The power of the imagination

Detail of the Zuber wallpaper at Basildon Park. ©NTPL/John Hammond

The small camel seen through the fretwork at 575 Wandsworth Road, shown in the previous post, inspired Courtney Barnes to do a post about camel motifs.

I want to return the compliment by showing the panoramic Zuber wallpaper at Basildon Park. But apart from featuring a camel it is also emblematic of Regency exoticism.

The Qudsiya Bagh on the river Jumna, Delhi. Aquatint after Thomas Daniell (1749-1840), 1795, at Basildon Park. ©NTPL/John Hammond

Zuber wallpapers began to be produced in 1797. This particular design, called L’Hindoustan, was created by Pierre Mongin in 1807.

©NTPL/John Hammond

Mongin had never been to India, and his idealised, dreamy scenes were based on the Indian views of Thomas and William Daniell.

Eastern gate of the Jama Masjid, Delhi. Aquatint after Thomas Daniell (1749-1840), 1795, at Basildon Park. ©NTPL/John Hammond

The Daniells had seen these views at first hand, but their images are still heavily influenced by the English picturesque and Romantic traditions, with lots of dramatic clouds, crumbling masonry, and artfully placed trees and figures.

©NTPL/John Hammond

The Zuber wallpaper and the Daniell views were installed at Basildon by Lord and Lady Iliffe after the Second World War. In their restoration and decoration of the empty and derelict house the Iliffes were trying to evoke the spirit of Sir Francis Sykes, a ‘nabob’ who had made his fortune in India and who began building Basildon in 1776.

Gate of the mausoleum of Akbar near Agra. Aquatint after Thomas Daniell (1749-1840), 1795, at Basildon Park. ©NTPL/John Hammond

So here we have three different imaginations at work – Mongin, the Daniells and the Iliffes – recreating the exotic on the banks of the Thames.

8 Responses to “The power of the imagination”

  1. François-Marc Chaballier Says:

    Zuber still appear to be going strong (http://www.zuber.fr/) in Rixheim, near Mulhouse. My in-laws’ house, in Ohio, has a wall panel of a ca.1840s view of a North American port (Boston, before the Back Bay was filled?) which, I like to believe, is from Zuber.
    I have visited Basildon Park, some twenty-five years ago. I remember an octagonal room (in red??) but not the panoramic wallpapers.

  2. style court Says:

    Emile — I’m so happy to learn more about the Basildon connection.

    As further proof of L’Hindoustan’s visual staying power, it has recently made quite a few appearances in contemporary shelter mags. And the March issue of House Beautiful (American) features a dramatic de Gournay panoramic of India with prominent camel chosen by designer Ruthie Sommers.

    I do wonder if Zuber’s L’Hindoustan inspired the later (1840s) Aubusson tapestry I spotted in the Louvre’s collection.

  3. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    François-Marc, I gad forgotten to add that link, thanks for reminding us. The wallpaper is in a room called the Garden Room at Basildon.

    Courtney, how interesting that ‘LHindoustan is still/again fashionable. Yes there does seem to be a strong affinity between that Zuber wallpaper and the Aubusson with the elephant that you showed. In Britain there was a ‘long Regency’ period, stylistically speaking, from the late eighteenth century to the 1840s, so presumably in France too there was stylistic affinity/influence between the 1800s and the 1840s…?

  4. Janet Says:

    I think you and the Downeast Dilettante should team up on a transatlantic collaboration, writing about Zuber rooms (or rather, rooms with Zuber) both here and there. Would be a fascinating comparison.

  5. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    That’s a Zuber idea :)

  6. deana Says:

    They had a great exhibition in NYC a few years ago on scenic wall paper… one of the horrid facts that came to light was that American Soldiers burned a whole panorama’s wood blocks for firewood! Centuries old and irreplaceable, it was a tragic loss. A room done in the custom paper costs hundreds of thousands these days!!

  7. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    It’s a shame, but suppose they had to stay warm somehow :) I like the mixture of food, design and history on your blog, by the way.

  8. a2roquefeuil@gmail.com Says:

    Hello
    I have the almost all Hindoustan panoramic sery (missing 1 on 17)
    Very beautifull serie from the 19s century
    They need restauration but they are for sale
    If someone is interesed let me know
    a2roquefeuil@gmail.com

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