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.
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.
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).