This neoclassical grisaille wallpaper is from the early 1800’s (shortly after 1816). The panel is one of 12 that comprise the Joseph Dufour set depicting “The Story of Psyche”. Today, the full series can be seen at the Paris Museum of Decorative Arts. This panel is known as the Fisherman Rescues Psyche.
The Dufour collection is based on a series of murals by the French Neoclassical artists, Louis Lafitte and Merry-Joseph Blondel. Lafitte and Blondel collaborated from 1814-1816 on frescoes based off the Jean de la Fontaine novel, Les Amours de Psiché et de Cupidon (1669), which describes the mythological tale of Cupid and Psyche. Fontaine’s book itself was an adaptation of the 2nd century Numidian (ancient Algieria) manuscript, Metamorphoses, by Apuleius, which is the only ancient Roman novel written in Latin to survive in entirety. In 1816, the images were produced by the famous French wallpaper company, Joseph Dufour et Cie. Dufour manufactured each scene as several block printed sheets joined together, which led to discreet, yet visible seams.
Our panel shows a thickly bearded fisherman helping Psyche climb the rocky terrain dotted with small bushes. In the background is a body of water and a large rock formation. The man is clad in sandals and a tunic sinched with a belt. A thin headband runs through his hair as his right hand holds Psyche’s hand. A walking stick can be seen in his left hand, just in front of the fish slung over his shoulder. Psyche is wearing a flowing wrap over her dress and sandals as they approach some steps cut into the stone. At the top of the steps are some large trees and a building to the right. Two women look out a window in the building at the arriving travelers.
During the early 19th century, wallpaper became popular with the upper-middle class and would be used to decorate entire walls. Our French Neoclassical grisaille can still be used in this fashion and would instantly become a focal point of whichever room it is placed in.
CONDITION: Good antique condition with wear commensurate to age and use, including minor touch-ups and repairs. Light damage to paper with old creases (as was part of the production process during the early 1800’s). The wallpaper has been affixed to a wooden stretcher, which is wired for hanging.
H-71, W-41 7/8, D-1 1/4
Early 19th Century French Neoclassical Grisaille Wallpaper Panel
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