One might just walk by the wallpaper on the right hand side in the front and back room in the Museum Meermanno without noticing it. There are already so many beautiful things to see here, and wallpaper is only wallpaper, isn’t it?
Yet it is worth your while to have a close look at the wallpaper, because here you will see the oldest wallpaper to be preserved in situ in the Netherlands.
Is it also the oldest wallpaper in the Netherlands? No, the oldest fragment was found (as late as 1994) on a cupboard door in an upstairs room on the Rapenburg in Leiden. That fragment dates from around 1760. There is also wallpaper dating from 1765 in a room on the Oudegracht in Utrecht. In both cases the wallpaper is English.
England dominated the European market for wallpaper for a long time, but by the end of the 18th century France took over this position. Around 1785 in Paris alone there numbered fifty small mills which produced wallpaper exclusively. The most important mill was that of Jean Baptiste Réveillon (1725-1811), who supplied the wallpaper that can be seen in the Museum Meermanno. Réveillon employed three hundred people and his wallpaper was designed by well-known artists.
The ‘grisailles’ (monochrome paintings) of The Hague wallpaper are attributed to the ornamental painter Jean Honoré Fragonard and the ornamentation to the designer Jean Baptiste Fay. The images and the decorations are inspired by the Roman frescoes which had been discovered in Herculaneum and Pompeii not long before.
The Réveillon wallpaper in the Museum Meermanno dates from around 1788.
In the middle of the 19th century, shortly after the baron died, his residence became a museum. Bookcases which covered the entire walls were placed in front of the wallpaper. When these cabinets were removed in 1958, the wallpaper appeared, still freshly coloured and hardly damaged.