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A Knockout Success! Exceptional Door-Knockers for Fontaine Art Locksmiths in 1925

18 February – 21 May 2023

In parallel to the Aristide Maillol: The Quest for Harmony exhibition, the Roubaix museum is taking a closer look at an exceptional commission in which the artist participated. In 1925, Fontaine & Cie, a family-run art locksmiths and decorative hardware company, founded in 1740, was managed by brothers Henri-Xavier and Lucien Fontaine. They decided to call upon several renowned sculptors to modernise their products and develop a prestigious range for a wealthy and sophisticated elite. Maison Fontaine had its own pavilion at the International Exhibition of Modern Decorative and Industrial Arts which was held in Paris between 28 April and 25 October 1925. It showcased “functional” objects (decorative hardware in iron and bronze, carved, gilded or silver-plated – lock plates, doorknobs, cremone bolts, espagnolettes, lever handles, key pulls and door plates), as well as “entirely decorative bronze pieces, which may be considered sculptural artworks”. With this in mind, the company asked four master sculptors, Antoine Bourdelle, Joseph Bernard, Aristide Maillol and Paul Jouve, each to create a door-knocker inspired by Paduan or Venetian foundries.

Two of these knockers were already part of La Piscine’s modern sculpture collection: in 2018, the Musée Bourdelle in Paris, loaned an example of Medusa’s Head, cast by Rudier, on a long-term basis and La Piscine purchased Joseph Bernard’s gilded bronze The Acrobats in 2020, displaying it in the decorative arts section of the exhibition dedicated to the sculptor in summer 2021. These two bronzes, which are usually shown in a display case featuring the 1925 exhibition, are now being reunited with the design by Aristide Maillol, sand cast by Florentin Godard and loaned by the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris, as well as the knocker sculpted by Paul Jouve (on loan from Maison Fontaine).

Underlining these sculptors’ interest in the decorative arts and the popularity of sculpture in contemporary private interiors, this exhibition-dossier will finally offer an opportunity to highlight the industrialist Henri Fontaine (1882-1948) (whose portrait by Édouard Vuillard is on long-term loan from Musée d’Orsay to the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Lille). It was Fontaine who, in 1895, at the recommendation of Bourdelle, ordered the bust of La Petite Châtelaine in its version “with loose hair” from Camille Claudel which was acquired by the Roubaix museum in 1996.

General Committee: Alice Massé and Bruno Gaudichon

The design was made possible thanks to generous support from the paints distributed by Tollens.

See also