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In 1827, when Lady Isabella Hertford finally installed the hand-painted Chinese wallpaper the Prince of Wales had gifted her two decades earlier, she thought it didn’t have enough pizzazz for her drawing room at Temple Newsam in Leeds, England. So she took on a collage project, using birds cut from what’s now one of the world’s priciest books: John James Audubon’s The Birds of America.
Some detailed protection and preservation work was recently done on the Chinese Drawing Room, prior to Temple Newsam’s seasonal reopening this Friday. With its life-size American birds flying alongside the original Asian species of the Chinese garden, the wallpaper is one of the more curious embellishments in the 500-year history of the Tudor Jacobean mansion.
“At first, it is quite difficult to make out some of the creative additions to Lady Hertford’s wallpaper from Audubon’s Birds of America, but the closer you look the more obvious they become,” curator Rachel Conroy told Hyperallergic. “Many of the birds are pasted over the joins in the underlying Chinese paper, making them slightly easier to spot. Some of the larger species, like the Columbia jays and swallow-tailed hawk, stand out, but many of the smaller birds seem very much at home among their Chinese cousins.”
A copy of Birds of America sold for $12.6 million in 2010, so this is one of the costliest home crafting projects in history, although it’s likely Lady Hertford didn’t consider that at the time and was just drawn to the lively avians in the stunning, then-new volume. Alongside her black Chinese lacquer furniture, the birds flit in all corners of the room, with Columbia jays perched above the door, a Baltimore oriole resting on what looks like a peach tree, and a belted kingfisher in flight among the foliage.
“It is one of Temple Newsam’s most complete rooms, appearing largely as it did when Lady Hertford redecorated it in the early 19th century,” Conroy explained, adding that the wallpaper “has the most lovely, uplifting effect, as it transforms the walls to become a garden filled with birds, butterflies, and plants.”
As it happens, a furnishing fabric was actually made based on plates from Birds of America sometime between 1827 and 1838 in Lancashire, England (the Victoria & Albert Museum has a sample), so Lady Hertford could have saved herself the trouble — and her library a small fortune — by taking a less DIY route. The wallpaper is, however, a unique reminder of one of Temple Newsam’s many inhabitants and shows a deep love for Audubon’s illustrations, enough to paste over some of the finest hand-painted wallpaper a prince could buy.
You can see the Chinese Drawing Room in more of its lavish detail in this video walk-through from Leeds Museums & Galleries, with James Lomax, curator of collections.
“Black infants in America are now more than twice as likely to die as white infants—11.3 per 1,000 black babies, compared with 4.9 per 1,000 white babies, according to the most recent government data—a racial disparity that is actually wider than in 1850, 15 years before the end of slavery, when most black women were…
In 1850, when Dr. Robert W. Gibbes commissioned J. T. Zealy to make daguerreotypes of persons held in slavery in and around Columbia, South Carolina, for Harvard Professor Louis Agassiz to use in support of his theory that African people were a separate species, daguerreotypes were at the height of fashion.
Works by Rodolfo Abularach, Mario Bencomo, Denise Carvalho, Pérez Celis, Entes, and Agustín Fernández are on view at the NYC gallery through January 7, 2022.
he ownership of images has a long and nuanced legal history, which has evolved dramatically in recent years as cultural standards and photographic technologies have rapidly advanced
Renty and his daughter Delia. Renty was an enslaved African, kidnapped from the Congo, sold and forced into slave labor on the South Carolina plantation of B.F. Taylor
“Ecosystem X,” an art-based reimagining of life on planet Earth, is the theme of this open call. 10 artists will win $5,000 and one student will receive $5,000 as a scholarship/stipend.
The show, which honors the 50th anniversary of an exhibition history once ignored, continues a series of projects documenting Wilmington’s contemporary art scene.
As a scholar of African American history and photography whose work has focused on the status of violent images in museums and archives, I fully support the validity of Ms. Tamara Lanier’s claim and the amicus brief.
The daguerreotypes of Renty Taylor, Delia, Drana, Alfred, Jack, George Fassena, and Jem remained in an unused storage cabinet until 1975, when it was discovered by an employee of the Peabody Museum.
I am writing in support of the amicus curiae brief submitted by Professor Ariella Aïsha Azoulay of Brown University for the full restitution of the daguerreotypes of Renty Taylor and his daughter Delia, currently held by Harvard University, to their familial descendant, Tamara Lanier.