I love the contrast in this paper by Jacquemart et Bénard between the monochrome neoclassical ornament and the vibrantly-colored animals. This sidewall hovers on the border between the austere Empire style of the first decades of the 19th century and the mid-century taste for highly-detailed, brightly-colored designs. The overall layout of this paper, with its large central medallion flanked on the vertical axis by two smaller lozenge-shaped ornaments, reflects the late 18th-century fashion for “Pompeiian” style wall decoration, inspired by ancient Roman wall paintings. The design may also reflect the persisting influence of Charles Percier, a highly influential architect and designer who worked under Napoleon. His designs were copied by Jacquemart et Bénard in the first decade of the 19th century. However, instead of the austere classical profiles, landscapes, or Roman gods often seen in his neoclassical medallions, the designers have opted for more sentimental imagery of squirrels, fruit, butterflies, and necklaces which suited later taste. The complex shading and bright colors reflect the sophistication of French wallpaper production at this time but also distinguishes the sidewall from earlier Empire-style examples which favored bolder colors and shadows.
The firm of Jacquemart et Bénard was founded by Pierre Jacquemart and Eugène Balthasar Crescent Bénard de Moulinières in 1791. During its first year of collaboration, it printed the papers of Jean-Baptiste Réveillon, the premier wallpaper designer working during the last years of the Ancien Regime and the first years of the French Revolution. Réveillon eventually passed his business entirely to the firm in 1892 just before he left for the United States to escape the Revolution. Jacquemart et Bénard continued to work under the Revolutionary government, fulfilling many official commissions. The firm was most successful between 1790-1810, when it employed around 250 employees and won several medals in government-held expositions. Jacquemart died in 1809, but the firm continued to produce wallpapers until 1840.