St. James’s wallpaper

Posted on | January 26, 2009 | No Comments

Shortly after it’s establishment in 1861, Morris & Co. received a number of important secular commissions, one of which being the decoration of St. James’s Palace. Queen Victoria must have been satisfied with the firm’s earlier work on the Armoury and Tapestry Room in the late 1860′s, since they were invited back again in 1880 to decorate several more spaces, the Grand Staircase and the Throne Room being among them. For these primarily, Morris designed the wallpaper St. James’s in two different colorways. This “ruby” coloring was created for the Throne Room. The final installations of the papers were then varnished.

The pattern is very formal and damask-like, but using Morris’ traditional style of skillfully woven networks of foliage in repose. The large and regal scale of the pattern fit the grand spaces for which it was intended. It had a horizontal repeat of approximately 41 inches, (which meant two widths of the standard 20.5” paper it was printed on to complete the pattern) and a vertical repeat of 47″, (because of this long repeat vertically, it required two blocks to print each color laydown). All in all, the pattern required sixty-eight woodblocks to print it’s finished 17 colors.

Despite it’s costly production, St. James’s was later offered in Morris & Co.’s standard line and enjoyed some installations elsewhere.

We, of course, offer our St. James” today in a more residential scale, but still with it’s 17 colors being meticulously handprinted. It’s still one of my all time favorite patterns.

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