Bird and flower wallpaper
Unknown painting workshop
Sometime during the 1770s a couple in North Wales decided to redecorate their house. They had the advantage of being able to afford some of the best craftspeople and to purchase some of the most fashionable products on the global market. The couple were Philip Yorke (1743– 1804) and his wife Elizabeth (1749–79), who lived at Erddig, near Wrexham. The decoration they chose for their principal bedroom was hand- painted Chinese wallpaper, lavishly decorated with exquisite birds and flowers. The painting was delicate and keenly observed, and the detail includes chickens amid picturesque flowering shrubs and trees against a pale green background. Other sections of the design include egrets, ducks, pheasants and even mythical phoenixes. Towards the end of the 1700s the fashion for Chinese products with naturalistic designs was at its height, and many were made especially for a Western market. Wealthy buyers could purchase porcelain, fabrics and lacquer furniture with a busy array of bird, flower and landscape designs, thus bringing the outdoors into the home.
Ink and pigments on paper, bird and flower wallpaper showing garden scenery with flowering trees, birds, butterflies and picturesque rocks on a green background, probably produced in Guangzhou.
This wallpaper appears to have been installed at Erddig in the 1770s, during the modernisation of the house by Philip Yorke I (1743-1804) and his wife Elizabeth (1750-79). It has been pasted directly onto the plaster and trimmed at the top. Additional birds and flowers, either supplied separately with the wallpaper or cut from surplus sections, were applied to fill gaps or cover joins.1 The background of the wallpaper was extensively over-painted, probably in the Edwardian period, when it appears that visitors staying at Erddig were asked to help with this.2 Structural deterioration of the house due to subsidence caused by mining in the mid-20th-century resulted in water damage to the wallpaper. Following the acquisition of Erddig by the National Trust in 1973 the Chinese wallpaper was taken down, conserved and rehung by Graham Carr. Since then there have been in situ treatments by Orde Solomons, Sandiford and Mapes Ltd and Graeme Storey. Chinese wallpapers with almost identical motifs, but with different background colours, are at Cobham Hall, Surrey, at château du Fayel, Oise, at Nostell Priory, West Yorkshire (NT 959561, NT 959653 and NT 959654), and in the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London (E.3674-1913 to E.3682-1913). A related wallpaper was also recorded in the dining room of the Mandel residence in Highland Park, Illinois, where it was hung c. 1926.3 (Emile de Bruijn, 2021) Notes 1 Bruijn, Bush and Clifford 2014, cat. 15, pp. 24–5. See also Bruijn 2017, pp. 116–9. 2 Yorke (no date), pp. 49-50. 3 Salny 2005, p. 49.
Given by Philip Yorke III (1905-1978) along with the estate, house and contents to the National Trust in 1973.
Makers and roles
Unknown painting workshop, workshop
Bruijn, Bush and Clifford 2014: Emile de Bruijn, Andrew Bush and Helen Clifford, Chinese Wallpaper in National Trust Houses, Swindon, National Trust, 2014, pp. 24-25. Bruijn 2017: Emile de Bruijn, Chinese Wallpaper in Britain and Ireland, London, Philip Wilson in association with the National Trust, 2017, pp. 116-19. Salny 2005: Stephen M. Salny, Frances Elkins: Interior Design, New York and London, W. W. Norton, 2005, p. 49. Yorke: Louisa Matilda Yorke, Facts and Fancies: A Description of Erthig, Denbighshire, 1920s?, pp. 49-50.