The Chinese, described as being 'very skilful' in papering walls, developed a strong export industry in paper-hangings in the late 18th Century. References to the use of Chinese paper-hangings in England date from the reign of William and Mary. The London Gazette for 1693 carried an advertisement for the sale of 'paper hangings of Indian and Japan figures'. Made in sets, Chinese wallpaper formed a series of related scenes or designs with which a whole room could be papered. Most sets still surviving date from the second half of the 18th Century.
The present lot belongs to a large group of wallpapers in which the decoration is entirely of slender flowering trees, shrubs and bamboos rising from a strip of ground. Among the foliage and the gaps are brilliantly coloured birds, either perched on the branches, on the ground, or in flight between the trees. In 1748 Mrs. Delany describes a room at Cornbury as 'hung with the finest Indian paper of flowers and all sorts of birds' ( M. Jourdain and R. Soame Jenyns, Chinese Export Art, Norwich, 1950, p.29). The design of this wallpaper with twisting and meandering trees and branches, is similar to a set of panels that hung at Lockleys in Hertfordshire, although the paper at Lockleys had hunting scenes on the ground (illustrated in M. Jourdain and R. Soame Jenyns, op. cit., p.93, fig. 38).
An eight-leaf screen decorated with Chinese wallpaper of similar design, was sold anonymously in these Rooms, 25 May 1989, lot 98, while a collection of related Chinese wallpaper panels, formerly at Panshanger, Hertfordshire, was sold anonymously, Sotheby's London, 7 July 1989, lot 22.