The Passage of Telemachus on the Island of Calypso

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While we refer to the main wallpaper in Adelicia’s bedroom as the Telemachus Paper, it is formally titled “The Passage of Telemachus on the Island of Calypso” and was made by Dufour of Paris, one of the major wallpaper companies in France during the 18th and 19th centuries. The Telemachus Paper was first printed around 1818 and remained in production till World War I, when the wood blocks used to print the paper were destroyed. The designer of the paper is in dispute.  Some sources credit the paper to best known DuFour designer Xavier Mader.[1]

 

The Dufour factory was opened in Macon, France, by Joseph Dufour in the 1790s. However, by 1808, he had moved the factory to Paris and began operating under the name “Joseph Dufour et Cie.”

A full run of the Telemachus Paper is made up of 25 widths or panels, referred to as lengths 20.5 inches wide. Printed using 2,027 wood blocks and containing 85 colors[2], the paper reads from right to left and begins next to the door going into the middle bedroom and ends above the fireplace. It takes one complete set and 15 panels repeated to paper this room. Because we know where the paper was placed at two locations in the room we feel confident the paper is hung in the same location it was originally.

 

While the basic story is taken from Homer’s “The Odyssey,” the specific scenes depicted on the Telemachus paper are actually based on a romantic book about Telemachus’ travels in search of his father Ulysses. This book, written in 1699 by

French writer François Fenelon (1651-1715), expanded on the story.

 

The paper depicts eight different scenes:

Lengths 1-4:
Lengths 1-4:

Dances of the nymphs and offerings to the goddess Pomona.

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Lengths 5-8:
Lengths 5-8:

The arrival of Telemachus and Mentor on Calypso’s island.

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Lengths 9-11:
Lengths 9-11:

Telemachus and Mentor recount their adventures to Calypso.

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Lengths 12-15:
Lengths 12-15:

Venus places Cupid into Calypso’s care.

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Lengths 16-17:
Lengths 16-17:

Telemachus leaves for the hunt accompanied by the nymph Eucharis.

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Lengths 18-19:
Lengths 18-19:

Telemachus is enamored of Eucharis. Calypso jealously spies on them.

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Lengths 20-21:
Lengths 20-21:

Offering to the goddess Demeter (Ceres).

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Lengths 22-25:
Lengths 22-25:

Calypso causes the ship carrying Telemachus and Mentor to catch fire.

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The Players:

Telemachus:  A mortal, son of Ulysses whose Greek name is Odysseus.

Calypso:  A sea nymph, a class of female divinities of lower rank who share many of the attributes of the gods. She is described as “Queenly” and has a large palace on her island.

Mentor:  The goddess Minerva (Greek name Athena) in disguise as a man who accompanies and advises Telemachus on his travels.

Pomona:  Goddess of orchards and fruit.

Demeter or Ceres:  Goddess of agriculture and civilization.

[1] Wallpaper in America, Catherine Lynn, (1980) p 205 credits Mader. French Scenic Wallpaper 1795-1865, Odile Nouvel-Kammerer (2000) gives the designer as unknown.

[2] Wallpaper in America, Catherine Lynn, (1980) p218.

[3] French Scenic Wallpaper 1795-1865 by Odile Nouvel-Kammerer (2000) 262-63.  Originally published as Papiers peints panoramiques (1990)