JAIC 1981, Volume 20, Number 2, Article 7 (pp. 91 to 99)
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Journal of the American Institute for Conservation
JAIC 1981, Volume 20, Number 2, Article 7 (pp. 91 to 99)

THE IN-SITU CONSERVATION TREATMENT OF A NINETEENTH-CENTURY FRENCH SCENIC WALLPAPER: LES PAYSAGES DE TÉLÉMAQUE DANS L'ILE DE CALYPSO

Doris A. Hamburg



2 LES PAYSAGES DE TÉLÉMAQUE

The distinctive scenic wallpaper Les Paysages de Télémaque was designed between 1815 and 1820 by Xavier Mader for the French wallpaper firm of Joseph Dufour.4 Adapted from a philosophical tale written in 1699 by Francois Fénelon (1651–1715), the paper depicts the mythological adventures of Telemachus searching for his father Ulysses. Twenty-five panels, approximately 21 inches wide by 7 feet high,5 comprise the narrative cycle illustrating Telemachus' stay on the island of Calypso. The panels are hung one adjacent to the next, giving the appearance of a unified panorama. Upon closer examination, however, the various chapters become evident as the same characters reappear in different scenes, e.g., Telemachus is always shown wearing a red cloak over a white toga.

The wallpaper was elaborately designed and executed. In manufacture the paper was first brushed overall with a light blue paint, probably having a hide glue binder. The images were then built up with vivid colors transferred by numerous woodblocks to the paper; 2,027 different blocks with 85 colors were used to print the Telemachus wallpaper cycle.6

More than one edition of the Telemachus cycle were printed, and dating is difficult. The Dufour business and blocks were sold several times during the nineteenth century. For early impressions, rectangles of laid paper, approximately 18 inches by 22 inches, were pasted together to make long panels ready for printing. At an unspecified later date the design was printed onto continuous roll paper. This change in manufacturing process is very noticeable at the Hermitage: the East Wall design is printed on small sheets, whereas the West Wall design is printed on long, continuous roll paper.

Fiber analysis indicated that the laid paper on the East Wall is composed mostly of linen fibers with some cotton, a mixture typical for paper prior to the mid-nineteenth century. Analysis of the West Wall's continuous roll paper revealed rag fibers with an admixture of groundwood or straw. This combination did not appear until after 1850.7 Pigment analysis offered no conclusive evidence in dating the Hermitage wallpaper. The circumstances of installation of the paper currently on the West Wall are uncertain. It presumably replaced an earlier paper of the East Wall vintage. In the central hallway the full Telemachus cycle is shown one and one-half times. Under the stairs, it is apparent how the leftover panels were pieced to fit an awkward space.


Copyright © 1981 American Institute of Historic and Artistic Works