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Furnishing fabric

Furnishing fabric

  • Place of origin:

    Lancashire (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1850 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Glazed, roller-printed cotton

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

This printed cotton fabric has a naturalistic design of roses and lilacs in bright colours and was made in about 1850. It was exhibited in 1852 in an exhibition called 'False Principles in Design' at the Museum of Ornamental Art in Marlborough House, curated by Henry Cole. Cole had been a member of the 1851 Exhibition committee which aimed to promote excellence in industrial design. This chintz, which retains traces of its original label (No.11), was condemned for 'Direct Imitation of Nature' involving 'branches of lilac and rose trees made to bend to the forms of sofa cushions and chair arms'. Further complaints read, 'the ground, which should be light in chintzes, [is] entirely obscured by the pattern. General want of repose'.

Another of the exhibition organisers, Richard Redgrave, declared that 'the decoration of chintzes in particular seems at present to be of the most extravagant kind. Overlooking the fact that the lightness and thinness of the material will not carry a heavy treatment, and that...the use of imitative floral ornament is particularly unsuitable on account of the folds, the taste is to cover the surface almost entirely with large and coarse flowers...which are magnified by the designer much beyond the scale of nature'.

Despite the attempts of Cole and his successors to improve public taste, consumers continued to favour floral chintzes, which remain popular for draperies and upholstery to this day.

Physical description

Included in Henry Cole's exhibition 'False Principles of Design', this chintz was of a highly coloured floral type which proved highly fashionable. It was considered a bad example of design because of its 'direct imitation of nature; branches of lilac and rose trees made to bend to the forms of sofa cushions and chain arms' and because of its dark ground and 'general want of repose'. Part of the original label can still be seen attached to the fabric.

Place of Origin

Lancashire (made)


ca. 1850 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Glazed, roller-printed cotton


Height: 890 mm Maximum height, Width: 875 mm Maximum width

Descriptive line

Furnishing fabric, chintz, highly floral, Lancashire, ca. 1850

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

Baker, Malcolm, and Brenda Richardson (eds.), A Grand Design: The Art of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London: V&A Publications, 1999.
Parry, Linda. British Textiles from 1850 to 1900 London : Victoria and Albert Museum 1993. Plate 27.

Subjects depicted

Rose (flower); Lilac




Textiles and Fashion Collection

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