Opening the two outer doors unveils another interesting feature of this miniature house. Each one is lined with a different patterned and coloured wallpaper.
The wallpaper marks the Joy Wardrobe of 1712 as being a very desirable piece of furniture. The year it was made, the first taxes were charged on this fashionable commodity, at 1d per square yard.
The most exalted and expensive papers were imported from China, but of course a market of cheaper imitation papers thrived in Britain. Beautiful fragments of three-centuries-old paper can be found in the V&A collection:
But one of the finest surviving designs from this time can be found on the right hand door of the Joy Wardrobe.
The paper was also cut up and placed behind glass, to create the windows.
Like the papers from China, the design has a strong outline, a flat plain background and intertwining flowering trees and birds of exotic appearance. But this is not a hand-painted masterpiece; the lines were block printed and the colours added afterwards. You can see where the painter hasn’t quite aligned their stencil properly.
I like being able to see the raw nature of this paper, the flaws that arose from the process of colouring roll after roll, quick as possible to keep up with demand and before the fashion changed. The repeat on the paper meant painting that graceful hunter time after time, as he never gets any closer to the stag hiding in the bushes.
When I was a child, I had a wardrobe with mirrored doors. When I needed to escape from the world, I used to sit inside and read by torchlight, among the pile of fallen clothes and odd shoes, feeling that the mirrors somehow repelled the world and kept me invisible. I feel sure that the original owner of the Joy Wardrobe did the same – climbing inside and escaping into a world of colourful adventures delineated on the papers, hidden behind the blank windows of the facade.