For the past couple days, I’ve had the pleasure of working with a French scholar doing research on the Parisian wallpaper manufacturer Jules Desfosse and later, Desfosse & Karth. We went through the museum holdings of wallpapers by this design firm and saw some really beautiful pieces. Jardin d’Hiver stands out as one of the best of the best.

Jardin d’Hiver, or Winter Garden, is a view of a conservatory garden filled with glorious flowers and exotic foliage. The viewer looks over a lush, densely packed flower bed through vine-wrapped columns and window mullions to see a view of distant mountains. This type of wall treatment is called a decor and is composed of multiple pieces that come together to form this one scene. The focus of this blog is the dado panel, shown at the bottom of the inserted image. The full set, as shown in the illustration, contains five different papers, with some employed more than once. The other panels include the floral border running along the top, the vine-wrapped columns, the fill paper with the mullioned sky and mountains, and a separate panel for the potted yuccas.

Jardin d’Hiver [Winter Garden] , Musée des Arts Décoratifs; photo: Jean Tholance

We spent a good amount of time examining this dado which stands over three feet high. Each bloom is printed in as many as seven colors, creating a wonderful trompe l’oeil effect. The full set is printed in a total of 381 different colors. To increase the realism, the leaves are printed in varying shades of greens and brown, while the blooms are shown at different life stages, from tiny buds to full blooms ready to start dropping petals.

Unfortunately, given the size of many of these different panels, it was not possible to view them all assembled forming a scene. But even viewing the individual parts makes one appreciate the artistry and craftsmanship that go into creating this beautiful respite from winter.

Greg Herringshaw is the Assistant Curator for Wallcoverings.

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