Claude d'Urfé's wainscoting as it was around 1557. From the 'deep troubles' of a late 19th century artist-photographer to the recent achievement of a 3D reconstruction
The exquisite panelling we can currently admire in gallery 502 of The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York does not align perfectly with the original 16th century wainscoting commissioned by the French ambassador Claude d’Urfé for his chapel in the Lyon countryside. Due to changes of owner and function over centuries, it has undergone multiple alterations, so that several of its remaining elements have been irreversibly resized or reshaped. This study is mainly intended to present an accurate picture of the appearance of the d’Urfé wainscoting as it was conceived in the mid-1550s. The groundbreaking reconstruction is especially based on the unpublished and overlooked set of photographs devoted to d’Urfé’s chapel taken at the end of the 19th century by Félix Thiollier, a successful French ribbon manufacturer and artist-photographer, eager to preserve as accurate as possible an image of the building, whose Renaissance splendour was on the verge of turning to ruin.