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Work Pair of doors

Department of Decorative Arts: Renaissance

Pair of doors with the cyphers of Henri II and Catherine de Medici

Decorative Arts

Barbier Muriel

This pair of doors belonged to the "Maison Desgranges" in Clermont-Ferrand, which was destroyed between 1870 and 1910. They are adorned with grotesques, leather and the monograms of Henry II king of France and of his wife, Catherine de Medici. These ornaments reveal how quickly the novel forms being developed in the construction of the King's palace at Fontainebleau spread across the country.

Decoration bearing the monograms of Henry II and Catherine de Medici

Each door is carved with a pattern of interlacing geometrical forms alternating rectangular and oval motifs. These are represented in full on the door's center and in halves on the sides. They are filled variously with rose patterns, grotesques of many different sorts or pieces of leather cut into motifs. On the upper part, the interlacing lines form, on the left door, the H and the moon crescent of Henry II, and on the right one, the monograms of the king and of Catherine de Medici associated with three crescents. The monograms and emblems are topped with the royal crown. Ten moon crescents are also carved on each door. A border of dart-and-egg runs around the doors, interrupted in the angles by acanthus foliage.

Decoration representative of the first half of the 16th century

The motifs adorning the two doors associate them with the work created at Fontainebleau or at Anet by Francis Scibec de Carpi between 1539 and 1552. The decorative vocabulary includes a great many grotesques and much use of leather. These doors are also similar to those found in the chapel of Anet (now at the Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris) or in the house of Jean d'Alibert in Orléans (currently in Paris, at the Musée du Louvre), or to those of the rue Neuve in Lyon (Lyon, Musée des Beaux-Arts). Their ornaments are related as well to the bookbinding done in the time of Henry II. These two pieces are thus examples of how quickly the influence of the work done at Fontainebleau spread across the country. Engravings were just then beginning to popularize the novel forms created for the construction of the royal château, while Jacques I Androuet du Cerceau was also publishing his Grands Grotesques and his Second Livre d'Architecture (1556).

The circumstances in which the doors were produced

The presence of the king and queen's monograms on these doors is somewhat surprising. The quality of the craftmanship also intrigued the scholars of the 19th century. The doors are described in 1840 in the 'Statistique Monumentale du Département du Puy-de-Dôme' by Bouillet, and mentioned as well by Daly in 1869 and by Tardieu in 1870-71. However they vanished from descriptions in the early 20th century. The engravings in the aforementioned books show that the monograms were topped with an ironwork grill also decorated with the openwork emblems of Henry II and Catherine de Medici. This grill bore the inscription: "INSOLE-POSUIT/TABERNACULUM.SVVM.PSAL.XVIII" with the year 1557. Taken from a verse in Psalm 18, the inscription translates as "In the heavens He has pitched a tent for the sun". It is part of a hymn to the Divine Law, comparing it to a "sun of justice". The door was probably made at the time of the creation of the Royal Seneschal's Court in Clermont-Ferrand under the reign of Henry II. This was soon after Catherine de Medici, who inherited the claims of her mother Madeleine de la Tour d'Auvergne, was made in 1551 'Dame de Clermont'.


- Nouvelles acquisitions du département des Objets d’art 1990-1994, Paris, 1995, p 98-99.

Technical description

  • Clermont-Ferrand (c. 1557)

    Pair of doors with the cyphers of Henri II and Catherine de Medici

  • Walnut

    H. 1.96 m; W. 0.79 m; D. 0.07 m

  • Gift of Monsieur and Madame Bernard Steinitz, 1990 , 1990

    OA 11279, OA11280

  • Decorative Arts

    Richelieu wing
    1st floor
    François I
    Room 515

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