Nicolas Petit (1732-91), maître in 1761.
Nicolas Petit established his workshop in the rue du Faubourg Saint-Antoine in a building named Nom de Jésus. Initially, Petit's production was almost exclusively acquired by fellow ébénistes and marchands, as confirmed by the inventory taken in 1765. The inventory describes eight work-benches and gives the impression of a high volume of activity, though with very few pieces of furniture in stock and an absence of private clients. In the latter part of his career, Petit focused more on his role as a marchand-ébéniste and upon his death his stock totalled no less than 703 pieces of furniture, ranging in value from 5 livres for a small chiffonière, to 900 livres for a secrétaire à
cylindre, illustrating the range he was able to offer to his clients. In his stock were 50 secrétaires à abattant, then known as
secrétaires en armoire. Among his private clients, Petit enjoyed the patronage of the duc d'Orléans, the duc de Bouillon, the princesse de Hesse, the comte de Vergemont and the comtesse de Schacookoy.
Related examples by Petit, include a secrétaire with the same corner mounts featuring the infant Hercules was sold by Ader, Picard & Tajan, Monaco, 17 March 1988, lot 90 (P. Kjellberg, Le Mobilier Français du XVIIIe Siècle, Paris, 2002, p. 698); a further example from the Property of Late Major F.D. Mirrielees was sold Christie's London, 25 June 1959, lot 125. A similar model, from the Collection Erich von Goldschmidt-Rothschild was sold Paul Graupe, Berlin, 24-25 March 1931, lot 166. One belonging to Mrs. A.E. Snapper was sold Sotheby's, London, 17 March 1961, lot 146 and further related examples are illustrated in A. Droguet, Nicolas Petit, 1732-1791, Paris, 2001, pp. 62-92.
This secrétaire was probably inherited by John Pierpont Morgan, Jr., on the death of his father J.P. Morgan in 1913. He also inherited the house at 13 Princes Gate, London, where his father kept most of his collection, which was kept in London partly because of the 1897 U.S. Government Revenue Act, which imposed a 20 percent tariff on imported works of art. The collection encompassed works of art numbering in the thousands, in a wide range of media - from bronzes, porcelain, watches, ivories, and paintings to furniture, tapestries, armour, and ancient Egyptian artifacts as well as rare books, manuscripts, drawings and prints.
Wall Hall, a magnificent gothic revival mansion with a castellated front, was bought in 1910 by J. Pierpont Morgan, Jr. During the Second World War Wall Hall became the residence of the U.S. Ambassador, Joseph Kennedy and later on was used for educational purposes, eventually becoming part of the University of Hertfordshire.