J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Digital Wallpaper at the Schuyler Mansion

Earlier this year Susan Holloway Scott of the Two Nerdy History Girls shared a look at the wallpaper of the Schuyler Mansion in Albany.

Philip Schuyler was, of course, a wealthy man. He wanted the mansion he commissioned in 1761 to look good. And that meant choosing fashionable wall coverings. Scott’s posting focused on the paper that Schuyler bought for his halls, upstairs and down.
Unlike most 18thc wallpaper which was block-printed, or “stampt”, this paper was painted entirely by hand in tempera paint in shades of grey – en grisaille was the term – to mimic engraved prints. In fact, the entire scheme of the papers was an elaborate trompe l’oeil to represent framed paintings and cartouches, all custom designed for the walls and spaces they would occupy.

This was, of course, extremely expensive, and as much a sign of Philip’s deep pockets as his taste. The wallpaper he ordered featured romantically scenic landscapes by the Italian painter Paolo Panini, and was called “Ruins of Rome.” The “Ruins of Rome” wallpaper was so rare and costly that there are only two examples of it known to survive in America: in the Jeremiah Lee Mansion in Marblehead, MA, and in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY, which has installed the paper taken from the now-demolished Rensselaerwyck, the home of Stephen Van Rensselaer II, also near Albany. . . .

The scenic wallpaper had long been removed. But over the last few years, the state’s Peebles Island Resource Center, led by Rich Claus and Erin Moroney, has painstakingly recreated a high-quality digital reproduction of the “Ruins of Rome” based on the wallpaper from both the Lee Mansion and the Van Rensselaer installation in the Met, but redesigned to fit the Schuyler Mansion’s walls and woodwork as perfectly as the original once did. The new wallpaper was completed and hung as part of the Mansion's centennial celebration this year.
Both the Schuyler Mansion and the Lee Mansion are now closed for the season but well worth a visit in warmer months. The Met is of course open year-round.

1 comment:

Susan Holloway Scott said...

Thanks for sharing this, John! I'm so glad the Schuyler Mansion has been able to recreate the wallpaper. Clearly Gen. Schuyler didn't believe in doing things half-way, and this gives a much better impression of the grandeur/show-offiness that he wanted for his impressive house on the hill.