Knob for a French Window, ca. 1770
Pierre Gouthière (1732–1813)
After a design by Claude-Nicolas Ledoux (1736–1806)
Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris
Gouthière made this knob for one of the most lavish French eighteenth century buildings, the pavilion of Louveciennes, designed by the architect Claude-Nicolas Ledoux for Madame Du Barry, Louis XV’s mistress. Although the pavilion can no longer be viewed in its original splendor — the interior decoration was removed and sold to various collectors after the French Revolution — rare elements like this knob made for its Salon en Cul-de-Four, as well as Jean-Honoré Fragonard’s four panels depictingThe Progress of Love, painted for the same room and now in The Frick Collection, attest to the building’s former glory.
Each myrtle leaf, a symbol of the goddess Venus, is rendered in unique detail, forming an extraordinary lacework of leaves that contrasts with the smooth surface of the interlinked D and B of the royal mistress’s initials. The knob alone confirms the recollection of the painter Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun, who, reflecting on her time spent in Du Barry’s residence decades earlier, wrote: “the locks [at Louveciennes] could be admired as masterpieces of the goldsmith’s art.”