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Art's Treasury

Homemade Decorative Arts

John Stalker. A treatise of japanning and varnishing. Oxford, 1688 (Detail).

Painting, according to John Stalker in his Treatise of Japanning and Varnishing (1688), is a "magic art" that renews not only old age,"but happily prevents grey hairs and wrinkles." Whether they sought an antidote to aging or simply delighted in the activities themselves, women of the 17th century pursued the decorative arts with great enthusiasm. They decorated bowls and picture frames, created wax fruit, experimented with colors and dyes, marbleized wood, traced engravings, and even told stories with the prints they arranged on the walls of their rooms.


To Dress Up Glass Plates, On Which You May Lay Dry Sweetmeats or Biscuits:


"Take your glass plates and lay the right sides downward upon a table.Then have in readiness some colored prints, finely cut, and lay them on with gum with their right sides to the wrong sides of the plates. Then take some Spanish whiting, mixed with size, which is purely clear; let it be as batter for a pudding. Order it so that there may be no knots in it, but that it may be very smooth. Then spread the same all over upon the prints (not too thick) and, when they are very dry, wipe the right side clean and set them up in your closet to use at your pleasure."


From Hannah Woolley, A supplement to the queen-like closet (London, 1674).

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