Art School(ed): A survey of Providence’s wallpapers

Photo Nov 07, 10 54 53 PM

Our story begins with the Eliza Ward House on the corner of Benefit and George. At night, the perceptive pedestrian might notice a glimpse of something peculiar through the window: a series of panoramic wallpapers in the house Joseph Brown, a founder of Brown University, built and designed the house for his daughter, Eliza Ward, in 1814. Ward had commissioned the woodblock-printed, full color scenes from Dufour & Cie, a French manufacturer of painted wallpapers and fabrics, and they remain to this day (thanks to thorough restorationists). Panoramic scenes transform the Bosphorus Room and the Incas Room into 19th century marvels. While the wallpaper titled “Les Rives du Bosphore” (On the Banks of the Bosporus) is loosely based on palm tree-laden landscapes of Turkey, the panel above the fireplace mantel depicts a pine-treed scene from Maine, reflecting Ward’s personal affinity for the northernmost New England state. The print “Les Incas” portrays an imagined scene of explorer Francisco Pizarro’s first encounters with the Incas. (For a more in-depth explanation of the house’s history and restoration process, check out Houzz’s Room of the Day article on the Eliza Ward House.)

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