Friday, November 11, 2011

The Artful Interior: Stencilling in the Victorian Era

Trade magazines often featured stencil designs like these fora "proper upscale artistic ceiling",
Once upon a time every major city has several; "stencil artisans", usually members of the Painter and Stencillers Guild. The Victorian era also was the first time when their were "decorators" whom one turned the house over to to elaborately stylize...that is if you were wealthy or upper middle class. Stencilling, at least in the Victorian era, typically wasn't cheap. While a roll of wallpaper might cost 3-5 cents a gallon of paint could cost 75 cents.
Beyond mere painting, this ceiling rises to artform

Unlike today when we think nothing of going to the home improvement store for a gallon of paint and doing it ourselves, most Victorians would not do such work and painting was a hired task. And while some 'painters' were also did stencils, the art of stencilling was usually a specialized task, reserved for someone with experience.

Tens of thousands of homes were artfully stencilled during the Victorian era yet so few exist today. Or, as in the case of our home, hidden from view. Since Milkpaint was the prefferred choice of the stencil artisan, unless it had been shellaced or a lowered ceiling put in ( often with courthouses or government buildings) finding them is rare indeed though there are still some out there.

These elaborate stencils are almost gone now, as is the  Endangered house they sit in in Missouri, The only records will be the photos I, and other preservationists took, almost a decade ago.
Makes you want to discretely scrape the paint off your old house ceiling or wall to see if such a treasure exists in your home, doesn't it?

No comments: