The Great Locust Grove Wallpaper Mystery

Long ago, in Paris, just before the French Revolution, the firm of Reveillon designed an elegant arabesque figured wallpaper, with a bluish gray background, four vignettes of dancing sprites and cupids in glilt, and all the flourishes, foliage, and ornamentation of the high French style.

Later, in America, an unknown firm of wallpaper printers obtained some of the Reveillon paper, copied it, made a few changes and modifications, and sold it to customers, including a William Croghan of Locust Grove in Louisville, Kentucky. Major Croghan had the paper hung on the walls of his largest room, the southwest room on the second floor.

At some point, this large room was subdivided, and a slice of the wallpaper was covered by the edge of the partition wall. The rooms created were repapered at some point in the 19th century, and the original wallpaper was no longer visible, until…

During the 1960s restoration the partition was recognized as a later addition and removed, exposing the vertical strip of early wallpaper. On a snowy night, the paper peeled from the walls, and was rescued by the site’s caretakers, and taken for study. The decision was made to reproduce and replace the wallpaper on the walls of the room.

A New York wallpaper firm was contracted to do the work. They identified the paper as a Reveillon design by referring to a black-and-white image of a panel of Reveillon paper. The paper was reproduced using a different printing technique, silkscreen instead of woodblock, and a different paper. The color was based on the sample from Locust Grove, blue green, orange, gray, white, and blue.

When it was hung on the walls, Locust Grove staff knew that it was a little off. The texture was not right, it was printed in strips, not panels, and, mysteriously, the dancing girl was kicking the opposite way from the sample of the original.

So, in the current re-restoration, we took the opportunity to reproduce it again, right, and sent the samples off to Adelphi paper in New York.

They told us it was not Reveillon, but a copy. They told us that the original Reveillon paper had different colors, and included not two but FOUR different dancing girls – we’d been displaying only half of the original design. BUT – was this a flaw in the 1960s reproduction, or in the 1790s knockoff?

Stay tuned….

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