Superb Louis XV bois satiné and ormoulu rouet à filer. The instrument was used to mechanically twist strands of wool, linen or silk and wind the resulting thread onto a spool.
The exceptional ormoulu parts of the rouet consist of a large wheel, operated by a crank, whose “spokes” consist of pairs of C-form scrolls arranged to form S-form scrolls terminating in shell motifs crowned with floral sprays near the hub. They are connected at the rim by pairs of “S”-form scrolls joined by ribbon arches crowned with floral sprays. Each floral spray seems a slightly differing composition. The wheel is raised on reticulated ormoulu brackets composed of similar scrolls and large shell motifs. With double chords, the wheel connects to a spool with a curved metal comb for winding and twisting the thread at the same time. A hinged ormoulu extension arm is provided with an abalone-form receptacle with a hook to hold a piece of moistened sponge and a [replaced] wooden rod surmounted by an ormoulu crescent designed to hold the raw thread material. There is an ormoulu knob at the end used to move the spool assembly in order to adjust the tension of the chords. The ormoulu components are raised on an ormoulu rimmed oval tray veneered in bois satiné. [A small patched hole is visible on the underside of the tray with consequent reveneering to the top. This probably held a device for fastening the rouet to a table top. Replaced wood rod for the ormoulu crescent.]
This is probably the most elaborate and beautiful rouet known. The closest in quality is in the Musée des arts décoratifs in Paris. The two pieces are almost certainly from the same workshop since the wheels seem identical. (The Musée des arts décoratifs rouet is illustrated in Pierre Verlet’s Les Bronziers Français du XVIIIième Siècle. Nº 187. Verlet also illustrates a small ormoulu frame which belonged to Madame de Pompadour [Nº 186] that could be from the same workshop.)
Another, simpler version with the same wheel is in The Danish Museum of Art and Design (Kunstindustrimuseet).
Many 18th century images of beautifully dressed women in elegant rooms using such tools exist - for example this portrait of Marie-Christine, Marie-Antoinette's sister.