Wallpaper is a direct descendant of the elaborate tapestries that hung heavy on the walls of the wealthy since ancient times. Therefore, it is only natural that a significant portion of early wallpaper imagery closely correlates to patterns originally developed for textiles. This woodblock-printed paper is of English manufacture, dates to c.1765 and is clearly referential to the lush brocades favored by well-to-do eighteenth century ladies and gentlemen.
A symmetrical pattern of black vines grow carefully up the panel, sprouting flowers and leaves at strategic intervals. Filling the empty space between the vines, tiny spade-shaped leaves printed in grey and white are arranged to create a bold diaper pattern. Fun fact: when discussing design, “diaper” refers to patterning based on a diamond grid. In this instance, the diapering (don’t laugh!) can be viewed as an abstraction of the texture of the woven textiles from which this wallpaper takes its inspiration. The green ground of the paper itself creates a bright border around the black vines, and gives the panel a happy, lively presence.
Charming as it is, this unused sample may or may not have been installed in a home. It was found at Weikersheim Palace in Wurttemberg, Germany before joining the Cooper Hewitt’s collection in the 1950s. One can only wonder which pattern the occupants of Wurttemberg may have chosen over this attractive English floral.
Anna Rasche is a student in the History of Decorative Arts & Design graduate Program at Cooper Hewitt, and is a Master’s Fellow in the Wallcoverings Department.