Renaud et Armide by Dufour, 1831
A client purchased a rare and complete set of 32 original panels of Dufour’s Renaud et Armide* at auction. Based on an opera, this scenic wallpaper illustrates the oceangoing pilgrimage of a medieval knight. This was a first edition set of panels on joined sheets, offering special challenges to restore and reinstall.
This paper is one of the most detailed hand blocked scenic papers created by Dufour and was created using an unusually large number of woodblocks, approximately 3,000. In comparison, most hand blocked scenic papers are created using 1,500 to 2,000 woodblocks. It is supposed to have been the last panoramic set planned by Dufour himself and includes both large numbers of figures and many decorative features, both natural and architectural. Note the lovers’ scene surrounded by putti above.
Preparation for Installation
The paper had been installed previously and when purchased, it had been trimmed to a height of 72”. The client, however, planned to install the paper in frames that were 144” high. This required extending the scene with new artwork for every panel, both above and below, so as to feature the scene at optimum eye level on the wall.
John Nalewaja and his assistants fabricated paper panels to match the original joined sheets so that the artist could paint in sky and terrain as needed on the extensions.
The extensions matched perfectly with the original paper. The artist was then able to paint another six feet of new design for each of the 32 panels in the scene, both sky and terrain. Below are several examples of the scenes after restoration.
To ensure a seamless installation, the artist also in-painted switch plates and outlet covers, as well as air vents, as seen above, creating a flawless installation of this lovely panoramic paper.
Ensuring Accurate Restoration
To accurately recreate the missing bits of several scenes and to extend the scenes faithfully to the original, John and his assistants drew upon an extensive library of antique wallpaper references. Jim Francis created a to-scale miniature panoramic of Renaud et Armide which served as the master plan for artwork and layouts. Jim also create a to-scale mock up of the room to ensure that the most interesting scenes, or client-favorite scenes, were accorded appropriate exposure. The paper was installed within existing frames in the room which created a challenge to both tell the story of the paper in an appropriate sequence and not cut into any of the figures or animals at the edges.
Drawing on a large library of images of antique scenic wallpapers, enlargements were made of any missing areas to help with the recreation of missing elements. In this case, John and his assistants followed the miniature layout which optimized the details of the scene. By the end of the project, an additional three feet of scene above and three feet of scene below the main image had been created on every one of the 32 panels of this rare and unusual paper.
*Dufour’s Renaud et Armide is in the collection of the Musee des Arts Decoratifs in Paris and is one of the most featured wallpapers in the catalogue raisonné of French Scenic wallpapers, French Scenic Wallpaper 1795-1865 by Odile Nouvel-Kammerer.