Thursday 10 October 2013

Sources For Embroidery? Early Lining & Wallpapers In The V&A, London

I have been very interested for sometime in the wall decorations that once existed in homes dating from the Tudor and Stuart periods - particularly those in Scotland and Wales. And it was while I was searching the V&A image collection for something quite different, that I stumbled across early lining and wallpapers of that period. The one above is thought to be inspired by embroidery and it does so closely resemble the embroidery decorations of the time - but equally the influence might be construed to be the other way round, with perhaps the printed design being a precursor to the embroidered design.

It has been shown that many of the designs for the narrative Stuart panels were based on contemporary prints. Prints, too, influenced designs on interior walls. I have no idea at the moment about the relative costs or accessibility of prints vs wallpapers, but wallpapers would have represented a rare visual graphic exemplar in a time when there was very little graphic impact about, which is now so difficult for us to imagine in our age of posters and magazines. The paper above recollects the allegorical Stuart panels - this one depicts the 5 senses.

This design seems influenced by near Eastern designs, from the Ottoman or Safavid dynasties.

A fisher is sometimes depicted in a central cartouche on Stuart panels. Here the house with its curling smoke looks familiar together with the over-sized flora and fauna. 

This print appears upside down as shown in the V&A image gallery but still reminds me of designs for official-looking bourses.

This coloured design recalls the pattern of the first image. It is later in date and is from Italy and was probably intended as a lining for a book.

Only just discernible on this paper are the outlines of a courtly man and woman united by a fecund flowering rose. 

This paper presents again figures in a landscape of over-sized flora and fauna.

This is an intriguing example - the floral pattern has been over-printed on a text page. The quality of the over print is high and perhaps this was a test print run off on recycled paper - since paper was not the throw away price it is today. Or is this over printing merely an intermediary stage between capturing a pattern and transferring it to cloth or paper for an end use we do not know?

I am still wondering and it would be good to hear your thoughts.


  1. I'm wondering what is the figure fishing in your fourth example?

    1. I think we're seeing a face peeking out just on the right of a parasol... The bits sticking up at the top appear to be reeds or grasses in the pond.