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Frieze panel

Frieze panel

  • Place of origin:

    France (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1800-1815 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Woven silk, embroidered

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

Physical description

One of three rectangular frieze panels, with border decoration and frilly drapery. Woven silk with embroidered details. Designs inspired by early reproductions of the wall paintings at Herculaneum.

Place of Origin

France (made)


ca. 1800-1815 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Woven silk, embroidered

Object history note

These three panels feature a row of Bacchantes, copied from engravings of wall paintings at Herculaneum reproduced in the 1757 volume of Le Antichita di Ercolano esposte 1755-92, published in a limited edition by Charles III of the Two Sicilies, the series became widely available after about 1770. At the time of acquisition in 1871 there were similar hangings in the Royal Palace at Madrid which were thought to have come from Naples. Unfortunately there are no papers surviving for this acquisition. The 3 pieces of satin were purchased from a G. Bracho [Brachs?] via M.R. Steel & were bought for £6.

Historical context note

According to Simon Jervis, the painted interiors from which these figures come were regarded a unsuitable for imitation, but individual motifs were adapted into the decorative arts. He speculates that this silk, woven in pairs of Bacchantes, may have been intended for cutting up to provide single figures for chair uphostery and other decorations. A chair seat and back at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York and a wall hanging at the Cleveland Museum of Art, Ohio seem to have been made in this way.

Around 1800 a new wave of interest in the excavations at Herculaneum and Pompeii, both in the Kingdom of Naples which fell into French hands, led to the thorough recording and some restoring of the sites. In 1800 the new interest was expressed in the redecorated dining room at Malmaison, the country house of Josephine, Napoleon's wife. It was decorated with full-sized dancing figures, the size of the original ancient paintings. In 1828 Friedrich von Gartner built a complete Pompeian house at Aschaffenburg for Ludwig I of Bavaria.

The quality of these silks suggests they may have been made in Lyon, France, the main centre of silk weaving in this period, sponsored from 1802 onwards by Napoleon.

These hangings seem to date from the Napoleonic period. Five pieces of the silk have been joined together to recreate a figured friez of the type found at Herculaneum. Some of the yellow silk background has a woven pattern of a garland of flowers with a ribbon in an octagonal frame flanked by griffins; the flowers do not fit into the Pompeian style and were conceled by the Bacchante silk, but the griffins appear suitably classical and were incorporated into the design of the new hangings. Palmettees and scrolls, foliage and other emblems were embroidered on to the completed hangings.

Descriptive line

Frieze panel, France, ca. 1800-1815.

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Simon Jervis, ed. Art and Design in Europe and America 1800-1900, The Herbert Press, 1987, pp. 24-25.

Labels and date

'American and European Art and Design'

One of three panels, their designs inspired by early reproductions of the wall-paintings at Herculaneum. The rectangular panels, border decoration and frilly drapery are all comparable. There were similar hangings in the Royal Palace at Madrid when these were acquired in 1871. [1987-2006]




Woven; Embroidered




Textiles and Fashion Collection

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