de Fleury’s working album have mistakenly led some observers to attribute their authorship to Abadie. This interpretative error, with its origin in the auction catalog where the album initially appeared (see n. 15) can be found, for instance, in Barry Bergdoll, “A Matter of Time: Architects and Photographers in Second Empire France,” in Malcolm Daniel, The Photographs of Édouard Baldus (New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art; Montreal: Canadian Centre for Architecture, 1994), 119. Bergdoll incorrectly claimed that Durandelle’s photographs “were even worked over by the architect to communicate with the on‐site sculptors, who could follow indications inked directly on photographs of the building’s rising framework to verify the placement of inscriptions and relief decorations.” In light of the evidence presented here and in the author’s doctoral dissertation (see n. 11), this interpretation is no longer sustainable.

36 On the virulent antagonism directed at the Voeu national from a multiplicity of political perspectives, see Rohault de Fleury, Historique, 4:94–101; Benoist, Sacré‐Coeur, 1:433–36, 2:769–878; and Jacqueline Lalouette, “À l’assaut du Sacré‐Coeur!” in Benoist, Sacré‐Coeur: Un Voeu national, 156–65.

37 “La situation,” BVN 22 (1897): 147.

38 BVN 8 (February 1883): 118. See also “Congrès annuel des architectes … Visite à l’église du Sacré‐Coeur, à Montmartre,” Bulletin de la Société centrale des architectes, suppl., 6th ser., 1 (July 1884): 241, and Jonquet, Montmartre, ill. ed., 219.

39 P. Laur, “L’église du Sacré‐Coeur,” pt. 2, L’illustration 84 (August 16, 1884): 103.

40 See L’univers illustré (May 9, August 8, and December 26, 1874), L’illustration (June 26, 1875; June 14, 1890; June 9, 1894; June 12, 1897; and October 21, 1899), Le monde illustré (June 26, 1875; July 17, 1886; June 13, 1891; and June 22, 1918), Le journal illustré (January 16, 1876), Le génie civil (April 18 and October 24, 1885), New York Freeman’s Journal and Catholic Register (November 27, 1897), and La France illustrée (October 28, 1899).

41 “Notre gravure,” BVN 22 (June 1897): 520–21.

42 Samples of halftone leaflets published in 1898 and 1902 are preserved in ASCM, 12.05bis and 14.02 (1902). A third, issued ca. 1906, is located in the Archives Historiques de l’Archevêché de Paris, boîte Sacré‐Coeur, no. 3. A fourth, dated 1910, is described in Benoist, Sacré‐Coeur, 1:402.

43 The first halftone appeared in BVN 17 (February 1892): 71.

44 Halftone reproductions with added figures can be found in Excursion dans les échafauds de la basilique du Sacré‐Coeur (Paris: Devalois, [1895]), Guide officiel du pèlerin dans la basilique du Sacré‐Coeur à Montmartre. Année 1896 (Paris: Bureaux de la basilique, 1896), the leaflet from 1898 cited in n. 42, and “Notre musée. Exposition de nos modèles,” BVN 25 (17 August 1900): 484–85.

45 For a detailed account of these exhibitions, see “Exposing the Sacré‐Coeur” in Baillargeon, “Religious Fervor and Photographic Propaganda,” 326–37.

46 See n. 9 above.

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