There are a number of wallpapers in the museum collection produced during the French Revolution period, but this is the only border paper. The design contains numerous symbols of the Revolution. There are two medallions, each framed in scalloped tricolor ribbons. The top medallion contains Hercules, sitting on a stool with his club and lion pelt, trying to bend fasces. The second medallion contains a cock, standing at attention and very alert. I want to point out the orange highlights on each of these which give them the look of bronze, and they glow when shown against the light blue background. There is a similar effect with the white highlights on the tricolor ribbons, where that little sparkle creates the appearance of satin. The medallions are separated by a pair of crossed pikes with a cockade at their center, framed in oak and laurel leaves. Running down the sides are columns of fasces wrapped in tricolor ribbons. The French Revolution papers I have seen are all beautifully designed and printed and would definitely garner attention and respect.

The citizens of France felt that the Revolution could only be won if their ideals became part of the ordinary citizen’s everyday life. To reinforce these new ideals, they wanted to create a new republican identity so began using symbols  of the Revolution to adorn personal items such as clothing & furnishings. The repetitive aspect of wallpaper made it an ideal medium for portraying these motifs. These Revolution-era papers were designed for public buildings where they would receive maximum exposure.

Greg Herringshaw is the Assistant Curator in Wallcoverings

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