An eighteenth-century Pinterest board at Uppark

The Print Room at Uppark. ©National Trust Images/Geoffrey Frosh

The Print Room at Uppark. ©National Trust Images/Geoffrey Frosh

The eighteenth-century Print Room at Uppark was completely destroyed in the 1989 fire. By a very lucky coincidence, however, the prints and their straw-coloured backing paper had been removed for conservation, so it was possible to put them back when the room was restored.

©National Trust Images/John Hammond

©National Trust Images/John Hammond

The prints seem to have been originally hung in the late eighteenth century, and there is a record of Sir Matthew Fetherstonhaugh, the owner of Uppark, paying £51 5s to ‘Mrs Vivaro for Prints’ in 1774. The prints are mostly after Italian, Flemish and Spanish old master paintings, although there is also one of a ‘contemporary’ Reynolds painting showing the actor David Garrick.

The cut-out watercolours of flowers in terracotta pots seem to have been added in the early nineteenth century, during the time of Sir Matthew’s widow (and erstwhile dairy maid) Mary Ann, Lady Fetherstonhaugh.

©National Trust Images/John Hammond

©National Trust Images/John Hammond

The practice of sticking prints directly to the walls surrounded by decorative paper borders and other trompe l’oeil decorations seems to have originated around 1750. It may be related to the contemporary taste for decorating rooms with arrangements of Chinese prints and paintings on paper.

It also reminds me of the recent emergence of Pinterest and other personalised online image collections, which clearly are part of a venerable tradition (and which I have previously posted about).

15 Responses to “An eighteenth-century Pinterest board at Uppark”

  1. deana Says:

    It is like Pinterest, isn’t it?

    I remember seeing the technique at Calke Abbey and loving it (and they changed them from time to time to suit their changing tastes, didn’t they?).

    There are also portable versions –– scrap screens, Byron did a famous boxing version that’s like Pinterest topic. I guess the picture display instinct is bred in the bone.

    How incredibly lucky the prints were out for a cleaning, they are certainly the most elegant use of the form I can remember seeing with matching borders and hangers.

  2. Blue Says:

    Do you remember when in the 1980s imitating these rooms became a fad? It seemed at one point everyone had to have one – I was tempted but the idea was soon squashed by a less starry-eyed partner. Print rooms are lovely, though, and I still wish ….

    We have just hung twelve (a thirteenth is still with the framer) 1704 prints of Rome in the living room, three per frame floating on a mat. The effect is not the same as it would be in a print room but everyday I’m glad to see them

  3. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Deana, certainly the addition of the flowering plants in the pots below are a charming subsequent adaptation, adding a hint of feminine-masculine contrast, perhaps (or even subversion, but that is pure speculation!).

    It is an interesting question to what degree this sort of decoration was upper class leisurely self-expression and to what degree it was executed by professionals – often we just don’t know.

    Blue, yes it redolent of the ‘Brideshead Revisited’ (the TV series, not the film) and ‘Treasure Houses of Britain’ era, isn’t it :) Funny how historic decoration gets mixed in our minds with later revivals (which, in turn, points to the fundamental but fascinating contradiction inherent in any kind of history).

    Your living room sounds great, perhaps you should do a post about it?

  4. CherryPie Says:

    It is interesting to see how the old way of displaying things has converted into the digital age.

    Somehow I think the old displays will last longer than their digital counterparts.

  5. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Yes there is a distinct risk that much of this digital culture, so ubiquitous now, could be easily lost due to technical developments, technical glitches, changes of ownership or abandonment of websites, and so on.

  6. Andrew Says:

    Are you familiar with the BBC’s Domesday Project? For the 900th anniversary of the Domesday Book, the BBC created a digital record of the UK in 1986 on laserdisc (if you can’t remember them, they were like an early CD, about the size of a dinner plate, similar to an LP). They could be read using a specially adapted BBC computer and associated hardware, which rapidly became obsolescent.

    Correspondence in ephemeral emails is another issue: how can you review a person’s papers if they are inaccessible or deleted?

    The historians and archivists of the future will need to be (or have the help of) skilled IT professionals.

  7. Andrew Says:

    I should add that various different groups have spent quite a lot of time and effort to access the Domesday Project data, so you might consider it a sucess story (and a warning) rather than a failure.

    See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BBC_Domesday_Project

  8. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Yes that is both a chilling warning about the rapid obsolesence of computer technology and an uplifting tale of ingenuity.

    There is also the Internet Archive, a group of idealistic digital archivists trying to build the ultimate oxymoron, an internet library: http://archive.org/about/

  9. Andrew Says:

    Indeed, although they quickly run into copyright issues.

    There is also the British Library’s UK web archive – http://www.webarchive.org.uk/ukwa/ – which includes selected blogs. Perhaps you should ask to be included :)

    And the National Archives in Kew includes lots of electronic material now.

  10. imogen88 Says:

    This concept is unusual in my part of the world and I did like seeing it! Thank you!

  11. Ana Says:

    What a wonderful room… and what luck to have been preserved by chance!

  12. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Thanks Ana. I like the texture of your Tumblr page!

  13. Jimmy Says:

    Great room. Goes to show that there are no new ideas just modern reinventions

  14. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Indeed Jimmy, nothing new under the sun :)

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