In the foreground of this elegant French dado two armless caryatid figures, looking as though they escaped from the Erechtheion, are realistically rendered as carved gray stone. The industrious ladies are placed between green capitals, and appear to hold up the weight of the wall above them. The repeated duos are placed in front of a pink marble wall, upon which are mounted pairs of fantastical creatures with the bodies of lions, necks of sea-monsters and wings of dragonflies. The beasts peacefully munch away on green, pineapple-like plants that grow from ornate vessels. The top and bottom edges of the dado are finished with tidy foliate borders in gray or green. Prominent shading gives the illusion of three-dimensionality and depth to the printed architectural features. The intricate design was block-printed, a labor intensive process meaning this wall covering would have been quite expensive when it was originally produced.

This dado was most likely manufactured during the Bourbon Restoration period of French history (1814 -1830). Aristocrats who had been exiled since the revolution were able to come home, and with their return trends in decor moved away from the heavy pomp favored by Napoleon towards a more delicate aesthetic. The taste for Neoclassical motifs continued through the 1830s, but the overall feel was much softer. Instead of intensely saturated colors and gilding, here the manufacturer chose light pastel pinks, greens and gray. Instead of projecting military might, the faces of the caryatids are friendly and non-threatening, as if welcoming the old nobility back to France. After all, who else would be able to afford such a fancy wallpaper?

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *