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panoramic wallpaper
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The history of wallpaper: panoramic wallpaper

Panoramic wallpaper first appeared in the 19th century and made it possible to create a continuous fresco, without repetition, literally plunging the viewer into another world.

Panoramic wallpaper, the height of refinement

Panoramic wallpapers began appearing on walls everywhere in the early 19th century. Although they were continuing a long tradition - tapestries, huge canvases and painted wooden panels were already decorating formal rooms in stately homes as far back as the Middle Ages - these monumental wallpaper frescoes were part of a time when the burgeoning middle classes were eager for new forms of interior decoration for their reception rooms.
panoramic wallpaper in a château
Drawing room of Louise Caroline de Hochberg at the château of Schwetzingen, with "Views of Switzerland" and the "Greek Tripod", manufactured by Jean Zuber & Cie Photo credit: State Palace and Gardens of Bade-Wurtemberg, Ursula Wetzel

Picturesque landscapes

Exotic landscapes or traditional European views, scenes of Roman combat, famous or imaginary sites, mythology, aristocratic leisure pursuits (hunting, country walks, etc.) create an illusion and invite the viewer to immerse themselves fully in this enveloping world.
In the mid 19th century, the passion for new forms of transport (such as steamboats) that made long journeys easier, appeared in the compositions, as can be seen in some of the examples exhibited in the Wallpaper Museum of Rixheim in Alsace, France.
Les Sauvages de la mer Pacifique
"Les Sauvages de la mer Pacifique": panoramic wallpaper designed by Jean-Gabriel Charvet, manufactured by Joseph Dufour & Cie, 1804

French heritage conquering the world

Created exclusively in France, mainly in Paris, Lyon and Rixheim (Alsace), panoramic wallpapers deployed unique savoir-faire and technical prowess: they could consist of 32 strips and require the engraving of many thousands of plates.
In fact, they are designed to cover every wall in a room, the first and the last forming a loop, whilst also being adapted to the height under the ceiling and breaks caused by windows, fireplaces, doors, etc.
Reception room for diplomats at the White House
Reception room for diplomats at the White House, Washington, USA, with "North American Scenes" designed by Jean-Julien Deltil, manufacturer Jean Zuber & Cie Photo credit: White House Historical Association
The pioneering manufacturers Dufour and Zuber are the most famous, and produced numerous designs which are still largely visible today in Europe and the USA. They called on talented artists such as Pierre-Antoine Mongin, Jean-Julien Deltil and Jean-Gabriel Charvet, who ensured the pictorial quality and adaptability to wallpaper printing techniques.
We should also mention the manufacturers Desfossé and Délicourt, who continued the art of panoramic wallpaper into the mid 19th century, the start of a period of decline.

The evolution of panoramic wallpaper

"La chasse à l'ours"
"La chasse à l'ours", the right-hand section of "Grandes chasses" mounted with friezes and hunting trophy pilasters designed by Antoine Dury, manufactured by Délicourt Photo credit: Musée d'Orsay / Rmn
The trend ran out of steam in the 1850s. Manufacturers were unable to innovate in the scenes they offered and relied on reprinting their previous editions over and over. However, we should note the following: "Isola Bella" (Zuber & Cie, 1849), "L'Éden" (Desfossé, 1861) and "Le Brésil" (Desfossé, 1863), which are remarkable for their focus on nature and the absence of human scenes.
"Les grandes chasses" (Délicourt, 1851), composed of scenes which are independent of each other, announced the arrival of wallpaper decorations in the form of a series of pictures.
Thus, panoramic wallpaper survived but lost its grandeur, with much more modest formats becoming the fashion. The reason behind this was the accumulation of furniture and ornaments in interiors which left less room for trompe l'œil decoration.

Digital wallcovering, the heir to panoramic wallpaper

After a long interlude, panoramic wallpaper has resurfaced in the 21st century via digital printing that enabled the creation of spectacular, high-quality decors on non-woven wallpaper at affordable prices.
Although large format reproductions of photographs of stunning natural sites share the aims of their ancestors (a getaway from one's own interior), creations by artists, designers and illustrators offer a response to the most demanding of tastes.
Digital mural (L) VAN GOGH TREE  186 x 270 cm

Van Gogh Tree

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