Tuesday 11 January 2011

Painted Walls * 1550-1650 * Welsh Marches

We have a timbered house which goes back to the early 1700s but there is no sign now if ever it was painted so beautifully as this house in the Welsh Marches. It is totally astonishing that any painted plasterwork in domestic buildings could have survived from the mid 1500s to now, given predilections for new decor and DIY. But they have. Those flowers are so much like those seen on spot samplers. And look, too, at the continuing tradition of incorporating wise-words into decorative designs.
In a fabulous, detailed book by Dr Kathryn Davies, Historic Buildings Inspector for English Heritage, the homes of wealthy merchants and gentry have been meticulously recorded and photographed. The Welsh Marches were home to important, powerful and very wealthy families in this period - think Talbots, Beth of Shrewsbury (and Hardwick) - so it is not surprising that they would have wanted their homes to look as sumptious as possible.
What is important is to link this domestic wall painting with domestic needlecraft. The patterns we see on samplers and stitched pictures, were already there on the walls. In many cases the design and transfer of images and patterns was carried out in much the same way for walls as for embroidery. Pouncing designs on walls was commonplace. And there are records of occasional demarcation spats between Painter-Stainers and Imbroderers in early Guild records. It is totally possible that the person who designed your walls, could at the same time be persuaded to draw out some needlework designs for you. This image recalls very much the Boxers seen on samplers, which are seen flanking a fountain motif.
Just like embroidered panels, painted walls took their inspiration from printed sources. I do recommend this book to lovers of historical needlework, as well as lovers of social history. It is available through Amazon - just click here for the link.

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