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Wallpaper border

  • Place of origin:

    England (printed)

  • Date:

    ca. 1830 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown (maker)
    Cowtan & Son (supplier)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Colour woodblock print, on paper

  • Credit Line:

    Presented in memory of Arthur Barnard Cowtan OBE, by his son, A. L. Cowtan

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Prints & Drawings Study Room, level C, case MB2B, shelf DW16

Object Type
In the 18th century wallpapers were often fixed to the wall with nails or tacks, rather than pasted up. Printed borders were used to conceal the heads of the tacks and to give a neat and finished appearance to the papered wall. The fashion for using borders continued even when methods of hanging wallpapers changed and borders were no longer strictly necessary. By the early 19th century borders were available in elaborate designs to use as a frieze decoration around the upper part of the room.

Design & Designing
This wallpaper border is designed to look like a plaster frieze or cornice, especially when viewed from a distance. The motifs of the swan, acanthus leaves and flower heads are all derived from classical architecture.

This wallpaper comes from the stock of Messrs Cowtan & Sons Ltd, an important interior decorating company based in Oxford Street, London, from the 1820s to the 1930s. They succeeded two other well-known wallpaper suppliers, J. Duppa and J.G. Crace. Cowtan supplied wallpapers to customers all over the country.

Physical description

Wallpaper border with a trompe-l'oeil design imitating moulding decorations of swans, stylised foliage and festoon of flowers, in white on blue ground; Colour woodblock print, on paper.

Place of Origin

England (printed)


ca. 1830 (made)


Unknown (maker)
Cowtan & Son (supplier)

Materials and Techniques

Colour woodblock print, on paper


Height: 23 cm paper, Width: 52 cm paper

Object history note

Given by Mr A. L. Cowtan in memory of his father, Arthur Barnard Cowtan, OBE.

Descriptive line

Wallpaper border with a trompe-l'oeil design imitating moulding decorations of swans, stylised foliage and festoon of flowers, in white on blue ground; Colour woodblock print, on paper; From the stock of Cowtan & Sons; England; ca.1830.

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. 38. pl 30.
Victoria and Albert Museum, Department of Engraving, Illustration and Design & Department of Paintings, Accessions 1939, published under the Authority of the Ministry of Education, London, 1950
Given by Mr. Noel D. Sheffield, F.R.I.B.A.'

Labels and date

British Galleries:
Wallpapers with Classical motifs were a fashionable feature in Regency interiors and deep borders became particularly popular. Wallpapers at this time were printed with wooden blocks. As each colour was added, the effect of three-dimensional modelling was enhanced, giving them the appearance of friezes made of moulded plasterwork. [27/03/2003]

Production Note

Provenance: The stock of Cowtan & Sons Ltd, successors of J. Duppa, J. G. Crace etc.


Printing ink


Colour woodblock print; Printing

Subjects depicted

Leaves (plant materials); Festoon; Trompe-l'oeil; Swans


Wall coverings; Prints


Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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