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Wallpaper border

  • Place of origin:

    England (printed)

  • Date:

    ca. 1840 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Colour print from wood blocks, 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
At this time many different designs for wallpaper borders were available. Many patterns were based on architectural motifs and styles. This example includes a palmette and acanthus leaves, both characteristic of the Greek Revival style.

This wallpaper comes from the stock of Messrs Cowtan & Sons Ltd, an important interior decorating company based in Oxford Street, London, from the 1830s 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

Portion of wallpaper border with two bands of running ornamentation, acanthus, stylized flowers and a palmette in 'gold' on a red ground; Colour print from wood blocks, on paper.

Place of Origin

England (printed)


ca. 1840 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Colour print from wood blocks, on paper


Height: 25.6 cm paper, Width: 49.3 cm paper

Object history note

Given by Mr A. L. Cowtan in memory of his father, Arthur Barnard Cowtan, OBE.
Provenance: The stock of Cowtan & Sons Ltd, successors of J. Duppa, J. G. Crace etc.

Descriptive line

Portion of wallpaper border with two bands of running ornamentation, acanthus, stylized flowers and a palmette in 'gold' on a red ground; Colour print from wood blocks, on paper; From the stock of Cowtan & Sons; England; ca.1840.

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.
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]


Printing ink


Colour woodblock print; Printing

Subjects depicted

Acanthus; Anthemions; Palmettes; Running ornament


Wall coverings; Prints


Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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