When I was at Saltram to give the tour I mentioned in the previous post, I was struck by the delicious contradictions inherent in the Chinese wallpaper in the room called the Study. This room had been decorated in the mid eighteenth century as a bedroom or sitting room for one of the ladies of the house. Chinese wallaper and other ‘chinoiserie’ decorations were at this time increasingly associated with the private, ‘feminine’ spaces.
During the later nineteenth century, however, the 3rd Earl of Morley used the room as his study. Presumably the deccration was by then old fashioned and antiquarian enough to be congenial to a high-minded Victorian patriarch.
This is a great example of how the associations of certain styles and motifs are never fixed for long, and can turn into their opposites after a generation or two.
Even the original installation of the wallpaper represented a shift in meaning, of course, as entirely unrelated Chinese pictures and sections of wallpaper were slotted together into a kaleidoscopic collage, a realistic and yet surreal mosaic of elegant figures and evocative vistas, an eighteenth-century Pinterest board.