Wallpaper fragment: Apprentice Trellis
Object name: Fragment of historic wallpaper
Object number: CHWJA:JAH104
Description: A fragment of historic wallpaper featuring a trellis pattern of blue and white lines on a beige background.
Context: This faded wallpaper fragment was found lining the interior of one of the window shutter boxes in the Family Room, which is believed to have been Mrs Austen’s bedroom. Further fragments remain, embedded in the plaster.
The pattern is made up of blue verditer and white interwoven moire, or watered silk ribbons, creating a trellis. At the centre of each diamond is an enigmatic ‘pin print’ motif, a little like a spider.
Research into the design has shown that this motif was the stem of a rosebud, but in this instance the bud print is missing. This could have occurred if the printer mistakenly printed the blocks in the wrong order. The wallpaper fragments found in the room were hung upside down – possibly to disguise this fact!
The design uses a ribbon block printed twice, first in white then reversed and printed in blue, then the bud in white followed by stems. It was printed incorrectly, perhaps by an early 19th century apprentice to the trade, who became confused with the colour sequences, and printed the blue stem before realizing the bud would obscure it!
We don’t know why the wallpaper is like this. A possible theory is that the Austens purchased the design cheaply as a ‘second’ from the printers, as wallpaper was very expensive and heavily taxed from 1714 – 1836.
In 2016 the Museum commissioned historic wallpaper specialists Hamilton Weston Wallpaper Ltd to reconstruct the pattern from the fragments and to create a replica wallpaper to be hung in the room. The recreated wallpaper has been made using the same hand block printing processes that would have been used in the nineteenth century.
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