Monday, January 14, 2008

New word: "Toile de Jouy"

Word nerd that I am, I knew that there was probably a specific word for wallpaper (or fabric) with scenes on it, but I always just called it "wallpaper with scenes on it – you know, like ladies with parasols." Everyone knew what I meant.

The correct term, as I learned the other day (thanks, dg!) is "toile de Jouy," or just "toile," named after a town near Versailles that was famous for producing such fabric, first with woodcuts, then copper plates. (For a good overview of toile's history, check out this article.)
As you may have noticed already, I have some toile adorning my living room and dining room. Entirely appropriate to a Victorian house. But here's the thing: Instead of going all-out Victorian England in their embellishments, the previous homeowners went the British Colonial route, taking their inspiration from Victorian Africa and India.

So the toile is not ladies with parasols, but elephants:
And cranes:
There are also camels, but I couldn't reach that high (I was on a little stepstool). The ceiling fan is also of the tropical variety:
So, while I don't have all the African souvenirs and photos, I do have furniture and art that tend toward the Victorian and fit in well. The toile is subtle enough that it's just a nice little surprise when you really notice what it depicts.

And now I know a new word!