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Perspective Representation of the Crystal Palace and Serpentine

  • Object:

    Wallpaper

  • Place of origin:

    Manchester (probably, made)

  • Date:

    1853-1855 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown (maker)
    Heywood, Higginbottom & Smith (manufacturer)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Colour machine print, on paper

  • Museum number:

    E.158-1934

  • Gallery location:

    British Galleries, Room 122, case 1

Object Type
In Britain paper printed with patterns has been used for decorating walls since the 16th century. By the late 19th century wallpapers were widely used by all classes, in homes and also in public buildings.

Historical Associations
Pictorial wallpapers that commemorated historic events were popular novelties between 1850 and the 1890s. This example shows the Crystal Palace in Hyde Park, London, the site of the Great Exhibition of 1851. Many wallpapers of this kind were included in the displays of British design and manufacture in the Exhibition.

Design & Designing
This wallpaper was one of several pictorial patterns chosen by Henry Cole (1808-1882) for a display illustrating 'False Principles of Design' at the Museum of Ornamental Art in 1853. Cole was a leading critic of contemporary design in the decorative arts. He hoped to educate the taste of the public and of manufacturers by showing some of the worst examples and explaining their faults. However, papers of this kind continued to be produced for many years.

Physical description

Panel of wallpaper depicting the Crystal Palace as seen through a garden archway, with flights of steps and architectural framework, with falsified perspective; Colour machine print, on paper.

Place of Origin

Manchester (probably, made)

Date

1853-1855 (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown (maker)
Heywood, Higginbottom & Smith (manufacturer)

Materials and Techniques

Colour machine print, on paper

Dimensions

Height: 99 cm, Width: 53.6 cm

Object history note

This was one of six pictorial wallpapers used to demonstrate 'False Principles of Design' at the Museum of Ornamental Art, Marlborough House, London. It is described in the catalogue to the collection, issued by the Department of Science and Art, as 'Perspective representation of the Crystal Palace and Serpentine; with flights of steps and architectural framework'.
It was included as an example of poor design because it falsified the perspective. This paper was, however, seen by manufacturers as a demonstration of their technical skill. It was printed in eight colours with great accuracy and complexity.

Descriptive line

'False Principle no 28'; Panel of wallpaper depicting the Crystal Palace as seen through a garden archway, with flights of steps and architectural framework, with falsified perspective; Colour machine print, on paper; Used to demonstrate 'False Principles of Design' at the Museum of Ornamental Art, Marlborough House, London; English; 1853-1855.

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

Oman, Charles C. and Hamilton, Jean. Wallpapers: a history and illustrated catalogue of the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum. London: Sotheby Publications, in association with the Victoria and Albert Museum, 1982.
Saunders, Gill. Wallpaper in Interior Decoration. V&A Publications. London. 2002. pp. 101. pl 84.
Lambert, Susan (ed.) Pattern & Design: Designs for the Decorative Arts 1480-1980 London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 1983
Victoria & Albert Museum Department of Engraving, Illustration and Design & Department of Paintings Accessions 1934 London: Published under the Authority of the Board of Education, 1935

Labels and date

British Galleries:
Pictorial wallpapers which commemorated historic events were popular novelties between 1850 and 1880. Various examples survive which show battles, royal anniversaries and international exhibitions. [27/03/2003]

Materials

Paper

Techniques

Colour machine print

Subjects depicted

Steps; Archways; Rowing boat; The Crystal Palace; Great Exhibition Building; Trees; People; Serpentine

Categories

Wall coverings; Architecture; Great Exhibition; British Galleries; The Great Exhibition

Collection

Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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