A closer look at the Uppark Chinese wallpaper

Part of a fragment of Chinese wallpaper from the Little Parlour at Uppark, inv. no. 138490. ©National Trust/Sarah Foster

Part of a fragment of Chinese wallpaper from the Little Parlour at Uppark, inv. no. 138490. ©National Trust/Sarah Foster

Recently we have been able to have a closer look at the Chinese wallpaper fragments from Uppark, which have been in storage. They were revealed under later wallpaper in the Little Parlour at Uppark following a fire in 1989 and are proving to be very important.

The Little Parlour at Uppark, where the Chinese wallpaper hung between about 1750 and 1770. The chinoiserie cabinet dates from the same period. ©National Trust Images/Nadia Mackenzie

The Little Parlour at Uppark, where the Chinese wallpaper hung between about 1750 and 1770. The chinoiserie cabinet dates from the same period. ©National Trust Images/Nadia Mackenzie

We knew that the Chinese wallpaper at Uppark was early, of the block-printed type that appeared in about 1750. It is clearly similar in style to other surviving block-printed Chinese wallpapers from that time, such as those at Felbrigg Hall, Ightham Mote, and Woburn Abbey.

Part of a fragment of Chinese wallpaper from the Little Parlour at Uppark, inv. no. 138490. The motif of the two pheasants on a rock is also found in the Chinese wallpaper at Ightham Mote. ©National Trust/Sarah Foster

Part of a fragment of Chinese wallpaper from the Little Parlour at Uppark, inv. no. 138490. The motif of the two pheasants on a rock is also found in the Chinese wallpaper at Ightham Mote. ©National Trust/Sarah Foster

But now we have been able to confirm that parts of this wallpaper are in fact identical to some of the wallpaper drops at Ightham Mote. The related section of the Ightham wallpaper can be seen in this previous post.

Part of a fragment of Chinese wallpaper from the Little Parlour at Uppark, inv. no. 138491. ©National Trust/Sarah Foster

Part of a fragment of Chinese wallpaper from the Little Parlour at Uppark, inv. no. 138491. ©National Trust/Sarah Foster

The colours of the Uppark wallpaper are remarkably fresh. Although it obviously suffered from the effects of the fire, it had only been exposed to light for about twenty years, having been covered over with another wallpaper in about 1770. So the surviving fragments make for an interesting comparison with the Ightham paper, in which the colours have changed due to over-painting with oil paint in about 1900.

Part of a fragment of Chinese wallpaper from the Little Parlour at Uppark, inv. no. 138490. The rock at left has been cut out from another section and applied to extend the length of the paper. The lady at right is probably also an addition. ©National Trust/Sarah Foster

Part of a fragment of Chinese wallpaper from the Little Parlour at Uppark, inv. no. 138490. The rock at left has been cut out from another section and applied to extend the length of the paper. The lady at right is probably also an addition. ©National Trust/Sarah Foster

The fragments also provide evidence of the artful cutting and pasting regularly deployed by the paper hangers to make the scenic Chinese wallpaper fit particular rooms. In one section rocks, flowers and a bird have been added to extend the paper at the bottom. The lady appearing nearby seems to have been added as well, probably taken from a different Chinese print or wallpaper.

Part of a fragment of Chinese wallpaper from the Little Parlour at Uppark, with a Chinese border paper representing mottled bamboo fretwork. On the left a different cut paper border can be seen underneath the bamboo border. Inv. no. 138497. ©National Trust/Sarah Foster

Part of a fragment of Chinese wallpaper from the Little Parlour at Uppark, with a Chinese border paper representing mottled bamboo fretwork. On the left a different cut paper border can be seen underneath the bamboo border. Inv. no. 138497. ©National Trust/Sarah Foster

Some of the fragments have the remains of border papers, which were commonly used to frame sections of wallpaper. One of them appears to be Chinese, a trompe l’oeil representation of mottled bamboo fretwork.

Part of a fragment of Chinese wallpaper from the Little Parlour at Uppark, inv. no. 138494. The fragment includes a section of a European cut paper border in a chinoiserie fretwork pattern. Towards the right there is evidence of the paper hanger cutting the wallpaper in a serpentine line to disguise the overlap with a different section of wallpaper. ©National Trust/Sarah Foster

Part of a fragment of Chinese wallpaper from the Little Parlour at Uppark, inv. no. 138494. The fragment includes a section of a European cut paper border in a chinoiserie fretwork pattern. Towards the right there is evidence of the paper hanger cutting the wallpaper in a serpentine line to disguise the overlap with a different section of wallpaper. ©National Trust/Sarah Foster

The other appears to be European, cut in a chinoiserie fretwork pattern reminiscent of the decorations on mid-eighteenth century furniture. In one area the cut paper can be seen emerging from underneath a damaged section of the ‘bamboo’ paper – perhaps evidence of a change of mind.

 

6 Responses to “A closer look at the Uppark Chinese wallpaper”

  1. Robert M. Kelly Says:

    Well done Emile! I wonder about the smaller border, is it an open lattice-work type? It looks like its not a solid piece of paper…or maybe I’m seeing things.

  2. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Yes my colleague Sarah Foster at Uppark provided these great images.

    And yes the smaller border is open lattice-work.

    First I thought they might have had the more delicate lattice-work border around the chimneypiece while the wider faux bamboo border was used around the outer edges of the walls. But then I saw that bit of lattice coming out from underneath the bamboo paper (in the second image from the bottom), suggesting the lattice came first and was at some point covered over by the bamboo…?

    Have you seen such open lattice-work borders elsewhere?

    • Robert M. Kelly Says:

      Nope. I am amazed that a paper could hold up, is it very sinewy? How thick is the paper? I agree with you, it could have been used over the mantel like those pierced fillets of gold or white. In the other picture it appears that the border was off-set about an inch or two into the sidewall. Maybe the homeowners didn’t like the “look”?

  3. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    So far I have only seen these images, but once Andrew or I have seen it in the flesh we will let you know.

    David Skinner told us he had found a printed border paper with an almost identical chinoiserie fretwork pattern, coloured but not cut out, at no. 10 Henrietta Street, Dublin.

  4. Debbie prosser Says:

    As far as I can gather from visiting some mulberry paper makers in China tiz the long fibers that make the paper very strong. From a pulp bath they lift a screen full of pulp swill and tip onto hard surface for drying. we also saw sheets so long it took 6 people to man handle a screen on a river bank.
    Obolisk like very smooth stones, ‘A’ profile and very long in sheds with fire pits and flues under – were used to dry paper sheets which had been place on each side of the stones.
    If there is a broken edge it is clear to see fibers if the paper has been made in this way.
    Thank you all very fastinating Debbie

  5. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Debbie, thank you for those insights into Chinese paper-making processes. The spare sheets of Chinese wallpaper in store at Penrhyn Castle show just those ‘fluffy’ edges you describe.

    That lattice-work paper border seems to be European, but it must be made of similarly strong paper, to have survived at all.

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