The Wallace Collection

The Wallace Collection, A Family Collection, A National Museum, An International Treasure House
  • Secretaire
  • Pierre-Antoine Foullet (c. 1732)
  • France
  • c. 1777
  • Oak, veneered with panels of pictorial marquetry in holly, box, stained sycamore, pear wood, walnut, sycamore, tulipwood, gilt bronze, Carrara marble, box, amaranth and satiné
  • Object size: 149 x 109.5 x 43.5 cm
  • Inscription: 'foulet' Engraved
    Label: Printed letterhead with the arms of d'Hane-Steenhuyse
    Inscription: 'F. Feser Hall Barn 1943'
  • F299
  • West Gallery II
Images & Media
Further Reading
  • Unusually, this secretaire bears the signature in wood marquetry of the cabinet-maker who made it - Pierre-Antoine Foullet. The pictorial marquetry of the drop-front and the medallions on the bottom two cupboard doors is characteristic of work by him, and he appears to have used as his source two publications of engravings showing neo-classical designs: Jean-Charles Delafosse's 'Quatrième Livre de Trophées contenant divers attributs pastorals' (published 1776 or 1777) for the drop-front and Alexis Peyrotte's 'Premier Livre de Trophées' (before 1776). The marquetry depicts a scene of classical architecture, some of it in ruins, against a landscape of trees and sky. Originally this would have been very colourful, with the sky a deep blue made from stained sycamore. The marquetry in the bottom section includes a basket of roses, a swag of roses, pansies and other flowers, and two classical trophies depicting attributes of war and engineering. The gilt-bronze mounts add further to this feeling of military association, with two helmeted cuirasses (antique-style body armour) supporting a shield with a coat of arms and underneath a lion's head evoking the strength and might of Hercules. Other classical motifs include a Vitruvian scroll in a frieze along the top, laurel leaves, and two classically-draped female busts mounted on the corners. The heaviness of the mounts and trophies harks back to the French classicism of the late seventeenth century rather than the refined neo-classicism of the 1780s.
    We do not know when the 4th Marquess of Hertford bought this secretaire, but earlier in the nineteenth century it was in the possession of the d'Hane-Steenhuyse family in Ghent, and it is the coat of arms of this family that is depicted on the drop-front, presumably added when the piece came into their ownership. We do not know for whom it was originally made.