This photograph shows the four flights of a spiral staircase seen from the top. The landings have checkerboard-patterned floors. The structure is supported by stacked white columns seen on the right.

Jules-Ernest Livernois

(Saint-Zéphirin-de-Courval, Quebec, 1851 – Québec City 1933)


Le grand escalier du Grand Séminaire, Québec

[The Central Staircase, Grand Séminaire, Québec City]

about 1885

Silver gelatin print

11.4 x 19.3 cm

Gift from the Yves Beauregard collection, 2014

Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec collection, 2014.115.13

Le grand escalier du Grand Séminaire [The Central Staircase, Grand Séminaire, Québec City] is part of a series of photographs that document the venerable religious training institution. The cast-iron modular staircase, then a state-of-the-art feat of engineering, was hailed as a jewel of modern architecture. Jules-Ernest Livernois shot this photograph from a high angle that combines with the tight framing to accentuate the scale of the staircase. The avant-garde style and the textural play that lends the space a geometric quality mirror the modernity of the architecture.

In 1873, when he was just twenty-two, Jules-Ernest Livernois took over the Québec City photography studio founded by his father, Jules-Isaïe Benoît dit Livernois (1830-1865). Operating from 1854 to 1974, the Livernois studio was in business longer than any other photography firm in Quebec. In addition to producing portraits, Jules-Ernest Livernois developed a practice in documentary, or reportage photography, which afforded him greater creative freedom. He focused in particular on documenting the architecture of Québec City and the colonization of outlying regions facilitated by the railway.


179 Grande Allée West
Québec (Quebec), G1R 2H1
418 643-2150 »
Google Maps »