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  • Place of origin:

    England (probably, made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1790 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Plate printed cotton

  • Credit Line:

    Given by The Hon Mrs L Lindley

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Europe 1600-1815, Room 1, case CA11

This valance, which was probably used as part of a set of bed hangings, is made with a printed cotton commemorating the Fall of the Bastille in 1789, at the start of the French Revolution. It is thought to have been printed in England for export to France, and the reference to events of August 1789 suggest that it was printed soon after.

Physical description

Valance of cotton plate printed in purple. There are two main scenes : the Storming of the Bastille, and a fictive tomb of Louis XVI, celebrating France's liberty; the scenes are depicted in a sketch-like manner, and their designer or source has not yet been identified. There is a background of scrolling ribbons and flowers, wheat ears, and fleurs de lys, with inscriptions in French and Latin.

Signed in the print 'GORDON SCULP' and 'H.M.& Co.'. Lined, with top and bottom edges bound with linen tape.

Place of Origin

England (probably, made)


ca. 1790 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Plate printed cotton


Height: 345 mm, Width: 1130 mm

Object history note

Lent to the British Museum exhibition 'Britain and the French Revolution' May to September 1989.
Lent to the exhibition 'La Revolution Francais - Version Anglais' at Musee de la Revolution Francais, Vizille, France, June - September 1990.

Descriptive line

printed cotton, about 1790, English; Plate printed, The Fall of the Bastille

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

V&A Loan Exhibition of English Chintz, 1960, cat. no. 180
The Shadow of the Guillotine : Britain and the French Revolution, by David Bindman, British Museum, 1989, cat. no. 33.
From Edith Standen, English Washing Furnitures, MMA Bulletin, Vol XXIII, no. 3, Nov. 1964 :

'Why, from the mid- I760s, customers wanted current theatrical scenes, and why, from about 1775, they wanted pictures of contemporary events around their beds and across their windows is much harder to account for. A similar phenomenon occurred in France, where theatrical and historical scenes appeared about a decade after they did in England. Comparable French toiles, which begin with naval victories, become more frequent after 1789, when they are concerned with episodes of the Revolution. Certainly here one senses a growing involvement of the people as a whole with the political scene, though manufacturers must have lost heavily when they immortalized occasions of the most transitory validity; the toile showing Louis XVI in his brief role as a constitutional monarch, "restorateur de la Liberte," would have been hastily ripped from many a bed after the flight to Varennes. An English manufacturer of left-wing sympathies produced a similar subject showing the French king as well as the fall of the Bastille, with a misspelled inscription about "Louis XVI regeneratel [sic] de la liberte frangois," and must have also regretted it. '

This article is illustrated with scenes from the piece of the textile in the MMA, which has a third scene showing the King under a canopy, apparently receiving Liberty (?).

Production Note

Assumed to have been printed in England for export to France. There are no conclusive grounds for an English identification.




Plate printing


Textiles; Furniture


Textiles and Fashion Collection

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