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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 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; the romantic sensibility of the late eighteenth century, as encapsulated by Paul et Virginie, with its doomed lovers and tragic ending, would have held enduring appeal for the nineteenth-century designers of this fabric.
Length of furnishing fabric, roller-printed in violet on a white ground, with the selvedge visible on the left side. Two sections of the pattern have been stitched together down the centre and don't quite match. One and a half repeats in the length; the width of the repeat is more difficult to discern as the two pieces do not match. The pattern depicts scenes from Bernardin de Saint Pierre's romantic novel, Paul et Virginie, published in Paris in 1788.
Place of Origin
Materials and Techniques
Furnishing fabric, printed cotton depicting scenes from Jacques-Henri Bernardin de Saint-Pierre's romantic novel, Paul et Virginie, France, 1815-20
Trees; Ships; Shipwreck; Seashore; Romanticism; Noble Savage, Rousseau; Mauritius