Just recently I was told that there was a magnificent carved dragon on a front door in rue Faubourg Saint Nicolas. I'd never noticed it, so quizzed my informant about it. He said it was perfectly visible from the street and was the work of local wood carver, Robert Loyau. Like many of his 20th century contemporaries, Robert had worked at Dennery, the furniture factory that closed in the 1970s.
Preuilly is full of retired wood carvers and cabinet makers. The factory employed several hundred people in its prime. It once supplied furniture to the super rich all over the world (Saudi Arabians found it particularly to their taste apparently). Eventually the factory closed because tastes changed but the style of furniture Preuilly produced didn't. The Preuilly factory furniture was solid, dark, weighty and heavily carved.
Anyway, the door in question turns out to not feature a dragon but a fenghuang, also known as a hoho bird or a Chinese phoenix. I imagine it is a design from a pattern book. There is a long tradition of chinoiserie in Europe, and the fenghuang features widely in many an 18th century wallpaper and printed cotton cloth. It was a motif used by the Chinese in artwork destined for both the domestic and export markets, as well as being adopted by European designers producing homegrown chinoiserie. For more information about this cross cultural exchange see my friend and ex-colleague Emile's blog, Treasure Hunt. Emile is a bit of an expert on this sort of thing (he would modestly deny this, but he is, and beginning to get the recognition he deserves for it).
The door handle is also customised. I didn't like to examine it closely,
but I wondered if it was antler, not wood.
The house is unremarkable apart from the door. And it's for sale.
A la cuisine hier: Chocolate Chestnut Soufflés in our new ring tin, which turned out to be a) not big enough to take all the soufflé mixture and b) the hole in the centre proved to be bigger in diameter than a wine bottle, so I was unable to cool it upside down. I also got four individual soufflés out of it.