Sleeping Beauty

In 1988 Harewood House had a bit of a tidy up in the back of the carpenter’s workshop, and there, amongst the broken chairs and tools they found a sleeping beauty: 20 rolls of exquisite hand painted Chinese wallpaper, hung in 1769 by Chippendale’s workmen and lost during 19th century refurbishments.

chinese wallpaper Harewood House

WOI descirbes it thus: Idealised scenes of Chinese rural life: tea and rice growing, the manufacture of porcelain and silk. Its populous panorama unfolds over four freshly coloured walls –  lobster-pink, bottle-glass green, the liquid blues of Ceylonese and Burmese sapphires, lavender and amethyst, and the soft recessive shades of warm toast.  Its surface has a tactile, chalky quality, occasionally scored by age.  But the overall impression is of pristineness. (that would be the Sleeping Beauty effect combined with fact it was painted to using costly mineral pigments).

It’s quite a find this wall paper with an incredible provenance, commissioned during a re-decoration overseen by Robert Adam with Thomas Chippendale supplying furniture and furnishings.  The present owners have re-united this scheme with the help of historic wallpaper expert Allyson McDermott who extended the paper by 20cm so it would fit its new location.  I like that  it was known as  the ‘India paper’, after the ‘shippers’,  the East India Company, the East being a loosely held geographical and cultural concept for the 18th Century Englishman.

Here it is re-united with the green japanned pieces created by Chippendale. Authentic Chinese design with European Chinoiserie.

chintz bed chinese wallpaper

The ho-ho bird (pheonix) stands guard over the commode


also beside the original ledger showing the hours taken to hang the wallpaper by Chippendale in 1769


What a view from the bed…IMG_4020

towards the green lacquer press

a little closer… I might even get out of bed …


But maybe I’d be too mesmerised by the panorama gently unfolding all around


the colours, the costumes, the rituals of daily life –  the ordinary – that is now so remote and was then so exotic.IMG_4026



So there it is in Leeds, West Yorkshire, freshly woken, invigorated even and ready to entertain.

Original article World of Interiors.

Written by MaMattew Dennison and photographed by Christopher Simon-Sykes.

One thought on “Sleeping Beauty

  1. Pingback: A Modern Marriage | adecorativeaffair

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