THE HISTORY, TECHNOLOGY, AND CONSERVATION OF ARCHITECTURAL PAPIER MÂCHÉ
4 REPLICATION OF OTHER STAIR-HALL ORNAMENT
During restoration of woodwork in the stair hall, a third border pattern came to light in the form of small pieces of plaster fallen behind the wainscoting. The decision was made to replicate this border in plaster and use it to border the woodwork in the stair hall (fig. 13). Reconstruction of this design showed it to be identical to a surviving papier mâché border in the Wentworth House, indicating that the plaster pieces were a subsequent restoration of an original paper border.
Papier mâché patterns present in the Miles Brewton House (shown in plaster). (1) drawing room ceiling, (2) stair hall ceiling, (3) central hall walls bordering all woodwork.
The rectilinear design of this border made it more expedient to carve the prototype model in wood. This pattern was molded and multiplied to create long master patterns and molds as described for the other borders. The final borders were cast in Hydrostone reinforced with cotton string and saturated with Soluvar varnish.
An early 20th-century scale drawing of the exterior wall in the stair hall showed an extensive rococo-style scheme of decoration above the windows. This decoration was entirely missing. One small piece of papier-mâché in a gadroon motif had been found in a bureau in the house. This fragment was in scale with a border shown in the drawing and probably came from this decoration.
For reasons of economy, this decorative scheme was reproduced in wood, plaster, and composition. Elements of the design were selected from the composition molds of George Jackson and Sons in London and from my own collection. Where no molds could be found that were appropriate in design and scale, the motifs were modeled and cast in plaster. All elements of the design were glued and nailed to Baltic birch plywood backings into larger units that could be screwed to the wood paneling of the stair hall. This decoration was painted white in conformity to the surface found on the papier mâché fragment.