At number 37 Quai d’Orsay in Paris, stands the façade of the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs. Started in 1844 and completed around 1855, it forms a homogeneous and representative example of the decorative arts of the Second Empire.
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At the request of the Foreign Minister, François Guizot, the building’s design was entrusted to the architect Lacornée, who had designed the Palais d’Orsay, today demolished.
The first stone was laid in 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 works resumed at the request of Emperor Napoleon III. Once the structural works 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 enlisted for the interior design. Since the building would receive foreign sovereigns and diplomats, it was essential that they would be welcomed with all the splendour befitting their rank.
Ever since the mid-19th century, these premises have housed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and this hasn’t changed for almost a century and a half – which explains why “Quai d’Orsay” is the name often used to refer to France’s Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs.