Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Update: The Ruins of Rome Wallpaper Install

by Danielle Funiciello

The downstairs (left) and upstairs(right) hallways of Schuyler Mansion as they appeared in previous seasons. Both spaces were meant to be overtly stylish spaces in Schuyler's day - the downstairs hall was the first impression visitors got of the home, while the upstairs "Salon" was the largest room in the house, which was used for dances, feasts, and other festivities.
Visitors to Schuyler Mansion during our “Salutations of the Season” event on January 7th got a sneak peek at a much talked-about project that has recently come to fruition; the reproduced “Ruins of Rome” wallpaper that once, and now again fills the hallways of Schuyler Mansion.

As previously discussed in our article about the start of this project (here), the “Ruins of Rome” was a paper produced in England during the mid-1700s. Philip Schuyler’s receipts from the initial construction of the home show purchase of enough “Ruins of Rome” paper to cover both the large downstairs entry hall and the even larger upstairs central hall or “salon”. The paper would have also been applied to the staircase connecting the two.

As one might imagine, a detailed, historic wallpaper like this creates a number of challenges in addition to the usual difficulty of modern wallpaper, both in production and installation.

High resolution prints of the "Ruins of Rome" wallpaper receive a UV coating
at Peebles Island Resource Center, September 2017.
Rich Claus and Erin Moroney of the Peebles Island Resource Center went above and beyond the call of duty in creating our high quality digital reproduction of the paper, which was spliced together from two different sources. It had to be perfectly modeled to fit the dimensions of Schuyler Mansion and account for the overlap that would result from the installation process. Once the paper was printed, Erin Moroney and paintings conservator Mary Betlejeski applied a UV coating to protect the color from fading over time. Not only did the Peebles Island team execute this project beautifully but, even after retiring this past year, Rich Claus continued to volunteer his time to make sure that the project was a success – we thank him greatly for this!

Charlie Gilley puts finishing touches on
wallpaper panels in the stairwell at
Schuyler Mansion, January 2017.
Members of Gilley Paint and
Restoration LLC prepare paper
panels for installation in the Salon
at Schuyler Mansion, January 2017.
Once the reproduction was finished, it was handed into the capable hands of Charlie Gilley and his team from Gilley Paint and Resoration LLC, for installation. Installation began late in November, but some visitors may have noticed; only the small back hall had paper by our January 7th event. This is because a key initial step was preserving and covering the existing wallpaper in the upstairs salon. Called “Eldorado”, this paper by the Parisian company Zuber has been produced since 1848. It was installed at Schuyler Mansion as part of the earliest museum interpretations around 1914. Being over 100 years old and in excellent condition from being in the controlled museum environment, it was important to preserve this beautiful artifact in state. Therefore, before "Ruins of Rome" could be installed, paneling had to be installed to create a faux-wall surface that the new paper could adhere to. “Eldorado” will remain protected beneath the “Ruins of Rome” for future generations.
Panels of Eldorado, a woodblock printed paper which has been in production by French company Zuber since 1848.
Eldorado was installed in the upper hall at Schuyler Mansion during the 1910s to give an approximation of the
type of paper Philip Schuyler purchased for his home. 

The final results are stunning. Rather than the sparse interior which has greeted visitors for 100 years, walking into the mansion is like now like stepping back in time. Philip Schuyler vision for his home was calculated. Each element was designed not only to impress guests once they arrived at the home, but to encourage wealthy and important guests to come in the first place; thereby creating networking opportunities for the Schuyler family. The size and grandeur of the home was successful – drawing visitors like the Washingtons, the Marquis de Lafayette, the Marquis de Chastellux, Benedict Arnold, and even Benjamin Franklin, who had a letter of introduction written so that he could stay at Schuyler’s when travelling through Albany. The “Ruins of Rome" helps historians and museum visitors alike understand the first impression that accomplished this.

The front hall at Schuyler Mansion looking towards the
front door. With the "Ruins of Rome" wallpaper in place,
the space is brighter, more impressive, and feels more open,
as it would have been with the Schuylers in residence.

Our public unveiling event for the “Ruins of Rome” wallpaper will correspond with our July 4th Independence Day celebration this year, though Friends of Schuyler Mansion Members, who matched the grant to pay for this project, will have an earlier unveiling, and visitors can see the completed installation on Hamilton Tours and during the regular season beginning mid-May.


  1. This must be stunning, and so much more in keeping with the rest of the house. Also reminds me in color and design of the wallpaper from the (then) nearby Great Hall of Van Rensselaer Manor House now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. ( Could there have been a bit of a friendly design competition going on between the two?

    1. You are correct Susan. We've just fixed the link to our previous article about the wallpaper. This version is digitally spliced together from the one at the Met and a copy at the Jeremiah Lee Mansion in Marblehead, Massachusetts. Philip purchased this copy at least 3 years before Stephen Van Rensselaer I began construction on that home. Given the close familial connections and intermarrying between the two families, it is very likely the Van Rensselaer's chose the paper having seen it at the Schuyler's home. Schuyler went himself to England and picked the paper out in person during Schuyler Mansion's construction. Most versions of this and similar paper are grisaille and sepia tones, making me believe that the VRMH paper has been tinted to this yellow tone. Rather than competition, we choose to think of it as "keeping up with the Schuylers" - which could sometimes be a challenge in this area.