MALLET, DENIS, master wood-carver and carpenter; son of Louis-Denis Mallet and Renée Padouillet, originally from the parish of Notre-Dame in Alençon, diocese of Laix (France); interred 1 Nov. 1704 in Montreal.
It is not impossible that Mallet came to Canada at the same time and in the same circumstances as Lajoüe, with whom he shared a house in 1692. We have no clue as to his age, but we may suppose that he was in his twenties when he arrived around 1688. On 14 Oct. 1695 at Quebec he contracted to marry Marie-Madeleine Jérémie, daughter of Noël Jérémie*, by whom he had three children who died at an early age. On 10 Nov. 1699 at Sainte-Foy he remarried, his second wife being Geneviève Liénard, and went to live at côte Saint-François-Xavier. Two daughters and a son were born of this marriage, all of whom attained adulthood.
The earliest of Mallet’s known contracts was that by which he undertook to build a tabernacle ten feet wide and seven feet high, canopy included, for the sum of 600 livres, This contract, dated 24 Dec. 1693, which was concluded before Frontenac [Buade*], the protector of the Recollets, for whom the work was intended, specified that the tabernacle “will be movable . . . and that in place of the roof of the tabernacle there will also be a niche consisting of three angels holding up a royal crown, and that he will also make five figures for the niches in the said tabernacle.” The tabernacle for the main altar of the church at L’Ange-Gardien, which is preserved in the provincial museum at Quebec and which was done at the same period by Jacques Leblond de Latour, no doubt permits us to visualize the work by Mallet, which has disappeared. It is not until 1700 that we again find a mention of Mallet practising as a wood-carver; at that time he carved a lion to decorate a Montreal merchant’s bark.
The following year he ran foul of the law. He was sentenced and imprisoned, along with the notary Genaple, a former carpenter, for disrespect and failure to obey the authorities. He had, in fact, given expression a little too noisily to his desire to undertake a trip to the Mississippi region without waiting for the governor’s permission. Worn out, perhaps by his misfortunes or by a malady contracted during a recent escapade, he died in November 1704 in Montreal, far from his wife, who was then in France. In the inventory of his belongings are listed “twelve small tools used in wood-turning, some old mortise chisels for carpentry work . . . of little value in all.” It is on this quiet note that Mallet’s career, which we have difficulty in following, comes to a premature end. It must, however, have left its mark on contemporary wood-carving at Quebec; indeed, during a lawsuit with the Jesuits, the testimony rendered in his favour by Juconde Drué and Leblond, two important figures in Canadian art, proves the significance of his role.
Mallet’s activity corresponded to the period when the Jesuit and Recollet monasteries were being built and decorated, and was limited in great part to those programmes, of which we know very little. Undoubtedly he spent the rest of his time on day-to-day carpentry work and minor wood-carving orders; his role as a teacher at Saint-Joachim is hypothetical and not very likely. Richard Short*’s views of the interiors of the Jesuit and Recollet churches and the panels in the Quebec museum attributed to Mallet show the extent to which decorating was carried on in New France and prove that this art stands comparison with that in France from which it descended.
AJQ, Greffe de Louis Chambalon, 10 mai 1694; Greffe de François Genaple; Greffe de Florent de La Cetière, 13 mai 1705; Greffe de Guillaume Roger, 14 oct. 1694, 9 nov. 1699. IOA, Dossier Mallet. Jug. et délib., IV, 478; V. Morisset, La peinture traditionnelle au C.f., 28. J.-E. Roy, Histoire du notariat, I, 124.