At number 37 Quai d’Orsay, which is named after an 18th-century Provost of the Merchants of Paris, stands the façade of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Started in 1844 and completed around 1855, it forms a homogeneous and representative example of the decorative arts of the Second Empire. At the request of the Foreign Minister, François Guizot, the building’s design was entrusted to the architect Lacornée who had been responsible for that of the Palais d’Orsay, which is now demolished.
The first stone was laid on 29 November 1845 in the presence of Guizot, Lacornée and Dumon, Minister of Public Works.
The external decoration was entrusted to sculptors, most of whom had already been involved in building or restoring churches (Notre-Dame de Paris, Saint-Vincent de Paul, etc.) and châteaux (Blois, Saint-Cloud, etc.). Briefly held up by the 1848 revolution, building was resumed at the instigation of Emperor Napoleon III. Once the shell had been completed in 1853, some of the most renowned artists of the time - including Séchan, Nolau and Rubé, Molknecht, Lavigne, Liénard, Hippolyte Adam and the Huber brothers - were called upon for the internal decoration. A mansion which would be receiving foreign sovereigns and diplomats naturally had to welcome them with all the splendour befitting their rank.
Ever since the mid-19th century, these premises have housed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and it is due to this stability for almost a century and a half that the name "Quai d’Orsay" is often used to designate France’s Foreign Ministry.