Dado (France), 1810–15
Block-printed on handmade paper. Gift of Teresa Kilham. 1955-86-2.
What is this?
Green ground with grisaille figures of Hercules holding the globe of sky on his back at the front of a colonade, alternating with the "Triumph of Venus" with Venus standing on a shell drawn by dolphins. The Triumph of Venus is framed and set within an imitation marble panel and ornamented with fruit festoons in grisaille.
Why is this important?
This is a wallpaper dado, in the neoclassical style, would have been hung at the bottom of the wall between the baseboard and chair rail. Being located at the bottom of the wall the dado is visually supporting the weight of the wall and for this reason they were frequently architectural in nature. The deep colonnade and the massive figure of Hercules seem capable of this task. Hercules, known for his strength, is shown here holding up the world. Set between the repeating figures of Hercules is a framed vignette of a clothed Venus, standing in a shell being pulled by a pair of dolphins. A winged putto rests on the back of another dolphin nearby. The sun is breaking through the clouds, casting a golden glow on the scene. This vignette is set within a faux stone panel, hung with foliate festoons loaded with fruit. Festoons were a popular motif on neoclassical architecture and the decorative arts.
This design is a woodblock print on joined sheets of handmade paper. Prior to 1820 all paper was made by hand, in single sheets, which were then glued together end to end to form rolls. A ground color was then applied over the entire front surface and then the design was printed, with one block being needed to print each color. The lightest shade of green is the ground color and the design in printed in nine colors.
Numerous wallpapers printed during this period are printed in grisaille, or shades of gray. This paper is printed in a monochrome green color scheme with accents printed in grisaille. The use of this technique made the printed elements appear more sculptural and gave them a look of antiquity.