Out of all of the beautiful features at Point of Honor, “The Monuments of Paris” wallpaper is one of the most lavish and detailed. The history of this paper, both the original design and the reproduction which is now on the wall of the parlor at Point of Honor, is intriguing and worth discussing.
The history of very colorful and decorative block-printed wallpaper goes back to the early 18th century. This style of paper became popular in both Europe and the United States, especially because of their use at the Palace of Fontainebleau by Napoleon and at Mount Vernon by George Washington. After France supported the United States during the American Revolution, French-made goods became widely used throughout the United States. Due to its popularity, many companies began manufacturing scenic wallpaper. There was a lot of competition to create block-printed murals and panoramic papers. Joseph Dufour created Les Monuments du Paris (“The Monuments of Paris”) paper and it was manufactured in 1814. The plan of the paper was designed by Xavier Mader, an expert draftsman and engraver; he became the artist-in-charge for all but one of Dufour’s following scenic wallpapers. According to records from Dufour’s firm, it took several years to prepare the paper, with over 250 workers including Mader, draftsmen, block carvers, colorists, printers, and chemists.
Within “The Monuments of Paris” wallpaper there are numerous famous buildings and arches that could be found in Paris in 1814. A common misconception is that Arc de Triomphe is one of the arches displayed. The Arc de Triomphe was designed in 1806 and construction began that year, but it was not completed until between 1833 and 1836. Some of the monuments have been long since destroyed so this wallpaper is a good way to see what Paris would have looked like two hundred years ago. A few of the more well-known monuments shown in the paper are Notre Dame, Le Panthéon, Arc du Carrosel, and Colonnade du Louvre.
“The Monuments of Paris” wallpaper was reproduced by the design firm The Twigs, who were commissioned by the Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met) in New York City in 1977. The Met was looking for a panoramic wallpaper to use in their recently renovated American Wing. Fragments from the original manufactured paper were found, documented, and then a full color, full scale master was constructed to create a traced reproduction. It took a team of artists two years to produce the drawings and over a thousand silkscreens were engraved to finish the printing. The Lynchburg Museum System first showed interest in this wallpaper for use in Point of Honor in 1982, but the acquisition took roughly three years. There was some debate between purchasing reproduction wallpaper and finding an antique paper from the early 1800s. The museum searched for two years, but only found one which was too small for the parlor, which brought them back to buying “The Monuments of Paris” reproduction paper. The wallpaper was ordered in February 1985 and was installed in April of that same year, in time for Garden Day.
“The Monuments of Paris” paper is the focal point in the parlor at Point of Honor. It is also one of the most asked about artifacts in the house due to its details, colors, and buildings found within it.
Lynchburg Museum Staff