“Mme Gentilhomme à Paris”
This signature, which has long remained obscure or been wrongly attributed, is that of Louise Admirat (Besse 1759-Paris 1829), one of the rare women horologists working in Paris during the first quarter of the 19th century. On the 15 Ventose, year III of the Revolutionary calendar, she married Jean-François Gentilhomme, a merchant of goldsmith’s goods. She and her husband separated on 24 Fructidor, year XIII, at which time she had an establishment in the rue Saint-Honoré (Archives Nationales ET/LIX/404). Monsieur Gentilhomme died in September 1811; upon the sale several years later of a house in the rue du Faubourg Saint-Denis, his widow was mentioned as being a “maker of clocks and novelties merchant”, with a shop located at 71-75, Palais Royal; this was corroborated by J. de la Tynna in 1820 in his Almanach du Commerce de Paris. Madame Gentilhomme died in 1829; her probate inventory states that in December 1824 she remarried; her second husband was Edouard-Jean-Baptiste, Count de Milhaud (1766-1833), a former Napoleonic general. Madame Gentilhomme appears to have been active over a period of approximately fifteen years, from 1805 to 1820. She was known for having worked with some of the most influential collectors of the period. In the probate inventory of Anne-Joseph-Thibault, Count de Montmorency-Fosseux, maréchal des camps et armées du roi, drawn up in January 1819, mention was made of “…a clock bearing the name Gentilhomme à Paris, with gilt dial, in an alabaster case surmounted by a vase…, which was in one of the bedchambers of the Count’s home in Paris.