On the Quai d’Orsay (No. 37), named after a seventeenth 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, 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 non-religious buildings (châteaux de Blois, de 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 on for the internal decoration. Indeed, a mansion destined to receive foreign sovereigns and diplomats had to welcome them with all the splendour due to their rank.
Ever since then, i.e. the mid nineteenth century, these premises - which over the years have seen only a small amount of restoration and a few extensions - have housed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which is why the name "Quai d’Orsay" is often used to designate France’s Foreign Ministry.