18th century
Wrought iron, polychromed.
Réunion des Musées Métropolitains, Rouen, Normandy, LS.4513
© Agence La Belle Vie – Nathalie Landry

Grilles made for windows, transoms, gates, and other architectural voids compose another large category of wrought iron within the collection of the Musée Le Secq des Tournelles. These objects, which allow light and air circulation while offering security against intrusion or protection from falls, were ubiquitous on buildings prior to the advent of industrial materials, including window glass. The contrast between the strength and durability of the material and the airy, often delicate lines and scrolls that form the composition gives these works a presence that hovers between the sculptural and the graphic.
Grilles provided decorative detail on the facades and interiors of buildings without overwhelming or obscuring the material of the building itself. The grilles selected for The Art of Iron encompass a wide array of periods, styles, and shapes. A beautiful eighteenth-century Italian grille that may have been part of a chapel divider creates a lively pattern by means of scrolls and spirals, enhanced by surface paint in yellow, red, and green. The importance of scrollwork in grille construction is affirmed by many of the objects in this section of the exhibition.
Taken in isolation, these objects assert their decorative yet functional identities and challenge us to consider what otherwise might appear to be minor details on larger structures. Such wrought-iron accoutrements can still be found on facades, doorways, and interiors on buildings across numerous European and American cities. Although not as prevalent as in centuries past, wrought iron continues to punctuate the built environment—we need only take the time to look and observe to discover its enduring presence.