Paul Vredeman de Vries (Netherlandish, 1576–1630). Two Wooden Portals from 'Verscheyden Schrynwerck (...)' ['Plusieurs Menuiseries (...)'], 1658. The Elisha Whittelsey Collection, The Elisha Whittelsey Fund, 1951 [51.501.6076(6)]

The print medium was also used to spread design ideas which did not relate to a specific commission and were not necessarily executed. The group of prints fitting this description has been named "ornament prints." This term can be misleading, however, since the group comprises not merely ornaments, but a broad range of subjects including architecture, gardens, monuments, interiors, furniture, vessels, gold and silversmith’s work, jewelry, surface decorations, and individual motifs.

A relatively early example [51.501.6076(9)] comes from a group of furniture designs by the Flemish artist Paul Vredeman de Vries (1576–1630), published for the first time in Amsterdam in 1630. Vredeman de Vries was not a cabinetmaker by trade, but, like his father Hans, a painter of highly detailed city views and interiors often rendered from his own imagination. His published designs could be of service to colleagues of similar profession, but at the same time could also be adopted by cabinet makers and taken as a point of inspiration for the making of actual pieces of furniture.

Ernest Foussier (French, 1859–1917). Bed in Egyptian Style, from 'Nouveaux modèles de Tentures (Bibliothèque de l'Ameublement)', ca. 1875-1885. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gift of Harvey Smith, 1977 [1977.595.28(1)]


The tradition of publishing conceptual ideas for design in this manner continued and developed until the end of the nineteenth century. The introduction of color printing—especially the chromolithograph—added a completely new dimension to the discipline. Drapery studies in particular benefitted from this development, since certain characteristics, such as fabric textures and color variations, could now be brought to the fore very clearly, whereas they had formerly been almost impossible to portray. Good examples are the designs by Ernest Foussier (1859–1917) for the long-running series called Bibliothèque de l'Ameublement (Library of Furnishings) by the publishing house E. Thézard Fils. Foussier was specialized in upholstery and created several portfolios of color lithographs depicting canopy beds [1977.595.28(1)], window and chimney draperies, and textile-clad chairs and couches. In keeping with the nineteenth-century taste for historicism and exoticism, his designs are inspired by a broad range of styles, from Celtic and Gothic to Turkish, Russian, and Japanese.