Recently Professor Lucie Olivova kindly called my attention to some Chinese woodblock prints coming up for auction sale in beginning of December at Prague. She also sent me images of the prints – six of them are figurative and five are decorative.
The latter show birds among rockery and plants, printed in black outline and hand coloured. The style is very much that of decorative wall papers found in 18th century interior decoration. And in fact a search on the Internet shows that they emanate from the Chinesische Zimmer of Schloss Hainfeld in eastern Austria. The Chinese Room was an accoutrement required for many 18th century châteaux and manors in Europe in response to the reigning fashion of chinoiserie. Usually this consisted of decorating a room with Chinese, sometimes Japanese, porcelain, and ornating the room with rococo roquailles and ornaments, including painted “Chinese” wallpapers in cartouches or whole walls. The Kina Slott at Drottningholm; The Royal Pavilion at Brighton; Sanssouci at Potsdam; Chinese Room, Claydon House; etc. An Internet search on chinoiserie will yield many more examples.
But hitherto I had always thought that these wallpapers or wall paintings were painted, either by indigenous Chinese artisans or western copyist. The possibility of them being printed never crossed my mind until I saw the wall decorations in Château de Filières some years ago, briefly referred to in my posting Old Chinese Woodblock Prints in Château de Filières. The twenty-two prints in that Château are very similar to the six from Hainfeld, if not from the same series or workshop.
The five Hainfeld decorative prints have printed black outlines with colours filled in by hand. They are presently about 107×56 cm, backed up on medium weave canvas. Although now presented in decorative western frames, one can see at the edges of the canvas traces of nail holes indicating that the prints were stretched on some other frame, and/or mounted in a wall frame. The prints have been retouched with thin oil paint, to cover up damages or to enliven the colours. One of the prints has been almost entirely repainted in this thin oil paint.
Two of the decorative prints are duplicates, but the colouring is such as to make them differ much from each other.
As for the figurative prints, six of them, they are equal in size to the previous, also mounted in western frames. Here as well, one of the print has been entirely covered with oil paint so as to efface much of the original print and text.
There is a difference in style among the prints: three of them show a lady with attendant(s) in a studio or garden environment, whereas two others only show a lady with a boy, set in an empty space. The last print depicts a lady with a servant and a boy with various implements laid out on a round mat.
It is with great anticipation that I look forward to studying these prints in more detail. Oh, yes, almost forgot, I did get the prints at the sale!
Sorry for the mish mash in the alignment of the illustrations, but I am not literate in this media, yet.