Seated atop a seemingly wooden structure, we see a beige cherub playing a spiral hunting horn. Following his gaze downward we see, locked in frenzied combat, a large stag and a horde of hunting dogs who contort their bodies in an attempt to complete their violent action. On their right and left are two more cherubs respectively holding a spear and a rope which are items usually associated with the hunt. Looking more closely on the top right and left, flanking the first golden embellishment are two winged creatures that appear to be representations of Chinese dragons. The inclusion of a detail like this evokes the obsession with eastern artistic culture and would serve to highlight the patron’s global taste.
Décor Chasse et Pêche, translating from French to mean Hunting and Fishing Décor, is an apt title for this design, which is part of an elaborate framework of pilasters and architectural borders, with the central theme of hunting and fishing. These Décors, or Fresco Papers as they were called in English, were often used to embellish a room that lacked traditional architectural details. In contrast to the majority of wallpapers that repeat indefinitely over the expanse of a room, decors were designed so they could be expanded or reduced to fit the intended space, so depending on the room’s size and the will of the designer, there could be any number of these ornaments in one chamber. These decorative panels frequently employ the popular artistic technique of “trompe l’oeil” which means to create the illusion of a three-dimensional object on a flat surface. This paper successfully uses the technique through the placement of light and shadow, both on the figures in motion throughout the composition and the outline of the object. Because of its theme of the hunt, this paper was frequently used as a decoration in dining rooms.
Emily Ewen is a student in the History of Design & Curatorial Studies graduate program at the Cooper Hewitt, and is a Master’s Fellow in the Wallcoverings Department.