Painted Room

Whilst the pattern represents a fictive textile hanging, it is much finer in its execution than others of the same period and slightly different in character.

Painted Room

Wall paintings were very common in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, covering the entire surface of all the walls in a room, often including the ceiling as well. Bold, striking designs, usually in bright colours were generally fairly crudely executed. Repetitive patterns often based on textile designs, are most commonly found, though some have figurative schemes, and religious or moralising texts in a frieze proclaimed the Protestant credentials of the householder. There are a number surviving in Oxford which are absolutely typical of secular decoration of the period, for example The Painted Room at 3 Cornmarket, The Golden Cross (currently occupied by Pizza Express), the President’s Lodging at Trinity College and 126 High Street, all very close to Lincoln College ’s painting at 118 High Street. However, the painting which survives at 118 High Street is unusual.

It probably dates from the second decade of the seventeenth century, so slightly later than the typical ones. Whilst the pattern represents a fictive textile hanging, it is much finer in its execution than others of the same period and slightly different in character.  It is painted directly on to boards and is more architecturally conscious than the all-over patterns common in the earlier years of the seventeenth century. The frieze is a tasselled pelmet, such as you see in many woodcuts and paintings in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, for example those collected by Thomas Trevilian in his Great Book of 1616, see below

Each curve of the pelmet relates to an individual board. The scroll work is very finely done and is like engraved work. The building was occupied by a goldsmith from 1618 and it can be speculated that, as the work is done by a very skilled hand, it might well have been the engraver himself who executed the work. It is entirely possible that guests, including business guests, would be invited into this room, in which case this decoration could be seen as advertising the engraver’s skill, as well as providing attractive decoration. A reproduction of this painting can be seen at Shakespeare’s Birthplace in Stratford, where it covers all the walls of one room.

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