Painted Wall Decoration On Plaster

6 ft. 3 ins. high by 2 ft. wide. Late sixteenth century.

Victoria and Albert Museum.

worth a thousand of these bed-hangings and these fly-bitten tapestries." It is doubtful whether Shakespeare was not taking a liberty with probabilities in this speech of distress Quickly, as tapestries would not have been used as wall-hangings in the dining-room of an inn, but with these painted cloths, in " water-work," he would have been well acquainted, as they must have been in general use, to hide walls of timber and plaster, in the late sixteenth century.

Crude wall paintings, usually executed in flat oil colour, must also have been usual, especially in the eastern counties of England. With subsequent panelling, whitewashing or modern paper-hanging, it is not remarkable that few have been discovered, but there is reason to suppose that in Essex and Suffolk they were general, in the fifteenth-century timber house of the lesser class.

An example, from Colchester Museum, is shown here in Fig. 257, by the courtesy of Mr. Guy Maynard. This was discovered behind wall-paper and deal panelling at Hill House on North Hill, Colchester, in 1910, by Mr. Thomas Parkington of Ipswich, who presented it to the Museum. Every wall of the room was decorated in this way, on a thin coating of plaster spread over the rough " wattle-and-daub " between the oak studs. Mural decorations of this kind were, possibly, used to

cover the plaster, in the interior of timber houses, at a very early date. When a timber house is demolished, no care is taken, for obvious reasons, to strip the whitewash or paper to the bare plaster, and numbers of these painted walls must have been hacked down. The Colchester Museum example is very late in the sixteenth century, and is painted in nine colours, black, yellow, orange, red, brown, violet, pale blue, pale green and dark green.1 The cruder, and possibly, earlier examples are usually in black and white, having the appearance of stencils, but drawn with the free hand. At Saffron Walden 'Museum is a portion of a wall of studding and plaster where the monotone design has considerable decorative merit.

Figs. 258 and 25Q are from the Victoria and Albert Museum. The first is a frieze or band, in the pure Italian manner of the later sixteenth century, probably imitating the fresco paintings of that time, or the embossed and painted leathers which were only used in important houses. It would hardly be expected that these mural decorations

1 " On some early domestic decorative wall-paintings recently found in Essex." Miller Christy and Guv Maynard. Essex Archaeological Society, Trans., Vol XII.

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