Cutting and pasting Chinese pictures

Detail of the Chinese wallpaper in the Chinese Bedroom which dates from the construction of the room c1760 at Blickling Hall, Norfolk

Picture inserted into the overmantel in the Chinese Bedroom at Blickling Hall, Norfolk. NT 356855.

This picture, showing Chinese figures in a landscape, hangs above the chimneypiece in the Chinese Bedroom at Blickling Hall, Norfolk. The outlines of the imagery were printed with carved woodblocks, but the colours were added by hand.


The overmantel in the Chinese bedroom at Blickling. ©National Trust/Paul Bailey

The picture is different from the surrounding fully painted Chinese wallpaper. Usually overmantel frames like this were decorated with mirrors or European oil paintings, but here the presence of Chinese wallpaper must have made it seem appropriate to use a Chinese picture instead.

Detail of the Chinese wallpaper in the Chinese Bedroom which dates from the construction of the room c1760 at Blickling Hall, Norfolk

The Chinese picture with the yellow line showing where the two separate prints have been cut and joined.

At first sight it appears to be a single picture. But when we look more closely we can see that two separate prints have been cut and joined together – indicated by the yellow line in the above image. The scale of the print on the right is actually ever so slightly larger than the one on the left.

Buck Pal Chin Chip Rm 1914 RCIN 2101873

The Chinese Chippendale Room at Buckingham Palace in 1914, photograph by Sir Alexander Nelson Hood, RCIN 2101873. Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2016

I was recently discussing a similar collage of Chinese prints, which is in store at the Royal Pavilion, Brighton, with Dr Alexandra Loske, curator at the Pavilion, and Dr Clare Taylor of the Open University. Here it is when it was still in the so-called Chinese Chippendale Room at Buckingham Palace, set into the overmantel frame.


The chimneypiece and overmantel in the Chinese Chippendale Room at Buckingham Palace, originally from Eltham Lodge, Kent, RCIN 2580.

The overmantel and chimneypiece are very interesting too, beautifully carved in mid-eighteenth-century English rococo chinoiserie style. They were acquired for Buckingham Palace by King Edward VII in the early twentieth century and are thought to have originally come from Eltham Lodge, Kent.


Part of a Chinese wallpaper panel from Eltham Lodge, now in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, E.2087-1914. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London 2016

The name Eltham Lodge will be familiar to those who know the Chinese wallpaper collection at the Victoria and Albert Museum. The museum owns a group of important early Chinese wallpaper panels that was removed from Eltham Lodge in 1911.

That makes me wonder if the chimneypiece and overmantel at Buckingham Palace, the collage of Chinese prints at the Royal Pavilion and the Chinese wallpaper at the V&A were all originally in the same room at Eltham Lodge? I don’t know if there is any hard evidence for that, but it would seem to be a possibility, and the Chinese Bedroom at Blickling provides  a suggestive parallel.

6 Responses to “Cutting and pasting Chinese pictures”

  1. Randi Says:

    How interesting that the overmantel pictures were collaged! That surrounding hand-painted wall paper at Blickling is magnificent, and the collaged piece is charming, too, makes me wonder the motivation behind the collaging – a current fad, an attempt to save money and paper?

  2. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    We don’t know for certain, but it may have had something to do, as you suggest, with the fact that Chinese pictures and wallpapers were expensive, and therefore every last bit tended to be used for something.

    That is certainly suggested by the way various different types of wallpapers and pictures were used in the Chinese Room at Carton, County Kildare, set in variously shaped cartouches. And in that particular case there is actually a wonderfully illustrative surviving letter from the Countess of Kildare urging her husband to buy more when he was in London as she didn’t have enough.

    Another reason may have been simply the need to make certain papers fit certain wall spaces. Even with wallpapers that covered entire walls the paper-hangers still almost always cut bits out and stuck them on elsewhere, to stretch or condense the wallpaper or to disguise joins.

    • Randi Says:

      Thanks for that illuminating comment, Emile! It’s funny that I often picture the people who lived in those grand houses as having lives of utmost luxury and richness – I love seeing these glimpses of them as regular human beings who need the hubby to pick up more wallpaper while he’s in town! Very interesting post, as per usual!

      • Emile de Bruijn Says:

        Here is the actual quote: ‘My dear Lord Kildare [presumably the eighteenth-century upper class equivalent of ‘Darling’], don’t let Louisa forget the India paper, and if you see any you like buy it at once for that I have will never hold out for more than three rooms, and you know we have four to do; for I have set my heart upon that which opens into the garden being done, for ‘tis certainly now our only and best good living room.’ Letter from 1759, quoted in Stella Tillyard, Aristocrats: Caroline, Emily, Louisa and Sarah Lennox 1740-1832, London, Chatto and Windus, 1994, p.200.

  3. Randi Says:

    Love it! I wonder, though, why she called it “India paper”? Sorry to bug you, but I just find your shares so fascinating. I do love history.

  4. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Not at all. That was what people called Chinese wallpaper then, as Asia was known as ‘the East Indies’ and Asian goods were brought to Britain by the East India Company.

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