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Furnishing fabric

  • Place of origin:

    Nantes (printed)

  • Date:

    1788-1800 (designed and made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Plate-printed cotton

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

This furnishing fabric shows scenes from Jacques-Henri Bernardin de Saint-Pierre's romantic novel, Paul et Virginie, published in Paris in 1788. The novel shows the influence of the contemporary philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau's concept of 'The Noble Savage', which encouraged a return to nature, where humans would not be exposed to the corrupting influences of modern society.

Paul and Virginie are two children raised in relative seclusion on the island of Mauritius. Free from the constraints and troubles of their European contemporaries, the children grow to be happy and fulfilled until Virginie returns to France to secure the fortune of an ailing relative, leaving Paul desolate. On her return to the island, the ship carrying Virginie is wrecked on the coast during a hurricane. As the ship sinks, one of the sailors urges Virginie to dive into the sea and let him swim her to shore. However, Virginie's modesty precludes her from undressing in front of the sailor and so she chooses to drown instead.

Popular works of fiction like Bernardin de Saint Pierre's often inspired designs for printed cottons; Paul et Virginie, with its doomed lovers and tragic ending would have greatly appealed to the romantic sensibility of late eighteenth-century France.

In a departure from the novel, this fabric depicts Virginie being carried ashore after the shipwreck, alive and well.

Physical description

Length of fabric, plate-printed in red on a white ground without a full repeat in either width or length. The pattern depicts scenes from Bernardin de Saint Pierre's romantic novel, Paul et Virginie, published in Paris in 1788.

Place of Origin

Nantes (printed)


1788-1800 (designed and made)



Materials and Techniques

Plate-printed cotton


Length: 75 cm, Width: 91.5 cm

Descriptive line

printed cotton, 1788-1802, French; Plate printed, red, Nantes, Paul et Virginie.




Plate printing

Subjects depicted

Sea-shores; Trees; Shipwrecks; Romanticism; Noble Savage, Rousseau; Ships


Textiles; Interiors


Textiles and Fashion Collection

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