Friday 31 October 2014

Wallpaper: More making wallpaper....

Here is a marvellous video from the website of Zuber & Cie showing wallpaper manufacture according to methods in use the end of the 18th century.  Founded in 1792 at Rixheim in Alsace, Zuber is famous for its panoramic wallpapers. The company's vast archive of samples forms the basis of the Musée du papier peint which was set up in 1982. In addition they possess no less than 150,000 original wooden blocks from 1797-1830, which are still regularly used for  the manufacture of fine papers.

Zuber are still in business and they really don't want images of their papers reproduced, so I won't;  there are loads on their website (  There is also a "Jean Zuber" Facebook page

Thursday 30 October 2014

Wallpaper: later 18th-century papers

From the 1760s, France took over from England as leader in the production of luxury wallpapers. As well as the flocks,  French manufacturers perfected the art of creating elaborately decorated papiers peints, based on the technique of block printing using water-based distemper colours to create a deep and uniform finish.  Jean-Michel Papillon described the new technique  in 1766 – “all distemper and absolutely matt like stage scenery” - and it was definitively established by the 1770s.  Wallpaper production continued to flourish throughout  the Revolutionary period and into the mid-nineteenth century . The business of Jean-Baptiste Réveillon, and his successors Jacquemart and Bénard, is the most famous and best-documented, but there were many others.  The Almanach de Paris for 1788 listed 48 "papetiers en meubles", ranging from a couple of employees to Réveillon’s 350 workers. By 1795 the firm of Robert & Cie, which is virtually unknown, had exceeded Réveillon’s enterprise in size and employed 400 people.

The industry was concentrated in Paris, in the rue Saint-Jacques and later the Faubourg Saint-Antoine, and in Lyons, the capital of silk weaving – where again it is ill-documented. The availability of specialist designers and a skilled work force were an obvious attraction in these centres.  The one exception was Jean Zuber who set up in 1792 at Rixheim, near Mulhouse in Alsace, though here too there were close ties with the local textile industry.  It is clear that competition for novelty and fine design was intense – the Musée des Arts Décoratifs has pattern books of Réveillon's dating from 1770, 1771 and 1772, representing no less than 61 different wallpapers, both flocks and distemper block prints. In 1776 Réveillon, went into partnership with a merchant called Delafosse who sold his papers from fashionable premises in the rue du Caroussel, opposite the Tuileries.  Here clientele could could presumably view the ready made rolls or peruse sample books at leisure.

Types of papers:

Arabesque panels and papers

The production of free standing decorative panels and overdoors harped back to an older tradition of wallpaper manufacture in France, the production of dominos and papiers tapisseries, single block printed sheets, often in imitation of textiles.  Réveillon was the undisputed master of the genre, employing designers from the Gobelin tapestry works to create original and elaborate papers.  His panels could comprise several sheets of paper, but were intended as discrete pieces, often hung in sets with minor variations in each example.  Many designs were inspired by Roman models – Hadrian’s villa at Tivoli, and later the finds at Herculaneum and Pompeii,.  Typically they were “Arabesques”, featuring symmetrical vases  overflowing with flowers, or with birds (the famous “two pigeons” and variants)  Other trademark motifs included : winged putti riding lions; statues  under a canopy or octagonal medaillons with Classical seated figure. Yet other sets of papers  featured allegorical figures representing the five senses, printed in grisaille on a green or blue ground.  In reality there was no hard and fast division in motifs  between panels and continuous papers.  Arabesques by Reveillon which were almost as ambitious can be found as “sidewalls” (ie. papers intended to cover the main wall space)  

Réveillon designs for Clandon Park Surrey
Sold by Christies in 2003 for £1,195!
All these papers were incredibly elaborate and, since they required as many blocks as colours, laboursome to produce.  Madame de Genlis reports seeing a paper at  Réveillon’s which require 80 blocks to complete; twenty or so was not at all unusual.

Moccas Court in Herefordshire, boasts the only surviving example in England of  Réveillon wallpaper panels still in their original setting.  Frank Knight recently had the property on the market for a cool £5,250,000; it is now a luxury hotel.

Imitation of textiles

Although the fashion for flocks diminished, expensive fabrics, silk, velvet and tapestry, continued to be imitated throughout the century.  In 1770-90 Reveillon’s catalogues contain distemper-printed papers which are line-for-line replicas of known Lyons designs on crimson, blue or yellow grounds.  Parallel white lines are overprinted on pale grey to suggest threads of brocade; and varnish has been added to the colour to create a silken sheen.  


Floral patterns became a major motif from 1780s onwards.  Before this date they occured mainly as part of feature panels and overdoors, but now they became fashionable for printed boarders or, in simpler form,  for whole walls.  Again. the characteristic designs are associated particularly with Réveillon.  Later designs were lighter and more naturalistic, reflecting the change in fashion away from the imitation of heavy silk damask fabrics towards naturalism and domesticity.

Réveillon, floral paper of 1789
 © Les Arts Décoratifs


Françoise Teynac, Pierre Nolot and  Jean Denis Vivien, Wallpaper: a history (English trans. Thames & Hudson, 1982)

Bernard Jacqué, "Luxury perfected: the ascendancy of French wallpaper 1700-1870", The painted wall, ed. by Lesley Hoskins (2005), p.56-75

_________, "De la manufacture au mur", doctoral thesis, University of Lyons2, 2003.

Christine Velut; Décors de papier. Production, commerce et usages des papiers peints à Paris, 1750-1820 (2005).  Reviewed:

 "Papiers peints de la fin du XVIIIe siècle, Manufacture Réveillon"  Les Arts Décoratifs, Paris

Collections of wallpapers: 

Wallpaper from Les Arts Décoratifs, Paris on akg images

Exhibition of 18th-century wallpapers at the Musée du papier peint (Rixheim, Alsace), Dec. 2006-Nov.2007

Réveillon wallpaper in the Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum

Panels sold at Christies in 2003

Monday 27 October 2014

More expensive shoes - Sale of 16th/17th October 2012

Later in 2012, following the sale of the mules in the Paul Rousseau collection, this pair of Marie-Antoinette's shoes were offered at auction. They fetched a even more impressive 50,000 €  (though, as Time pointed out, this was some way short of the record for an item of clothing, which belongs to Marilyn Monroe's "Happy birthday Mr. President" dress which sold for $1,267,500 in 1999!) The buyer was undisclosed.  Perhaps there is a Russian tycoon out there with a lot of old (and very expensive) shoes!

Lot 20: A pair of green and pink silk slippers which belonged to Marie-Antoinette.

The shoes were given in 1775 by Marie Antoinette to Alexandre-Bernard Ju-des-Rets (1752-1837), an officer in her service at Versailles and were put on sale by one of his descendants.  They are similar in construction to the Toulon mules with wooden heels covered in white leather, but they are in even better condition. 

Portraits of the princesse de Lamballe

Here are two portraits of the princesse de Lamballe which were sold as part of the Paul Rousseau collection auctioned in Toulon on 24th March 2012.  Both are described by Olivier Blanc in his chapter on the Princess iPortraits de femmes (2006).

Thursday 23 October 2014

Meetings: Voltaire and Vivant Denon

The young Vivant Denon.  Self-portrait
c.1780.  Musée Denon, Chalon-sur-Saône
In 1775 the future Baron and director of the Louvre Dominique Vivant Denon was 28, the Patriarch of Ferney 81.  Denon, who was the protegé of Vergennes, had been sent to Geneva on a diplomatic mission, probably to consolidate the French alliance with the Swiss cantons.  Naturally, on his return journey, he was eagar to stop of at Ferney; but Voltaire, whose hospitality had been taxed by a constant stream of visitors, was less than enthusiastic. 

Denon was not to be thwarted;  in a letter of 3rd July 1775 he claimed to quit understand Voltaire's wish to feign illness, but that he owed him indulgence as a fellow Gentilhomme ordinaire du roi and, what is more, a potential comrade.  Voltaire's curiosity was evidently piqued by this studied impertinence and he agreed immediately to a visit, addressing his reply to "Monsieur mon respectable camarade".

Most sources ascribe to Denon only a single visit, but his 19th-century biographer Albert de La Fizelière reported that Voltaire kept his guest an entire week, so diverted was he by the young man's stories of St. Petersburg and Paris. The two disagreed only about the character of the Russian Empress whom Vivant thought had only an "ordinary intelligence", though he gamely credited her with distinguished manners and breadth of vision.  According to a letter of 5th July the quality of Voltaire's which most impressed Denon was his continued vivacity: "Your gaiety is a phenomenon that I cannot forget.  You have shown me that time has no effect upon the soul when none of its wellsprings are allowed to dry up."  Voltaire, for his part, thought Denon resembled his younger self, both physically, mentally and temperamentally.

Voltaire by Vivant Denon, finished and
engraved by Augustin de Saint-Aubert
So far, so good.  The rot only began to set in when Denon solicited a portrait of Voltaire for their mutual friend, the composer Jean-Benjamin de Laborde, who had written letters of introduction to Voltaire on his behalf (though they had arrived too late for his visit).  Voltaire cast around for a suitable likeness to send, willfully disregarding Denon's hint that he himself wanted Voltaire to pose.

Voltaire had probably forgotten all about the request when, five months later on 5th December 1775, Vivant Denon sent him an engraved portrait he had made, accompanied by a flattering letter.  Voltaire took a fortnight to reply, and his verdict was hurtfully negative; Denon had turned him into "an atrophied monkey, with a bent head and one shoulder four times as high as the other" - a caricature he was sure his enemies would enjoy.  On 26th January 1776 he accepted with good grace Vivant's assurance that he did not intend "a caricature after the amusing pieces of M.Huber" but annonced his intention to refer the work to a new favourite, the sculptor François-Marie Poncet who was staying at Ferney at the time.  Poncet's comments survive among Denon's papers - the portrait is too mannered, Voltaire's shoulder too high, his nose too long, his mouth too round.  One can well imagine Denon's irritation!

It is in this same letter that Voltaire mentions for the first time a second engraving called "le Déjeuné de Ferney", which was doing the rounds in Paris, widely identified as "une plaisanterie de m.huber" and which had made him look thoroughly ridiculous.  There is little doubt that Voltaire knew full well that this too was the work of Denon, though he clearly hadn't seen it at this time.  An undated letter of the marquis de Villette noted the subsequent arrival of a copy at Ferney:  Laborde, whom he thought to be the author, is depicted "in all his plenitude, beautiful as an angel", whereas Voltaire, in a corner, is "thin as death and as ugly as sin".  Voltaire himself was said to have exclaimed, "It is Lazarus at the dinner of the rich man!".

Voltaire asked Denon civilly to correct the work for the sake of his family and friends.  The young man was having none of it, defending the piece as a lively expression of a scene he had enjoyed, and accusing Voltaire of paranoia:

"It really grieves me that people are making you believe that I was thinking of rendering you ridiculous; this is to distort in your mind all the feelings which I genuinely have for you, and it is also degrading to my character.  Eh! monsieur, why forever imagine enemies? Do triumphs merely augment our fears? What then is renown if terror continually resides within it?"

Here is the offending engraving, which was produced by the firm of Née and Masquelier. Voltare is depicted in bed, laughing in mid-conversation, with a ridiculously plump Madame Denis holding his hand.  (It was doubtless she who took greatest umbrage at the picture!)  At the foot of the bed stands Voltaire's tame priest Father Adam and Agathe, Madame Denis's delectable chambermaid.  The stout and indecorously seated figure in the foreground is Laborde.

In 1911 Pedro Paullenot published an account of the original lead pencil and ink drawing which he had tracked down in the possession of a descendant of the lithographer Lafitte.  It measured 13.7 cms by 10.5 cms, and was signed "De Non", described as "from nature" and dated 4th July 1775.  A marginal note stated that Denon himself had given it to M.Lafitte, who had engraved a number of his designs, for example the frontispiece for Point de Lendemain (Didot 1812).

Did Denon really intend to satirise his host?

The jury is still out!  Probably, he saw his work as amusing rather than malicious.  Many of his creations verge on the caricature and doubtless he was led astray by the tempting contrast between the dessicated patriarch on the one hand and his absurdly round mistress and the well-padded Laborde on the other.  Though not precisely "from life" - Laborde had not been present during Denon's visit - the composition reflects the informal quirkiness of Voltaire's domestic arrangements.  Denon later compounded his felony by producing several engravings featuring multiple heads of Voltaire "after Huber".
This engraving in the Met. is signed and dated 1786

Laborde was clearly happy with his depiction since a second engraving by Denon, "Laborde à la lyre", was chosen as the frontispiece for his major work, a collection of songs.

As to Denon's original portrait - it was good enough for the Banque de France and appeared almost unaltered on ten-franc "Voltaire" banknotes produced between 1963 and 1973.

One might add that the esteemed Poncet did little better in depicting Voltaire - at least if the copy of his bust at Ferney is anything to go by!

Attributed to François-Marie Poncet,
Ferney-Voltaire, château de Voltaire
As far as most sources go, Denon never again met with Voltaire.  Lady Morgan, however, recounts the tale of a final (quite possibly spurious) later meeting - which confirms that Denon continued to present himself as Voltaire's intimate:

Denon told me his last visit to Voltaire was in 1776.  He had been detained late at Geneva, and it was near midnight when he arrived at Ferney.  He found the venerable patriarch sitting up to receive him, in that salon now so familiar to every English traveller. He was in high health and spirits; and after supper the two delightful raconteurs began to narrate - mutually excited, and mutually charmed.  It was in vain that Madame Denis frequently came from her bed-room, in nightcap and slippers, to endeavour to get her uncle to bed.  Voltaire, with the querulousness of a spoiled school-boy, resisting the similar attempt on the part of his nurse, pushed her away, with - "Mais allez donc - qu-est-ce que ça fait, si je m'amuse?"

Lady Morgan, The book of the boudoir (1829) Book 1, p.33-4


"Vie de château" blog, post of 25/01/2011

Judith Nowinski, Baron Dominique Vivant Denon (1747-1825): hedonist and scholar in a period of transition (1975) [extracts on Google Books; the correspondence between Voltaire and Denon is reproduced as an appendix to this book]

Gustave Desnoiresterres, Iconographie voltairienne (Paris, 1879), p.73-85

Pedro Poullenot, "L'Aquarelle originale du "Déjeuné de Ferney" de Vivant Denon, La Revue de l'art ancien et moderne, 30 (juillet-dec.1911) p.393-6.  [Available on "Gallica"]

Sunday 19 October 2014

More royal memorabilia - the Collection Paul Rousseau

Here is another noteworthy auction - the sale of the collection of Paul Rousseau which took place in Toulon in March 2012.  It is hard to find out much about Paul Rousseau; presumably this is NOT the sports journalist by that name who died in the same year, 1941.  According to the auction notes he had notable contacts with collectors, men of letters and historians of the first half of the 20th century, notably Louis-Leon-Theodore Gosselin (1855), G Lenotre. It was Lenotre who contributed the most significant items to the collection, notably a pair of mules belonging to Marie-Antoinette (no.68), a writing exercise from the Dauphin Louis-Joseph (no.56) and a piece of material from the furnishings of the Temple (no.71). Other items originated from the collection of Bernard Franck (1848-1924).  On his death, Rousseau entrusted his collection to the Bordeaux lawyer Robert Dobin (1907-1997) whose family preserved it intact until 2012.

Wednesday 15 October 2014

Wallpaper: Manufacturing and hanging

If information on wallpaper design in the first half of the 18th century is limited, evidence for manufacturing processes is even more scarce. The main source again is Jean-Marie Papillon. In the early 20th century Monsieur Violle, a government official in Diderot's home town of Langres, discovered seven sheets of black pencil and wash drawings, all signed by Papillon, and illustrating various aspects of the wallpaper trade. The presumption is that these were submissions for inclusion in the Encyclopédie which were never published but had been left behind by Diderot, probably when he went to visit his sister in Langres in July 1759.  The plates were published for the first time by P.Gusman in 1925.

The pictures no doubt represent the interior of the workshop in the rue Saint-Jacques. In his Traité Jean-Michel Papillon describes how he resented being forced to work all day in his father's business "printing wallpapers, as likely colouring them in when I was not cutting out the blocks, as going to houses of quality to attend to the hanging of papers" (Quoted Wallpaper p.27). It is interesting that four of the seven drawings are concerned with paper hanging which was evidently the most delicate and difficult part of the profession, often involving complex arrangements of wooden panelling and stretched canvas. Papillon illustrates the various different types of papers -  panels for fireplaces and chimneys, continuous designs for large wall panels, landscapes in the Chinese style, edging papers, friezes, papers imitating wood and marble, and floral designs and rosettes for ceilings.  He also shows techniques for creating false paper ceiling, for papering a  staircase and a circular alcove.  He includes both flock and distemper papers.

Plates for the Encyclopédie

Equipment for printing. 

Strip 1: Paper and planks to hold it in place while printing

Strip 2: Paper prepared, dampened and held ready for press
between two planks by means of heavy weights.

Strip 3: The printing table to which the block is fixed

Strip 4: Tools for inking the block.  In the foreground workmen are
making inking pads.

2. Printing up the blocks

Strip 1: Inking pad and rollers.

Strip 2: A sheet of paper is prepared and carefully placed on the block.

Strip 3: A sheet is printed, lifted off the block and hung to dry.

Strip 4: The newly printed sheets are piled up.

3. Drying, checking and colouring the sheets (strips 1-2)

Strip 3: View of the workshop in the rue Saint-Jacques

Strip 4: Inside the house where the paper is to be hung;
the old paper is removed and the glue heated.
4. Preparing to hang the paper
Strip 1: The walls are marked out and the paper trimmed

Strip 2:  Various ways to trim different sheets

Strip 3: Further marking out and measuring the wall

5. Hanging the paper

Strip 1: Gluing the sheets of paper

Strip 2: Applying to the walls

Strip 3: Adding borders

Strip 4: Bottom borders.  Completed panel in the Chinese style.

6. Various arrangements and patterns of hanging

Strip 1: Wainscot and frieze

Strip 2: False ceilings

Strip 3: Finishing touches - the paper is presented to the owners
of the house

Strip 4: A papered alcove


J.-M Papillon, "Etapes de la fabrication et de la pose du papier peint" (unpublished drawings)

Françoise Teynac, Pierre Nolot and  Jean Denis Vivien, Wallpaper: a history (English trans. Thames & Hudson, 1982), p.27-36.

Sunday 12 October 2014

Wallpaper: Flocked papers

Flocked wallpaper seems an odd craze but flocks imported from England became all the rage in mid 18th-century France, prompting the well-to-do to rip down their tapestries in favour of les papiers en tontisse,  les papiers veloutés, or le papier bleu d'Angleterre.  "The English could never have tried to imitate our fine tapestries, so they have put them out of fashion with their wallpapers", quipped Madame de Genlis.

Flocked papers were produced not by block printing but by sprinkling powdered cloth, or flock, in a pattern defined in tacky paper to resemble velvets and brocades.

Production in England is usually dated from 1634, when a patent for manufacture was awarded to a London printer called Jerome Lanyer. But it did not really take off until after 1685 when John Briscoe perfected a machine for making paper which was considered as good a quality as continental papers.  Shortly before 1700 Adam Price founded the "Blue Paper Warehouse" at Aldermanbury and subsequently moved into the production of flock wallpapers in blue.  English designs usually imitated damask and were characteristically either in a single colour, or one colour on a gold ground.  The designs would be applied either by stencilling or printing from a woodblock in adhesive onto which coloured powdered wool was spread.   By this means flocked papers could be made to a very high standard, partly because of the quality of English paper, partly because of the delicacy of colouring and the superiors designs.

English dominance in wallpaper manufacture in the mid-century was also fueled by  what has been called "revolution in wallpaper printing"; like all great innovations,  a deceptively simple idea - the wallpaper roll!  The practice of pasting individual sheets of paper together - often to as long as 36 feet - before printing greatly extended design possibilities - notably the imitation of expensive textiles such as silks, velvets and tapestries.

All of which is a good excuse to post some clips on the history of wallpaper from BBC Four's spltendid "Fabric of Britain". Wallpaper expert Allyson McDermott and presenter Paul Martin have great fun recreating 18th-century painting and flocking techniques (but how labour-intensive they were!):
BBC Four Fabric of Britain: The Story of wallpaper : There are three separate clips:  Making flock wallpaperPainting flock wall paper and Chopping up wool.

In France imported English flock papers from the Blue Paper Warehouse and other London factories enjoyed a remarkable success and were adopted by the highest society.  In 1753 the duc de Mirepoix, the French ambassador in London had  blue papers sent to Paris and the English ambassador Lord Albermarle used them to adorn the house he had rented in Passy. According to the famous wallpaper manufacturer Jean-Baptiste Réveillon, that was the defining moment - the craze was on.  In 1754 Madame de Pompadour, no less,  put blue paper on the walls of her wardrobe at Versailles and on the corridor linking her appartment with the chapel; four years later she wallpapered the bathroom at the Château de Champs-sur-Marne.

Though other manufacturers, such as Didier Aubert and Lecomte in Lyon, took up the production of flocks in France, it was Réveillon who was the first to master the art of the roll, matching seams and mounting the paper. He used his expertise to drive down prices whilst maintaining a quality product, and soon surpassed his English models in range and mastery.(Rosenband, p.486-7).  Whereas English papers were mostly monochrome with large-scale patterns, Réveillon used multi-coloured flocks to copy the intricate floral designs of Lyon silk. In these papers he made use of both superimposed layers of flock (perhaps to suggest brocade) and of repiquage or overprinting with distemper colour.

Examples of Réveillon's flocked papers are now quite rare.  Here is a typical sheet which was sold by Drouot in 2009 for 200€.
.Réveillon even successfully exported his papers to England - this beautiful flocked version of a his hallmark "Deux pigeons" design was hung in Clandon Park, Surrey in the 1780s (


Alyson McDermott, Historical Interiors

Françoise Teynac, Pierre Nolot and  Jean Denis Vivien, Wallpaper: a history (English trans. Thames & Hudson, 1982), p.66-75.

"What is flock velvet wallpaper?" on Wallpaper History [blog]

"Flock wallpapers", Victoria & Albert Museum

Leonard N. Rosenband, "Jean-Baptiste Réveillon: a man on the make in Old Regime France", French historical studies, vol.20(3) 1997, p.421-510 [JStor article]

Saturday 11 October 2014

Wallpaper: Early 18th-century paper

I recently came into possession of an excellent French book on wallpaper:  Françoise Teynac, Pierre Nolot and  Jean Denis Vivien, Wallpaper: a history (English trans.Thames & Hudson, 1982), and thought I would base a few posts on it.

Although the wallpaper industry developed first in England,  the probability is that by the beginning of the 18th century century wallpaper was just as widely used in France, though comparative few examples survive.  Wallpapers were produced by artisan shopkeepers – cardmakers, dominoteurs, paper merchants and wood engravers of all kinds. There was a long tradition of "dominos", marbled and coloured papers printed with wooden blocks on single sheets of paper, used in various decorative contexts such as lining papers and book endpapers as well as for walls.  In the late 17th century these were joined by papiers de tapisserie imitations of luxury fabric and architectural elements such as wood panelling and plaster mouldings.  The simplest designs were geometric repeating patterns requiring a single block, which were heightened with coloured size applied either by hand or through cut-out stencils.  Wavy bands of images, mainly flowers and birds, could then be added.  The more complex papers, which needed several blocks to complete, could be assembled in large decorative panels and included the newly-fashionable chinoiseries.  Glued down and surrounded by printed borders and often with a top frieze with architectural motif or arabesque.

Shops in the rue Saint-Jacques, from a drawing by J.-M. Papillon
There is a definite sense that wallpaper went up the social scale at this time.  Savary des Bruslons in his Dictionnaire universel du commerce,  described a "domino" as a "sort of tapestry on paper, which for a long time was used by the peasants and the poorer classes in Paris to cover the walls of their huts or their rooms and shops".  In his 1713 version he was able to add that its production had reached a new high point of perfection and elegance: "there is not a house in Paris, however grand, that does not contain some example of this charming decoration, even if only in a wardrobe or other private room" (quoted, Wallpaper, p.22).  

Most of the information early manufacture comes from Jean-Michel Papillon (1698-1776), author of a Traité historique et pratique de la gravure sur bois (1766) and the contributor of the article "Domino" to the Encyclopédie. Papillon was the third of a dynasty of wood engravers who from 1663 onwards owned a workshop in the rue Saint-Jacques near the St. Séverin fountain. Papillon's father Jean was the first and foremost of  the Paris dominotiers. who, although he did not abandon general engraving and stationery work,successfully  created a business specialising in wallpaper manufacture.According to manuscript additions to Traité , Jean Papillon  is to be credited with a number of important innovations in manufacture.  Whereas the old dominotiers had cut a pattern in a series of small blocks from a paper template, Papillon père used one plank of wood three feet long, sometimes drawing his design directly onto the wood. He also perfected the technique of "lustre" paper which was powdered over with ground up paints rather than brushed or stencilled. His key contribution, however, came in 1688 (or 1692) when he came up with the idea of printing from multiple blocks, so that sheets could be pasted together to form continuous patterns; according to his son he thus single-handedly launching the fashion for the much for ambitious and up-market papiers de tapisserie based on textile designs.

It is clear that Jean-Michel himself , member of the Société des Arts, preferred "fine wood engraving" to the production of wallpapers and a few years after his father's death in 1723 he sold off the stock of the business and the wallpaper blocks to a widow named Madame Langlois.

Very few of Papillon's wallpapers survive. Jean-Michel's manuscript "Oeuvres", now in the Cabinet d'Estampes in the Bibliothèque Nationale, give some examples but contain only seven sheets. They include his very first engraved design, a black outline of poppies made in 1707. Another, made for the "Royal Varnisher" Monsieur Martin, imitates figured velvet and there is also a large block for mosaic paper with flowers and butterflies in a scroll. A further design with complex motifs of flowers and mosaic was cut in 1727 for the sculptor Roumier, who designed it. 

Poppies - the first block engraving by a youthful J.-M Papillon (1707)
Ornamental paper designed by Roumier and printed by J.-M. Papillon 1727
In addition to these, fragments of an actual wallpaper with Papillon's mark were discovered when the Château de Bercy was demolished in 1860. Dating to about 1710, this features a complex symmetrical pattern based on four sheets:

Here is another small fragment from an elaborate frieze, dated c.1715 (Les Arts Décoratifs):

Although Papillon's writings make it clear that his father's lead was rapidly followed, the wall paper business in the first half of the century remained closely connected with other printing and engraving trades. In Paris these were centred on the rue Saint-Jacques where shops in the arcades displayed merchandise under awnings and later glazed windows, whilst workshops behind opened out  onto inner courtyards. Those involved in paper manufacture characteristically bound together by ties of inheritance, marriage and the bonds of master and apprentice. Designers were in heavy demand and seem to have moved fluidly between engravings for paper, tapestries and textiles.

Trade card of Didier Aubert "au papillon",
Rothschild Collection Waddesdon.
Other makers are known mainly from Papillon himself or from directories and newspapers. One of the most successful was Le Sueur, who had been an apprentice with Papillon, then set up as a rival with Vincent Pesant, Blondel and Pierre Panseron as his designers - the latter subsequently making his name as an architect and superintendant of construction for the Prince de Conti. Others involved were Roumier, who designed a number of fine plates of flowers and ornaments;  Dufoucroy; and Jean Pillemont who designed famous Chinoiserie patterns for the Lyon silk industry. The Englishman John Baptist Jackson, who later set up in Battersea also travelled to Paris and learned his trade with Papillon fils. Others still are mere names: Masson and his successor Miyer; Basset, Forcoy, Vaseau and Goupy.   In 1740 Madame Langois unsuccessfully disputed the right to use the sign "Au papillon" with the engraver Didier Aubert, who had set up a business selling wallpapers near the Hôtel de Saumur. 
 Another notable dynasty involved in printing and wallpaper manufacture was the Chauveau family. It was Jacques Chauveau, Papillon's brother-in-law, who perfected the method of printing wallpaper à la rentrure, applying each colour from a separately engraved block using register marks (rentrées) for guidance.  This effectively did away with the need for hand brushing and stencils.  Chauveau used oil-based colours rather than the size favoured by English manufacturers, making his papers more more water resistant but without the prized matt finish.  

[to be continued]


Jean-Michel Papillon, Traité historique et pratique de la gravure sur bois (1766) vol.1

Françoise Teynac, Pierre Nolot and  Jean Denis Vivien, Wallpaper: a history (English trans. Thames & Hudson, 1982)

Geert Wisse, "Manifold beginnings" in The painted wall, ed. by Lesley Hoskins (2005), p.8-21.

Henri Clouzot, "La tradition du papier peint en France au xviie et xviiie siècles" Gazette des beaux-arts, February 1912, p.131-43.
"Papillon et les dominoteurs" La Revue de 'Art Ancien et Moderne, 1931, p.77-88
Clouzot was author of the standard work on wallpaper published in 1931, but I can't find  his actual monograph online.

Phyllis Ackerman, Wallpaper, its history design and uses (1923)
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