Always Look in the Bottom of the Box!

I was at a nondescript auction house in Cornwall a little while ago. It’s not exactly a high-end place, in fact it sells such low-end stuff I only popped in because it was on my way to lunch. But I poked around in the boxes as any good auction hound should, and under some rather tasteless ‘Cornish treasure maps’ in a very damp box I found some rolls of old looking paper. I carefully unrolled a corner and I could see what looked like some hand printed designs.

I left a low bid, which was successful and carefully took them home where I had to give them time to air – the smell of damp paper was not nice.

Once they’d stopped smelling, and having thrown away the treasure maps, I unrolled the real treasure….

Block Printed Picture

Block Printed Landscape

The bottom of the box was full of block printed paper.

Border Print

Border Print

These prints were made by dipping a series of carved wooden blocks into paint/ink and then applying them on top of each other. This would have taken a lot of skill and a very steady hand, and was the way the first printed wall papers were made.

Floral Prints

Floral Prints

Some of them had an impressed stamp saying ‘Stampi Remondiniani PESP’, and one had an inked stamp saying ‘Importe d’ Italie’, so I worked out that I wasn’t dealing with British papers:

Italian Export Stamp

Italian Export Stamp

I was fascinated, so I contacted the Wallpaper Historical Society who passed my query on to the marvellously helpful Robert Weston of Hamilton Weston Wallpapers.

Floral Border

Floral Borders

He told me that these were not, in fact, wallpaper samples as I had thought. They are decorative papers that were used to line boxes, or for borders.

Panel Design

Panel Design

The impressed stamp is the mark of Remondini, who were a family printing firm, from 1730 to 1860 based in Bassano del Grappa, N. of Venice.
They exported world wide, which could explain how the papers made it to the UK. The Remondini company was  bought out byanother company called Rizzi who continued using the blocks into 1930s. So my little bits of paper could date from anywhere between 1730 and 1930!

Border Print

Border Print

Unfortunately, some of the papers had been damaged/used:

Part Used Paper

Part Used Paper

I am now trying to find out more before deciding what to do with this collection. But what a fascinating journey they’ve been on, from Italy to one of the poorest areas of Cornwall. And truly a lesson to always look in the bottom of the box……you never know what might be hidden there!

Floral Pattern

Floral Pattern

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2 Comments

  1. arthur aris athas, jr

     /  March 6, 2013

    Yes, I would say that you are very lucky. I have been researching the the Remondini and the Rizzi for several years, off and on. There is a large collection in Bassano del Grappa and Milan. JB JAckson the early 18th wall paper printer in England worked for Giuseppe Remondini in the 18th Century before starting up with wall paper in England. So many landscape artist used Remondini’s engravings for their references. Also, furniture deocrators used the prints and tissue paper chinoiserie pattern as foundation to their gilding and painting. Do you have any of the overall patterns or just the one shown? Are they for sale ? Of course the 64,000 question is their value and with some kind of carbon testing I guest we would know the real date. In fact, I saw the Rizzi papers being sold at a wholesale fabric house in NY in the fall of 1969. And as you know some inventories just went into houses and stayed there for generations. PS in reseraching around I found very few people who knew Remondini even at major libraries. One of them might be interested in you papers but they take forever to make a decision. Many thanks for sharing you images.

    Reply
  2. Hi Arthur
    Many thanks for your detailed comments. So nice to hear from someone who knows about this stuff! I’m currently working with Robert Weston of Hamilton Weston Wallpapers (see link above) on a research paper about these, so I hope to have more to report in time. I’ll post an update when I do.

    Reply

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