L'Ile Saint-Louis ed. Beatrice de Andia and Nicolas Courtin, part of the "Collection Paris et son Patrimoine," Paris, 1997
Reviewed Jan. 10, 1998
Dr. Catherine Healey has given me hours of pleasure and instruction in her gift of a new book on the Ile St. Louis published as part of the series entitled Action artistique de la Ville de Paris. The illustrations are absolutely first-rate; the articles provide remarkable detail and synthesis from the time of the lotissement and Marie projects right down to the demographic shifts in the late 20th century. There is a resonance of Sauval and Blondel here, but also Héron de Villefosse, Babelon, and above all Maurice Dumolin.
The articles on specific residences, streets, churches, and music are all of high quality. What a pleasure it is to find wonderful details about former owners, building contracts, Polish aristocratic life, and so forth. In the U.S. these days there is fear that the (mythical) general reader will be put off by really incredible levels of detail. To mention only some examples, Catherine Cessac's chapter on Elisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre is a superb mise au point--one that could be drafted only after years of research and reflection. Catherine Healey's essay on the Hôtel de Boisgelou is a transparence from the building contract and other documents. It is very moving for me to read the terms of the contract for the porte cochère and then look at the photo of it. What variety there is in Baroque sculpture; the photos of these doorways are a remarkable testimonial to this fact. The articles on the Hôtels de Lauzun and Lambert offer judicious summary to the beginning reader on these subjects, and much new research and reflection. Claude Mignot's article on the architecture of Lambert is a petit chef d'oeuvre; the reader sees through his learned, historicist eyes.