Tag Archives: Art

Peeling Back the Layers of Time — WALLPAPER

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Binders full of hun­dreds of plas­tic-sleeved wall­pa­per frag­ments revealed dur­ing the restora­tion can be found in our stor­age area.

This week’s top­ic in our “Peel­ing Back the Lay­ers” series looks at some of the incred­i­ble wall­pa­per that has graced the walls of Camp­bell House since its con­struc­tion in 1851.

When the muse­um began its exten­sive restora­tion project in 2000, great care was tak­en to pre­serve any­thing and every­thing that was found in walls, under floor­boards, and under lay­ers of paint and wall­pa­per.  Everything—from large orig­i­nal doors and win­dows to the small­est scrap of fad­ed wall­pa­per was saved and is pre­served for future study here at Camp­bell House.  Our cli­mate-con­trolled archives room is chock-full of binders and box­es con­tain­ing all of these frag­ments.

Over time, wall­pa­per itself has fad­ed in and out of style and, along with this, lots of dif­fer­ent designs saw peaks in pop­u­lar­i­ty.  The first thing a lot of us think of when think of wall­pa­per might be some­thing like you see to the right.

Random internet picture of terrible wallpaper.

Ran­dom inter­net pic­ture of ter­ri­ble wall­pa­per.

Yikes, right?  Have no fear—our wall­pa­per is way more inter­est­ing than Grand­ma’s din­ing room.

Like the linoleum we talked about a cou­ple of weeks ago, we found quite a few lay­ers of wall­pa­per­ing when we began the restora­tion.

After uncov­er­ing all of these nifty scraps, we began the process of recre­at­ing wall­pa­pers and inte­ri­ors that matched the orig­i­nals, which was an enor­mous project, read more about that and see some neat pic­tures of us at work dur­ing the restora­tion after the break—

Here’s a taste of what we have in our wallpaper collection:

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Cir­ca 1870 wall­pa­per from CHM’s 3rd floor sit­ting room, still attached to plas­ter.

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Wall­pa­per bor­der rem­nant from the sec­ond floor of the Car­riage House.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Wall­pa­per sam­ples found in the sec­ond floor ser­vants hall with a “felt board” back­ing, dat­ing from the ear­ly 20th cen­tu­ry.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Cir­ca 1860 wall­pa­per bor­der frag­ment found in the third floor stair­well. The bor­der accent­ed an unusu­al­ly large pat­terned Ash­lar paper—designed to look like fin­ished brick or stone. See the cur­rent iter­a­tion of Ash­lar paper found today at Camp­bell House below. 

 

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Ash­lar block wall­pa­per on the walls at Camp­bell House today- installed in the ear­ly 2000s dur­ing our restora­tion.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Block flo­ral motif pat­tern found under the crown mold­ing in the ser­vants hall and out­side the sec­ond floor bath­room.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Bor­der paper frag­ment found in Mrs. Kyle’s room behind man­tle facade dat­ing from the 1860s- this like­ly pre­dat­ed the many exten­sive struc­tur­al addi­tions and improve­ments that the Camp­bells made to their home over time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Wall­pa­per frag­ment found on the west wall of CHM’s library. This was found behind a divid­ing wall, mean­ing it dates from before the 1880s and was installed by Robert and Vir­ginia.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wallpaper Restoration

After uncov­er­ing all of those neat his­tor­i­cal pieces of wall­pa­per, we began the process of re-paper­ing with spe­cial­ly designed spot-on recre­ations of what orig­i­nal­ly hung on the Camp­bells’ walls.  This was quite the process—wallpapering in the 1880s was noth­ing like what it is today.

Wall­pa­per had to be recre­at­ed through col­or analy­sis and pho­tos of the var­i­ous rooms that were tak­en in the 1880s, when it arrived it came in rolls like this:

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The wall­pa­per came rolled in 30 inch-wide strips.  How­ev­er, the design was only on 19 inch­es of the strip, which meant our installers had to hand cut the edges of the wall­pa­per and pay extra spe­cial atten­tion to make sure edges matched up once the paper was past­ed to the walls.

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All of the wall­pa­pers used in our restora­tion were cus­tom-designed to match orig­i­nal wall­pa­pers found in the house dur­ing the 19th cen­tu­ry by spe­cial­ty design firms.

 

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The end prod­uct: the entire wall of the Camp­bel­l’s mas­ter bed­room is cov­ered with indi­vid­ual strips that had to be hand-cut and then past­ed into place.

 

 

So that sounds like quite the project, right?  Well things got even cra­zier with the com­plex wall­pa­per and bor­der design found in Mrs. Kyle’s bed­room.  Like the green lily wall­pa­per seen above, the Japan­ese-inspired wall­pa­per for this project came in small strips that had to be hand-trimmed.

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What made this room extra tricky, though, was the bor­der that had to be sliced off the top of the roll, past­ed, and reassem­bled by hand into a com­plex design on the ceil­ing and around the tops of the walls.

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Red and gold trim along the top of the wall­pa­per had to be cut off.

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Our crafts­man del­i­cate­ly past­ing the cut-off sliv­ers of wall­pa­per into a box-design on the ceil­ing.

 

 

 

 

 

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The final prod­uct.

Check out the pictures below for some more examples of wallpapering that was done during our restoration:

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Mrs. Kyle’s sec­ond floor bed­room

Dining-Room

Din­ing room

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Head house­keep­er’s sec­ond floor bed­room

Library

Third floor library

A Copy of a Copy

A trip to the Camp­bell House Muse­um guar­an­tees a cou­ple of things:

1.) You’re going to walk up and down a lot of stairs.

2.) You’re going to get a great, engag­ing tour from one of our awe­some docents or interns.

3.) You’re going to see some incred­i­ble exam­ples of Vic­to­ri­an inte­ri­or design and beau­ti­ful works of art.

This post focus­es on the last point—the out­stand­ing col­lec­tion of art accu­mu­lat­ed over the years by Robert and Vir­ginia Camp­bell and their sons—and we have our recent­ly depart­ed Spring intern Amy to thank for the great research that went into what you’re about to read.

Painting of James Campbell by Jules Lefebvre, 1899 © Campbell House Foundation 2013

Paint­ing of James Camp­bell by Jules Lefeb­vre, paint­ed in Paris in 1895.

While Camp­bell House does boast some beau­ti­ful orig­i­nal works of art, like the por­trait of the dash­ing James Camp­bell hang­ing in the library paint­ed by renowned artist Jules Lefeb­vre, many of the art­works that you see on a trip to the muse­um are copies of orig­i­nal works, some going back to antiq­ui­ty.

What’s pret­ty inter­est­ing though is that, upon fur­ther exam­i­na­tion, resource­ful intern Amy unrav­eled the sto­ry of one of our sculp­tures and revealed that it’s actu­al­ly a copy of a copy… of a copy.

A huge­ly pop­u­lar trend for wealthy fam­i­lies like the Camp­bells in the 19th cen­tu­ry was to dis­play works by well known artists in their homes.  How­ev­er, dis­play­ing orig­i­nal sculp­tures by leg­endary artists would have been imprac­ti­cal and often finan­cial­ly impossible—even for wealthy fam­i­lies like the Camp­bells.  On top of that, most of the orig­i­nals were incred­i­bly heavy—made out of mar­ble, so buy­ing plas­ter copies of the orig­i­nals made them eas­i­er to ship and were much more prac­ti­cal to dis­play in a res­i­den­tial set­ting.

Bust of "Venus Italica" by Antonio Canova © Campbell House Foundation 2013

Bust of “Venus Ital­i­ca” by Anto­nio Cano­va in the Camp­bell House Morn­ing Room.

One artist for which the Camp­bells seem to have had a par­tic­u­lar affin­i­ty was Ital­ian sculp­tor Anto­nio Cano­va, whose work dates from the late 18th and ear­ly 19th cen­turies.  The most detailed of his works on dis­play here at Camp­bell House can be found in the Morn­ing Room—a bust of his Venus Ital­i­ca.

Canova's original "Venus Italica"

Canova’s orig­i­nal “Venus Ital­i­ca”

Ok, so you’re prob­a­bly assum­ing that this isn’t the orig­i­nal sculp­ture by Cano­va.  And you’re right.  In fact, the orig­i­nal is sig­nif­i­cant­ly larg­er, and a bit…exposed.  Not nec­es­sar­i­ly some­thing Vir­ginia Camp­bell would have want­ed greet­ing guests as they walked through her home.

What’s inter­est­ing is that, in real­i­ty, Canova’s orig­i­nal Venus Ital­i­ca isn’t actu­al­ly all that orig­i­nal.  In fact, it’s a copy of a much old­er piece called the Medici Venus that Cano­va was com­mis­sioned to recre­ate and onto which he put his own unique spin by adding clothes and repo­si­tion­ing Venus’ hand.  The Medici Venus dates all the way back to the first cen­tu­ry BCE, near­ly 2,000 years before the Camp­bells decid­ed that Venus’ head would look nice on dis­play in their sit­ting room.

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The “Medici Venus”, dat­ing from the first cen­tu­ry BCE

But wait!  There’s more!  Not only is the Camp­bells’ bust of Venus a copy of Anto­nio Canova’s Venus Ital­i­ca, which is a copy of the Medici Venus, but the Medici Venus actu­al­ly has its begin­nings as a copy of an even OLDER sculp­ture- the Venus of Knidos craft­ed in ancient Greece.  Though the orig­i­nal is no longer in exis­tence, we do still have (you guessed it!) copies of what the orig­i­nal is thought to have looked like.… and it’s miss­ing a cou­ple of key fea­tures.

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A copy of the “Venus Knidos”, which dates back to Greek antiq­ui­ty

So there you have it.  The Camp­bells’ bust of Venus is actu­al­ly a copy of a copy of a copy of a copy.  Is your head spin­ning yet?

This prac­tice of repro­duc­ing clas­si­cal sculp­tures for dis­play in the home became increas­ing­ly pop­u­lar dur­ing the 19th cen­tu­ry and artists began more and more to use clas­sic works as inspi­ra­tions for new pieces.  This move­ment, known as neo­clas­si­cism, posed a pret­ty big prob­lem for schol­ars and crit­ics at the time—was this art new? Or was it just a copy?  The answer that’s gen­er­al­ly been agreed upon is, quite sim­ply, both.  We can see how much change that the orig­i­nal Venus under­went before its lat­er incar­na­tion end­ed up in the Camp­bell House, with dif­fer­ences added slow­ly over time and mak­ing the fig­ure more nat­u­ral­is­tic.  Though these changes and the com­mer­cial­iza­tion of famous works made art more acces­si­ble to the com­mon man, it has been argued this neo­clas­si­cal move­ment actu­al­ly marks begin­ning of art’s decline, throw­ing artis­tic inno­va­tion and iden­ti­ties out the win­dow in favor of cheap repro­duc­tions.

Venus (center left) in the Morning Room of the Campbell House, ca. 1885 © Campbell House Foundation 2013

Venus (cen­ter left) in the Morn­ing Room of the Camp­bell House, cir­ca 1885
© Camp­bell House Foun­da­tion 2013

Regard­less of the posi­tion you take, it can’t be denied that even these neo­clas­si­cal pieces spared no lack of atten­tion to detail and, when push comes to shove, we’re pret­ty pleased that our copy of Canova’s Venus has kept watch from the cor­ner here at Camp­bell House for the last 150 years.  Even if it is a copy of a copy…of a copy.