Beautiful wallpaper – magnification 250x

March 17, 2010

There is a room with 18th century wall to wall paintings on linen, in a castle in the middle of The Netherlands. In the course of restoration of this room, the huge paintings were rolled off the walls. And there was something underneath, a grey wallpaper with a beautiful little border. In charcoal a text recalling the proud paper-stainers who restored the paintings in 1886. What was going on here?

I was very naughty. I took little pieces of the papers with me. To see what the pigments are. To see how old the wallpapers were, where they came from. Why they were there? Could I?

Fragments were embedded in a resin.

Polishing followed, changing the sanding paper again and again to a finer grid, until the sanding paper was so fine that it said “12000” on the back.
And then, with the help of a microscope, we are seeing so much more.

Look, the fibres from the paper support. Coloured rags, but also wood was used.
Look there, above the red dotted line, the extremely thin paint layer, reddish with such fine dispersed pigments, hardly visible. Exactly as you would expect from printed matter of that day.
Tests were done, photographs taken, notes, ideas and conclusions.

This wallpaper hadn’t been visible for long. It was found under the painted canvases that were taken down and sent out for repair and touching up, around 1880.

“We don’t want bare, brick walls all day! That’s cold, and unpleasant.” You could almost hear the lord and lady of the house groaning.
A grey wallpaper with a red border. Problem solved, till the canvases came back.