As always, Click to Enlarge
Nice painting? Folky, eh? But it is wallpaper. Circa 1850 and hand-printed with carved blocks. I removed it carefully from the frame to show the detail, and as you can see portions of the chalky original paint now cling to the glass, but fortunately the paper slides easily and nothing sticks or tears. It is in remarkable condition considering the age and scarcity. Framing it preserved it, had it not been protected it would be in fragments if it existed at all.
Wallpaper has an interesting history. Most historians (who are few and far between) agree the origins lie in attempts to reproduce hanging tapestries in a less expensive form. Hand blocks gave way to machine rolling prints later on.
In block printing, the carved wood was covered with paint and sections carefully applied. Repetitive patterns on this piece illustrate the technique and also indicate why it is not a painting...note highlights a bit out of place and the repeating motifs in the lower border.
Today, most 19th century (and earlier) wallpaper exists only in box form...carefully applied to hat boxes and bandboxes for decoration, they are highly collectible. In fact, wallpaper was made expressly for the containers around the middle of the century.
Figural and garden scenes, in particular those as folky as this are most unusual. It may be that as they were designed for children's rooms and decoration, fewer survive. I selected two examples of early boxes covered with 19th century wallpaper from the website of Antique Associates at West Townsend as illustrative examples. Good ones!
Wallpaper scene, circa 1840 9" x 15" Collection Jim Linderman
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