Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons (Patrick Janicek)
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A mere ten years after Haussmann's death a new building was unveiled on avenue Rapp that would have caused him to recoil in horror. Jules Lavirotte, an architect who had sold his soul to the diabolical exuberance of Art Nouveau, turned an empty plot into a vision worthy of Gustave Moreau’s fever dreams of sinuous altars and pagan sensuality. Glazed tiles covering the uppermost portion of the building’s façade gave it an exotic, Moorish air, but its massive sculpted doorframe was its most arresting feature, a frieze of arched and twisted vegetation from which naked bodies emerged, culminating in a stately bust poised dead-centre over the entrance whose serene, androgynous face invited those passing beneath it to adopt a hushed, reverential pose.