In the 1830s, while Parisian porcelainiers and decorators continuated to create models which immortalize the neo-classic vocabulary, Jacob Petit (1796-1868) faced the tradition and proposed objects of a great variety of styles and decoration. This surprisingly extravagant production wich appeared when the art of the porcelain felt into the industry, known a real success and boosted the porcelain trade.
Born in Paris in 1796, Jacob Mardouché called Petit according to the patronymic of his wife, Anne Adelaïde Petit, studed painting in Antoine Jean Gros's workshop. In 1820, he was qualified porcelain manufacturer, then he made several journeys in Italy, Switzerland and Germany, before settling down a few years in England where he studied various industries and painted stage sets.
Back in France in 1830-1831, Jacob Petit published an important interior design collection composed by hundred drawings depicting models of vases, furniture, chairs, silvers and bronze objects where the previous styles were present, with an obvious preference for Antiquity and Gothic style. After a short period at Sèvres, he opened a small workshop in Belleville. His succes was fast and spectacular and in 1833 he bought the porcelain factory of Baruch Weil at Fontainebleau. The factory was appreciated by Louis XVIII, Charles X and the duchess of Berry. He also possessed a decoration workshop in Paris, 26 Bondy street.
In 1846 he and his partner Nicolas Moriot, painter at the royal factory of Sèvres, opened in the same city a small porcelain manufactory. Five years later, he moved his Fontainebleau factory to Avon and in 1862 sold it to one of his employees, Etienne Jacquemin.
Jacob Petit's manufactory was one of the most famous between 1830 and 1860 and its production was rich and varied. After 1838, it produced ornamental objects only: flasks, perfume bottles, clocks, perfume burner, paperweights, vases, candlesticks and small statues.
From 1834, Jacob Petit presented at the Industrial Exhibitions, then to the World Fairs, some remarkable objects and their technical innovations brought him many official awards. However, the accumulation of previous styles was appreciated by the amateurs. It is an eclectic work where we can find alone or associated Gothic "troubadour", Renaissance, Neoclassicism and Rococo styles along with the Far and Middle East decorations: Chinese, Arabic wars and odalisques.
Besides, the foreign influences are visible in Jacob Petit's work thanks to his journeys abroad, in Saxe in particular. He studied there an unusually exuberant Rococo, that he imposed afterward to his contemporaries in France. Indeed, during the Romantic period, this artist with unbridled imagination creates those "strange" rocaille forms easily recognizable on the Paris porcelain scene. The rococo patterns decorate angles, domed and plane surfaces. The animated forms, the high reliefs but also the foliated branches, birds, flames, flowers and fruits compose a luxuriant decoration, completely different of the sober patterns inspired by the classic art. Clocks are particularly representative of this new taste and our mantel clock richly decorated with polychrome flowers, rocaille and scrolling foliage offer a fine exemple of the Saxon Rococo influence.
One of Jacob Petit's successes were the "snowball" vases, glory of Meissen from 1730 to 1750. Jacob Petit gave his imagination free rein and created small vases, completely covered with tiny, white flowers executed with a meticulous care.
Profoundly influenced by the Saxon porcelain, he also made small, polychrome statues representing different characters of Louis XV and Saxony courts, musicians, shepherds and shepherdesses, orientals and animals. These ornamental figurines have sometimes an utilitarian function hiding ingeniously flasks, inkwells, paperweights or matchbox.
Inspired by the XVIIIth century painters and decorateurs, Jacob Petit used for his decorations the same bright colors. The polychrome relief flowers and scenes animated with characters caming from different countries and periods are higtened by the black, turquoise blue, bright green or amaranthine backgrounds. The liveliness of colors is completed by the exuberance of the gilding.
The successful models invented by Jacob Petit were frequently imitated. Indeed, he used to sold his « blancs » to the decorators and traders in France and abroad.
After two centuries, the work of this porcelainier appears as a production strongly marked by the Romanticism with the triumph of the imagination, feeling, fantaisy and "exotic through the time" according to Théophile Gautier's statement quoted in the Goncourt Journal. Inspired by all that he admired in his journeys, then mixing previous styles, Jacob Petit nevertheless created a very personal, easily recognizable style.