Victorian Trade Cards

Inspiration for interior color palettes and polychromy (use of many colors) may come from period books, which often included color plates.
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House Beautiful trading card

The House Beautiful.

This frontispiece from The House Beautiful by Clarence Cook (1878) celebrates the eclectic decoration, tertiary colors, and modern comfort of Aesthetic Movement interiors. 

victorian trading card

The Decorator and Furnisher.

Designs and variants for ceiling decoration, published in The Decorator and Furnisher.

Also look for vintage, chromolithographed trade cards; you’ll find plenty for sale on eBay. The following are in the collection of Eric Holzenberg, director of the Grolier Club in New York City.

frieze painting trading card

Frieze painting.

In this illustration of 1884, note the repetition of color in papers, furniture, and portiere. The frieze painting continues onto the ceiling. 

library trading card

1883 library.

Gold predominates in an 1883 library. 

tiffany window trading card

Tiffany window.

A famous color plate from Louis C. Tiffany shows a harmonious scheme with wall and ceiling papers, painted wood, and stained glass. 

Entire room schemes may be gleaned – not only color palettes, but also motifs, decoration, textile design, and more.

Japanese motifs.

Japanese motifs.

Japanese motifs on two sides of a trade card. 

Orient travel

Orient travel

Color cues might come from this travel-agency card.

English Aesthetic.

English Aesthetic.

A German card interprets English Aesthetic taste. 

Holzenberg’s collection includes Victorian greeting cards, another source for period color schemes.

New Year's greeting

New Year's greeting

Cues for color value, ornament, and Japonesque decoration in a New Year’s greeting card.

Valentine's card.

Valentine's card.

A lovely palette shows up on a tasseled Valentine’s Day card.

Reversed side of Valentine's card.

Reversed side of Valentine's card.

The reverse of the Valentine’s card adds rose colors, a strong complement.

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