This design consists of five different structures of ancient Rome, including some of the more well-known ruins such as the Colosseum, the Pantheon, and the Roman Forum. All of the structures are seen in silhouette, as are the peculiar cast of characters patrolling them. Appearing in front of each structure are Roman soldiers either on foot, horseback, or riding in a chariot. Both the figures and the structures are highly stylized, while the figures appear as caricatures. The design is printed in two colors on a pale yellow silk ground.
Each of the colors is printed to suggest a linoleum block or rubber stamp print, or possibly the appearance of much wear or abrasion, as one would expect to find on an “ancient” artifact. The Museum collection contains several other wallpaper designs by Hawking for Denst & Soderlund that have a similar appearance, giving his designs a handcrafted look, with a certain elegance.
Clarence Hawking is a graphic artist who joined the firm of Denst and Soderlund in 1951 as one of the chief designers. He remained with the company for a number a years and designed many wallpapers including both repeating patterns and murals. Denst and Soderlund was a Chicago-based company active from 1947-1961 who became known for their stylish and trendy wallpapers. John R. Denst (Jack) and Donald K. Soderlund both graduated from the Art Institute of Chicago in 1946 and founded their partnership the following year. The partners remained together until 1961 when Denst set out on his own and founded Jack Denst Designs. After landing a major job with the Desert Inn in Las Vegas, the company began receiving orders from set designers and one of the Jack Denst wallpapers was used in the 1971 thriller “Play Misty for Me.” Denst became known for the whimsical names he gave his designs, which intrigued the producers of “What’s My Line” enough to invite him to appear on their show in the early 1960s.