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Stratford-upon-Avon

Decorating Shakespeare Style

Dear Diva Readers,

top: 5px; float: left; color: white; background: #781300; border: 1px solid darkkhaki; font-size: 60px; line-height: 50px; padding-top: 1px; padding-right: 5px; font-family: times;”>I have a new passion.  Recently I visited William Shakespeare’s birthplace while on holiday in the UK and the interiors struck me. Contrary to popular belief Elizabethan interiors weren’t all whitewashed walls and black beams but rather had colorful exuberant wall coverings! From floor to ceiling in Shakespeare’s time they liked to cover their walls with patterns.

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We only saw a shift away from the use of wall coverings as Puritanism became more pronounced.  By the middle of the 17th century many of the pieces were destroyed as ‘sins of the flesh’ and the whitewashed walls we tend to think of as Tudor decor became de rigeur, remaining so until the middle of the nineteenth century when William Morris revived interest in these forgotten antique textile arts. His interest resulted in the widespread use of wallpaper today.

While today we tend to choose our wall coverings merely for decorative purposes, in Shakespeare’s time they had more significant meaning. Much could be comminicated by your choice of design. Painted wall coverings were meant to impress – to convey wealth and social standing. The various themes in the patterns – whether figurative, floral, renaissance, geometric or imitation panelling – often had meanings hidden within to show religious ideas, illustrating a rise in one’s social standing or showing one’s intellect or education.

Stratford upon Avon

The choice of color used in the wall covering spoke volumes. The clearer and brighter the colors used the more expensive they were to achieve. The most usual pigments were lime white, lamp black, red and yellow ochres, red lead and indigo.

Today so few painted cloths survive that they are one of the rarest and least studied forms of antique textile arts. While few remain we know through the reading of old wills and testaments how common they were from the Middle Ages through to the 17th century with virtually everyone from kings to yeomen employing them in their homes. In the humbler residences their function went beyond decoration as they served to keep out draughts and to disguise uneven walls. By the 17th century in England imported cloths were overwhelming English ones, with many coming from the Netherlands and Germany. While visiting Sweden with clients earlier this year on an Antiques Diva Tour we found a wide variety of antique painted cloths in the warehouses up north.

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As the Bard said, “Fair thee well on your travels, and by date may we meet again!”

The Antiques Diva®

P.S. Should you want to read more about Elizabethan wall coverings House and Gardens did a great article with Melissa White, an artist who specializes in reproducing Elizabethan wall coverings – or visit Melissa’s own website Fairlyte where she describes the process and the reasons behind it in detail.

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Special Travel Discounts for Dutch Readers

top:2px;padding-right:5px;font-family:times;”>My friend The Maven doesn’t email often but when she does it is usually an email smacked full of great advice on where to get an incredible bargain! Last year at the Globe Reisburo Mid-Summer Midnight Madness Sale, she managed to find a killer bargain, booking a 3 night trip to South Africa for 199 Euros (including both air + hotel). All her friends were so jealous of her fab find that this time she made sure to tell everyone she knows about this year’s event!

The Maven encourages all you travel-divas to mark your calendars for a super travel sale! May 22nd from 9pm until midnight the Globe Reisburo Mid-Summer Midnight Sale will take place in select locations around The Netherlands. Unfortunately, they never pre-release information on which travel packages will be for sale so you simply have to show up and see what is on offer! Susan, a Canadian expat friend who did some “legwork” trying to find some information on this sale says, “Even the travel agents don’t find out the travel packages on offer until minutes before the sale starts! Everything in their inventory is on a first come – first serve basis, which means plan on arriving at your local Globe office earlier rather than later.” And before dashing out the door, you might want to call in advance to verify that your local Globe Office is participating in the sale as not all shops are included in this mad “avond”.

Travel sales seem to be “tober_2007/frenglish_and_franglaise.htm” target=”_blank”>de rigueur du jour” as my inbox was inundated with special offers this morning. Just in case you don’t receive the same junk mail I do, I thought I’d pass along some information on 2 special sales happening right now! From the 14 – 18 May, Sky Europe is offering their “Big Summer Sale” with airline tickets as low as 19E for one-way tickets to Vienna & Prague for travel between May 26 and Sept 30, while NS Hi Speed is offering a 2 day sale on the 15 & 16 May selling 1st class train tickets for 59 E one-way from Amsterdam to Paris for travel during special weekends in May, June & July.

On a final note, you might have noticed that over the past month I’ve had quite a few “guest bloggers” – that’s because I’ve been away on holiday myself. My 16 year old nephew is in town for a month & a half and we’ve been doing the Grand Tour. He’s getting an upscale version of the typical rite of passage backpacker’s holiday (needless to say I don’t do backpacks, thus the upscale version) as we’re jetting around Europe hitting the capitals (and other sites along the way) as part of his European education! Last week was Berlin, the week before that was London (with a stop in Stonehenge, Oxford & Stratford upon Avon). Next week we’re be off to Brussels followed by a dash to Paris. In between we’re hanging out in Amsterdam taking art lessons with Charissa and hitting some of A’dams best museums. The poor boy has barely had time to sleep or strum his guitar and I’ve not had a moment to blog! Nevertheless, I hope you’ve enjoyed my guest bloggers in my absence! And by the way, if you ever have a tip to share or want to write your own guest blog, feel free to email The Antiques Diva™ at to:toma@antiquesdiva.com”>toma@antiquesdiva.com to share your guest blog idea!

The Antiques Diva™

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