Sidewall And Attached Border, République Française Liberté Égalité, ca. 1792
Block-printed on handmade paper. Gift of John Jay Ide Collection. 1986-106-1
What is this?
Wallpaper designed for the French Revolution, illustrated with oakleaf wreath enclosing crossed fasces, sword & Phrygian cap. Tricolor ribbons wrapped around fluted column bear legend: "Soyons Unis/Nous Serons/Invincibles."
Why is this important?
This is a paper from the French Revolution, wood block-printed ca. 1792. The citizens of France felt that the Revolution could not be won just by fighting in political circles or on the battlefield and had to also occur in the ordinary citizen’s everyday life. It was believed that symbols had a powerful effect on the spirit and could reinforce the validity of the new principles. The domestic nature of wallpaper as well its repetitive aspect made it an ideal medium for portraying such motifs, and bringing these ideals into the home. This paper contains numerous symbols of the Revolution including the red Phrygian cap, cockade, and a banner with the words liberty and equality, which are all combined in this rather beautiful format. Unlike posters or flyers used today for the spread of information, these are block-printed wallpapers, made by some of the top French manufacturers. The Cooper Hewitt contains about a dozen different versions of these papers, both sidewalls and borders.