John Pelletier

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John (Jean)[1] Pelletier (fl. ca 1681 – 1704) was a French Huguenot[2] carver and gilder, who emigrated from Paris, where he had trained, and worked in London. He provided high-style Baroque furniture for the court of William and Mary, specializing in carved, gessoed and gilded furniture of the highest quality. He was also employed in providing carved and gilded picture and looking-glass frames and in gilding the work of other carvers.[3]

After John Pelletier's death in 1704, his sons René and Thomas continued the workshop until they split in 1711, René pursuing a second career as a mounter of drawings, and Thomas, who was appointed cabinetmaker in ordinary to Queen Anne in 1704, as an auctioneer.[4] Tessa Murdoch suggests,[5] from Jean Pelletier's shaky handwriting in 1702, that he was already working in a supervisory capacity at that date.


With his wife and their son, René and infant son Thomas (born 1680), Jean Pelletier emigrated from France in the period of increasing intolerance that led up to the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes, 1685. By December 1681 he was briefly in Amsterdam, where he became a member of the Huguenot church; the following 8 March he applied for denization in London, giving him legal status as an English citizen. His son René followed him in 1688.

Pelletier's name first appears in the English Lord Chamberlain's accounts in 1690; during William III's reign he supplied the Crown with carved and gilded table frames, stands, screens and mirrors.[6] Two sets of candlestands at Hampton Court Palace are attributed to him on the evidence of his accounts in 1699/1700 and 1701:

1699/1700 For carving and guilding [sic] six pairs of large stands at £30 per pair— £180.
1701[7] For carving and guilding two pairs of large stands— £70

A firescreen en suite is securely attributed to Pelletier.[8] A pair of carved and gilded candlestands in the same style are in the collection at Temple Newsam, Leeds.[9] The pairs of tall torchères, intended to flank pier tables owe their inspiration to the solid silver furniture of Louis XIV's Galerie des Glaces at Versailles.

Pelletier supplied over £600 worth of furnishings for the State Apartments at Hampton Court, 1699-1702.[10] Three pairs of carved and gilded side tables at Windsor castle, long attributed to the royal cabinetmaker Benjamin Goodison and dated circa 1730 have been re-attributed to Pelletier, 1699, by Tessa Murdoch, who noted their similarity to contemporary cabinet stands at Versailles engraved by Pierre Lepautre.[11]

John Pelletier's name also appears in the accounts of Ralph Montagu, 1st Duke of Montagu, William III's Master of the Wardrobe for supplying carved and gilded frames for Montagu House, Bloomsbury, London, from 1698 to his death in 1704.[12] Montagu had served as Charles II's ambassador to the court of Louis XIV, and his own taste was distinctly French Baroque.


  1. ^ Pelletier signs his will Jean; the will, made out in 1702, is preserved in the Greater London Record Office AM/PW 1704 6a.
  2. ^ Always assumed, his Huguenot status is demonstrated in the registers of the Huguenot church of the Savoy, London, December 1715, where the baptism of his grandson Jean Anthoine, son of René and Marie Catherine Pelletier, is recorded (Huguenot Society Quarto Series 26, 1922 p. 36, noted by Tessa Murdoch, "Jean, René and Thomas Pelletier, a Huguenot Family of Carvers and Gilders in England 1682-1726. Part I", The Burlington Magazine 139 No. 1136 (November 1997), pp. 732–742, note p. 732; this detailed article supersedes all previous references.
  3. ^ Murdoch 1997.
  4. ^ Their separate later careers are discussed by Tessa Murdoch in "Jean, René and Thomas Pelletier, a Huguenot Family of Carvers and Gilders in England 1682-1726. Part II", The Burlington Magazine 140 No. 1143 (June 1998), pp. 363–374.
  5. ^ Murdoch 1997, p. 733.
  6. ^ John Fleming and Hugh Honour, Dictionary of the Decorative Arts 1977, s.v. "Pelletier, John"; Ralph Edwards and Margaret Jourdain, Georgian Cabinet-makers revised ed., 1955, p 35, and pls. 1-4; Geoffrey Beard and Christopher Gilbert, Dictionary of English Furniture-Makers 1660-1840 (1986), s.v. "Pelletier, John"..
  7. ^ Under a warrant, 25 October 1701, for furnishing "the new gallery" (the Queen's Gallery)
  8. ^ Illustrated Edwards and Jourdain fig. 4
  9. ^ Christopher Gilbert, Furniture at Temple Newsam House and Lotherton Hall, 1978, vol. II, cat. no 352, "in the style of John Pelletier".
  10. ^ The documents are printed in Murdoch 1997, Appendix, documents III and V.
  11. ^ Le Pautre, Livres de Tables qui sont dans les apartemens du Roy sur les quelles sont posée les Bijoux du Cabinet des Médailles Murdoch 1997, p 735 and note 22, one illustrated fig.5; Murdoch supports her reattribution by comparison with a Pelletier table from Montagu house now at Boughton (her fig.4).
  12. ^ The dates 1708-10 noted in Edwards and Jourdain 1955 confuse his activities with those of his sons; the surviving furniture from Montagu House is at Boughton House, Northamptonshire.