Digital Tour – Vivid View: The Art and Science of Paint Analysis

Flocked Wallpaper in Parlor Closet, Eyre Hall

Image of flocked wallpaper in parlor closet of Eyre Hall

Photo by Dr. Susan Buck. Courtesy of Furlong Baldwin

This visually compelling image of a blue-flocked wallpaper has an equally compelling history. It was recently found in the interior of a small closet off the parlor of Eyre Hall (c. 1758) when glimpses of a brilliant blue could be seen through small cracks in the later layers of limewash and paint. Carefully scraping away these later wall coatings revealed a blue-flocked wallpaper with a quatrefoil pattern. The blue-printed and flocked wallpaper was analyzed to identify its pigments and fibers in order to date its installation in the parlor’s closet.

The paper itself is composed of flax fibers. The flocking fibers are dyed blue and green wool. Both flax and wool were typical fibers of traditional eighteenth- and early-nineteenth-century flocked wallpapers. Pigment analysis shows that the deep blue base coat directly on top of the paper is composed primarily of very high quality Prussian blue and cobalt blue pigments, and the light blue print layer is composed of a mixture of Prussian blue, cobalt blue, green verditer, and yellow ochre.  The blue flocking fibers were adhered to this light blue block-printed paint while it was still wet. As cobalt blue was not available as a pigment until about 1810, this wallpaper could not have been part of Eyre Hall’s eighteenth-century decoration. A surprising discovery from a closet space, this expensive wallpaper was likely excess paper from a more public room in the house decorated during the nineteenth century.

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