My believed supremacy as hoarder of the largest collection of the type of Suzhou prints referred to as Gusu Beauties earlier in this blog, has been shattered.
It was Diana Długosz-Jasińska, a Master of Arts in the field of Conservation at Warsaw, who did so by calling my attention to the Esterházy Palace, wherein one of the rooms is wallpapered with no less than thirty-six prints of Gusu Beauties.
The room in question, called the Small Chinese Salon, is perhaps 6×4 metres, entered by two double doors at each end, the doors set close to the longer outer wall which in its turn contains two large windows, a classic design for a palace room. Presently it is furnished with only six blue satin-covered chairs ranged along the walls and the ubiquitous cord to keep the public at bay.
All the prints are mounted as pairs on panels, separated by blue painted ornamental decoration.
The first short wall has a double door and five panels, the long wall includes a chimney? and a mirror in the corner, and six panels. A hidden door camouflaged behind the prints is also part of this wall. The third wall is a mirror image of the first. The fourth wall has two windows with only two panels between them.
A total of six different prints have been paired, thus giving a limited composition of three panels, which is repeated over and over again.
Please see earlier in this blog for identification of following print numbers given. The most popular, with eight occurrences, is the combination of prints No. 2 and No. 5,
followed by seven pairings of No. 8 and No. 1,
with finally three panels with prints No. 7 and No. 6. Excluding the panels over the doors, the two short walls have panels mirroring each other. The arrangement of the prints has been well done, and one is not disturbed by the repetition of the same motif in the panels.
It is interesting to note that four of the prints together form the tetraptych mentioned earlier in this blog, but was not implemented, perhaps because restriction of space in the panels.
The web site of Esterházy Palace gives us this information regarding the room:
Small Chinese Salon
Increasing trade relations with the Far East in the eighteenth century stimulated the vogue for things Chinese also in the Esterházy family, as in nearly all aristocratic houses in Europe. Paul II Anton accordingly commissioned the construction of a small Chinese salon. The coloured wallpapers were based on genuine Chinese woodcuts and further adorned with floral garlands and bird and butterfly motifs. Three repeating motifs represent scenes from the life of Chinese burgher families at the New Year festivities (fireworks, cricket fighting, and arrangement of lotus flowers). The small Chinese Salon has remained practically unaltered since its final appearance was completed in the mid-eighteenth century.
Interesting for us is that Paul II Anton served as imperial ambassador to Naples 1750-1752, again the Italian link that occurs frequently in connection with Chinese prints as wallpapers, and that he died 1762. Maybe he purchased the prints during his stay in Italy, or perhaps commissioned Italian decorators to do the rooms who then brought the prints with them. The dating to the 1750s seems to be consistent with the hanging of Chinese prints as wallpapers in Austria, Germany, France and England, all attributable to this period.
It is known that Italian decorators at the time travelled around Europe to decorate the interiors of mansions and castles. Stucco and plaster work were their speciality, but also wall and ceiling paintings and wallpaper hangings. It is most likely that they carried with them multiple copies of Chinese prints emanating from an Italian merchant.
My only claim to fame now, in relation to Gusu Beauties, is that I still possess the widest selection, owning eight of the nine known prints in this group. But for how long?