To a casual observer, Eugène Atget may have seemed like a commercial photographer, making a living documenting architecture for artists, designers, and institutions. Perhaps he had the Bibliothèque Historique in mind as a client for a series of photographs he made of Parisian interiors belonging to people of various social classes. This room was undoubtedly the most luxurious of all, located in an ornate building then serving as the Austrian Embassy.
In this relatively close-up view, Atget focused on a fireplace with an elaborate clock and candelabras on its mantel, and two floral-patterned chairs on either side. The fireplace is filled with a large mirror that reflects a slipcovered couch, and on it, Atget's hat and overcoat. The photographer's tripod-mounted camera is nearby with a black focusing cloth draped over it. These items suggest the image as a kind of self-portrait, although Atget probably did not intend it as such.
Atget was so personally interested in the history of Paris that he spent years documenting the city. As this photograph attests, Atget's work encompassed and transcended both documentation and the seemingly opposing self-expression.