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Diary of a Call Slip Girl

09/13/2010

Episode 3: Feng Shui of Historical Decorating

This is one of the panel's illustrating a pastoral setting. Rare NK3400.M3

Eighteenth century wall-paper over a door. Rare NK3400.M3

We have all either tried Feng Shui on our own living spaces or have seen our friends and family attempt desperately to achieve inner peace with robin’s egg blue or by placing their couch to face the welcoming sun. Just the other day in the library, a patron requested a rare book entitled Historic Wall-papers: From Their Inception to the Introduction of Machinery by Nancy McClelland. You might be asking yourself the same question I did: “Wallpaper? Didn’t our forefathers just decorate with portraits and statues?” As referenced in this book, wallpaper may have debuted as early as 1595 or 1690 as an imitation of tapestries. As Feng Shui is used to convey a sense of relaxation and balance, wallpaper was used as an illusion. Personally, I like to think some of the landscapes and scenes with people were created to transport the visitor or occupant of the home to a real or mythical place in time. Some of the panoramas include: “Reconciliation of Venus and Psyche,” “Bluebeard Handing the Key to One of His Wives,” and “The Dream of Happiness.” This book not only pleases in the aesthetic sense, but it also has a practical application. A researcher could request this book for an inside glimpse into the world of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century room restoration. If you are successful in your endeavor at reviving this lost art, then you certainly have a guest that would R.S.V.P. immediately for the party!

View of a salon with the "Monuments of Paris" wall-paper. Rare NK3400.M3

Forever at your request,

Call Slip Girl

Elaine Hagy is a library clerk at the Virginia Historical Society.

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