Chinese wallpaper in National Trust houses

Detail from the Chinese wallpaper in the State Bedroom at Erddig, hung in the 1770s. ©National Trust/Andrew Bush

Detail from the Chinese wallpaper in the State Bedroom at Erddig, hung in the 1770s. ©National Trust/Andrew Bush

As some of you will know, Andrew Bush, Dr Helen Clifford and I have been preparing a catalogue of the Chinese wallpapers in the care of the National Trust. This little publication is now available through the National Trust online shop at an introductory price of £9.99.

Detail from the Chinese wallpaper in the State Dressing Room at Nostell Priory, supplied by Thomas Chippendale in 1771. ©National Trust/Andrew Bush

Detail from the Chinese wallpaper in the State Dressing Room at Nostell Priory, supplied by Thomas Chippendale in 1771. ©National Trust/Andrew Bush

We hope the catalogue will widen the interest into these beautiful wallpapers. We also hope it will lead to more exchange of information, as so much is still unclear about the origins and development of Chinese wallpaper.

The Chinese wallpaper in the State Bedroom at Erddig. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

The Chinese wallpaper in the State Bedroom at Erddig. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

Writing the catalogue has been a voyage of discovery. For instance, we hadn’t realised before how closely related the wallpapers at Erddig and Nostell Priory actually are. Although they are both painted by hand, some motifs are practically identical, meaning that the same models or templates must have been used in the making of both papers.

The Chinese wallpaper in the State Dressing Room at Nostell Priory. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

The Chinese wallpaper in the State Dressing Room at Nostell Priory. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

There are also strong similarities between these two wallpapers and the ones preserved at Cobham Hall – now a school – and Milton Manor  House – still privately owned. Yet another one hung at Ashburnham Place and is now at Blair House, the presidential guest house in Washington DC – with thanks to Michael Shepherd and Robert M. Kelly for telling us about it. Through these discoveries we can now begin to identify a ‘1760s-70s style’ in Chinese floral wallpapers.

Detail of the Chinese wallpaper in the State Bedroom at Erddig. ©National trust/Andrew Bush

Detail of the Chinese wallpaper in the State Bedroom at Erddig. ©National trust/Andrew Bush

Investigations by Lucy Johnson at Woburn Abbey have also just brought to light fragments of a Chinese wallpaper hung in 1752 which clearly relates to the wallpapers at Felbrigg Hall and Ightham Mote.

Detail of the Chinese wallpaper in the State Bedroom at Nostell Priory. ©National Trust/Andrew Bush

Detail of the Chinese wallpaper in the State Bedroom at Nostell Priory. ©National Trust/Andrew Bush

We are keen to explore the links with Chinese wallpapers elsewhere in Europe and America, as well as the original Chinese art-historical context. Organising a conference will be next on our agenda. So do please get in touch if you look after or know of anything to do with historic Chinese wallpapers.

13 Responses to “Chinese wallpaper in National Trust houses”

  1. robert dyer Says:

    Thank you Emile! This has been long anticipated and hoped for treatise and blog post from you. Bravo, it’s exciting. I can’t wait to order copies for myself as well as for friends.

    Robert – innatestyle

  2. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Thanks for your support, Robert:)

  3. Chuck Fischer Says:

    Just ordered the book. I was an Attingham Trust Scholar last summer and we saw many outstanding examples of 18th c chinoiserie wallpapers. So enjoy your blog posts. Chuck Fischer

  4. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Great, thanks Chuck. ‘Attingham’ is such a great aggregator of people and knowledge!

  5. Susan Ferguson Says:

    There is a beautiful Chinese room at Beauport, the Sleeper-McCann House in Gloucester, Massachusetts, with a complete set of Chinese wallpaper. http://www.historicnewengland.org/historic-properties/homes/Beauport/beauport It was apparently mislaid after being shipped to the U.S. and when it was purchased by Henry Davis Sleeper it was as fresh as the day it was painted.

  6. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Susan, sorry for not replying earlier, I have been away. Thank you very much for this link to the paper at Beauport. It is a marvelous panoramic landscape wallpaper. It seems to be in a similar style and scale to the landscape wallpapers at Winterthur, Deleware, and Harewood House, West Yorkshire.

    The Harewood one was hung c. 1769 and these landscape papers generally seem to date from the second half of the eighteenth century.

    And these examples that were initially unused are of course really interesting in that they give us a better idea of the original colours. We have a floral Chinese wallpaper at Penrhyn Castle that was similarly stored initially, and the colours are amazingly fresh and bright.

  7. Andrew Says:

    Here is a page about the paper, and an image, which Sleeper also used to decorate the Chinese ballroom at Bruce Merriman’s house in Providence, Rhode Island. http://www.historicnewengland.org/collections-archives-exhibitions/online-exhibitions/wallpaper/history/Papers_From_China.htm

    More on Beauport here – http://www.historicnewengland.org/historic-properties/homes/Beauport/beauport-sleeper-mccann-house-history

  8. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Thanks very much Andrew, really interesting to learn more about how that wallpaper was used at two different houses. That period – the 1920s – was also when the Chinese wallpaper from Beaudesert with the garden walls ended up at Condé Nast’s penthouse on Park Avenue in New York. There seems to have been a distinct revival of interest in Chinese wallpapers then.

  9. Andrew Says:

    Indeed. Here was the previous discussion about Beaudesert. http://nttreasurehunt.wordpress.com/2012/09/06/writing-the-biography-of-a-chinese-wallpaper/ (29 comments!)

  10. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Yes – we have been reviving interest in the revival :)

  11. Lynne Rutter Says:

    I am borderline obsessed with Chinoiserie papers, especially the 18th century style. Thanks for posting so many beautiful examples

  12. Lynne Rutter Says:

    oh, I meant to add that I paint new work in this style having spent a number of years restoring and recreating missing areas of papers by DeGournay, etc., installations in California, that were either newly made or relocated; these murals were mainly from the 1880s-1930s (but still fantastic)

  13. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Lynne, wonderful that your are continuing in this great decorative tradition.

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