Faux statues and architectural elements were standard production for French wallpaper manufacturers of the mid to late nineteenth century. In this ornamental paper panel commemorating a monument that commemorates a man, designers Dufour et Leroy have created a remarkably thorough copy of the Column of the Grande Armeé at the Place Vendôme in Paris. Work on the column was started under Napoleon in 1806, and its design was inspired by Trajan’s ancient column in Rome. The Vendôme column commemorates Napoleon’s triumph at Austerlitz. The bronze frieze that winds its way up the monument depicts events from the campaign, and was supposedly made from melted-down enemy cannons. The statue of Napoleon atop the column has been torn down and replaced several times, depending on who was in charge of France. Because of the contemporary nineteenth-century outfit worn by Napoleon in this ornamental panel, we know that Dufour et Leroy are depicting the column as it appeared ca. 1840-1863. The Vendôme column must have been a favorite of the designers, because it is also prominently featured in a Dufour scenic paper called “Monuments of Paris.”
The paper was manufactured by Jules Desfossé, who was active under his own name ca. 1851-1863 before partnering with Hippolyte Karth. Desfosse et Karth continued to print designs by Dufour successfully for many years, printing their ‘Cupid et Psyche’ design as late as 1931. Dessfosse et Karth closed their doors in 1947.
Anna Rasche is a master’s student in the Parsons-Cooper Hewitt History of Design and Curatorial Studies program, and is a Master’s Fellow in the Wallcoverings Department.