Garnier, Charles. Le nouvel Opéra de Paris. Paris: Ducher, 1878-1881.
The recent transfer of Charles Garnier’s (1825-1898) Le nouvel Opéra de Paris from the Alexander Architectural Archive to the Architecture and Planning Library adds an additional copy of this beautiful title to the library’s special collections. Issued in parts between 1878 and 1881, this publication on the Palais Garnier originally encompassed two volumes of text, two folios of engraved plates, and four atlases of photographs. Blake Alexander’s library only includes one portion of the whole but, luckily, that portion is the folio of twenty sumptuous chromolithographs illustrating the luxurious interior decoration.
Garnier began work on his magnificent Neo-Baroque-inspired building in 1860 (at the young age of 35) when he entered a competition to design a new home for the Académie Nationale de Musique. After winning fifth prize out of 170 entrants in the first stage of the competition, Garnier’s submission for the second phase was ultimately selected for its “rare and superior qualities in the beautiful distribution of the plans” and “the monumental and characteristic aspect of the facades and sections.” Construction began shortly thereafter, although the building would not be completed for another fourteen years due to construction setbacks and the Franco-Prussian War. When the opera house was finally inaugurated in 1875, the lavish gala performance was attended by all of Europe’s most prestigious monarchs.
The first volume of Le nouvel Opéra de Paris was published in 1878 to both celebrate and defend Garnier’s architectural designs. The volume of chromolithographs followed in 1881 and depicts the delicate marbles, frescoes, mosaics, colored tiles, gold sculptures, ornate paintings, and curtains, as well as the ornamentation of the grand staircase.
Library of Congress call number: Coming Soon!