Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin College

The Human Comedy: Chronicles of 19th-Century France

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Charles Marville (French, 1816–1879) Rue Fresnel de l'impasse de Versailles (Rue Fresnel, as seen from the Versailles cul-del-sac), 1865–69 Vintage albumen print from a wet collodion glass negative Oberlin Friends of Art Fund, 2011.18

When professional photographer Charles Marville took this shot of a narrow, winding street in the heart of Old Paris, he knew that this quaint old cobblestoned street was about to disappear forever and that its inhabitants—notice the woman leaning out of the second story window—would likely be relocated elsewhere. A wider, straighter street would soon be cut through the heart of this old neighbor-hood, and new stone-clad buildings of uniform height and architectural style would be built on the site of these crumbling relics.

Marville had been commissioned by Baron Haussmann to document the neighborhoods of Old Paris that were sched-uled for demolition. Marville took more than 400 photo-graphs, which were published in 1865 under the title L’Album du vieux Paris, or Album of Old Paris. Many of Marville’s photographs combine fine archival detail and documentary value with an eerily poetic or lyrical quality.