Past

Perceiving Prints in 18th Print Rooms: Commerce, Play and Display

Research Lunch – Louise Voll Box

  • 25 May 2018
  • 12:30 – 2:00 pm

In the last half of the eighteenth century, ‘print rooms’ — created by adhering etchings and engravings directly onto walls — were a fashionable mode of high-end English domestic interior decoration. Adhered prints included a broad selection of eighteenth-century print production: from Hogarth’s satirical works to Piranesi’s vedute. Commercially-produced paper borders were available to frame the prints, and tradesmen of renown could be engaged to artfully arrange print rooms for discerning clients. Only a handful of extant print rooms survive, however the multi-disciplinary nature of the print room — as a locus of collecting and display, interior decoration, marketing and craft practice — means that the phenomena is a fascinating insight into the re-interpretation and re-location of prints. 

How did prints — previously collected in portfolios and albums in libraries — migrate onto walls? Did the re-purposing of prints change their perceived value? How can we locate the print room within other eighteenth-century English print collecting, arrangement and display practices? 

This paper provides an introduction to the print room in England and Ireland, within the inter-connected contexts of commerce, collecting and creativity. Referring to new evidence from archives, diaries and house guides of the period, responses to print rooms by eighteenth-century audiences are also explored.    

Image detail:
Portion of 'print room' style wallpaper with panels of landscapes, floral festoons, etc, printed in white, blue, brown and grey on a yellow ground; Colour woodblock print, on paper; Provenance: Doddington Hall, Lincolnshire; English; ca. 1760. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

About the speaker

  • Louise Box

    Louise Voll Box is PhD candidate (art history) at the University of Melbourne, studying the provenance, materiality and arrangement of albums of prints in the eighteenth century. Her other research interests include the material culture of the English country house; print collecting and display; and the relationship between prints, books and architectural spaces. Louise is currently the Harold Wright and Sarah and Williams Holmes Scholar, based in the Department of Prints and Drawings at the British Museum.