The grandest of Napoleon III's projects was the New Louvre-the construction of wings linking the Louvre and Tuileries Palaces and the clearing of existing buildings in what would become the huge courtyard of the imperial residences. Fullfilling the decades-long dream of various French sovereigns, the New Louvre of Napoleon III sought in a literal way to tie the Second Empire to the noble legacy of Catherine de Medici and Louis XIV.
Baldus, the best architectural photographer of the day, was commissioned to make a visual record of the construction, beginning in 1854. Beyond admirably fulfilling their documentary function, works such as this one are among his most carefully crafted and clearly articulated demonstrations of photography's unparalleled capacity to render the play of light and volume and to record the most intricate details, unmediated by picturesque convention or personal style of draftsmanship.
The façade shown nearing completion in this photograph faces the rue de Rivoli, opposite the Palais Royal, and is now an entrance to the Louvre museum. The passageway through the principal arch leads to the glass pyramid designed by I. M. Pei.