Rosemary Flannery is the author of Angels of Paris: An Architectural Tour through the History of Paris. Over the years, Rosemary and I have talked about our writing and research, and I am thrilled to learn that her book is coming out on November 6th! Rosemary studied French at Columbia and studied Méthodologie de l’Architecture with Professor Claude Mignot, an authority on Parisian building façades, at the Sorbonne. While at Columbia she co-produced and hosted French Encounters, a public-access television program on French culture produced in conjunction with the French Embassy. In 2005 she created and produced “The Art Beat,” a weekly cultural magazine for Paris Live Radio, an internet radio station; several of her programs were picked up by BBC World. She works as a writer, artist, and also gives tours of Paris museums and neighborhoods.
Tell me about Angels of Paris.
My book is about angels in architecture, found all over Paris. I was amazed by all the depictions of angels in architecture, all throughout Paris. The first one I noticed was a giant angel atop a column at the entrance to the Parc Montsouris; then I began to discover them everywhere. I began to photograph them, thinking I would perhaps make cards with photos of angels (I had a card business with scenes of Paris I had designed at that time). But I became intrigued by the different types of angels, and the various artistic periods they reflected. I had the somewhat mystical idea that Paris is protected by angels. They also seemed to be part of the intrinsic beauty of Paris. Little by little angels seemed to fly more and more into my path – sometimes friends pointed out ones they had seen, but mostly I found them myself by looking up, down and all around. Once I went down a ‘wrong’ street and found an angel designed on a door grill. After that I found two others of that type. And I was astonished to find a duo of baby angels holding the seal of Paris, across from the Hotel de Ville!
How long did it take you to gather the photos and to do the research?
I began taking the photos little by little from the 1990′s onwards, and then began seriously photographing them and organizing them sometime around 2008. I thought that perhaps I could organize a photo exhibition in the various mayors’ offices of Paris, and sell photos to raise money while working on the book; I also wanted to make a donation to a childrens’ organization in Paris. But the administration told me that I would have to form an association, which didn’t interest me, and also said that if I wanted to give money away, I should give it to them, to use for their patrimony renovation projects, but it was not what I had in mind at the time! Still, there were wonderful signs along the way nonetheless – one of the persons I met with was named Engel – ‘angel’ in German!