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The Kona Village Resort, Hawaii

 

The Kona Village Resort, Hawaii Les Sauvages research was very interesting. [See Cook’s Log page 1150, vol. 18, no. 2 (1995).] It was a thrill seeing it all fall into place. It started when Judy (my wife) and I visited London and went to see Mr George Toynbee-Clarke (Toynbee-Clarke Interiors) in his showrooms. He knew of my interest in the Les Sauvages and gave me the following background information on the example of this wallpaper now in Hawaii. To quote Mr Toynbee-Clarke:

"I was in Sotherbys one day, standing by the front counter, when a dealer came in with rolled up panels of paper, and offered them for sale. The junior ‘expert’ who examined the paper, rather turned his nose up at it. He suggested that Sotherbys might get something for them, not much, if they were entered in a secondary sale. I think he was really suggesting that they were not worth putting in a sale. The prospective vendor withdrew the paper and left the building. I had recognised what the paper was, caught the man up in Bond Street, and said that I would be interested to look at it. We went back to our showroom and spread the paper out on our big table, and I bought it. I paid a good price for it, but there was a small additional bonus in the fact that I sold the dealer, in part exchange, a pair of rather nasty lamps which I had had for years. That was on the 25th November 1969.

"The paper was in perfect condition and unused, apart from the ends of the panels where they had all been rolled up together - these were torn with bits missing. It was probably what we call in the trade ‘butler’s loot’! Possibly the rest of the set is still on a wall somewhere, and this was what was left over. The panels were laid onto a backing paper to hold the tears together, and this in turn was laid on to sheets of hardboard. With more experience I do not think that now I would mount the paper onto board, I would just leave it on the backing. The feet of the figure on panel 18 were missing, together with the ground below, and we repainted this area using gouache colours. I remember that it was very difficult to match the colours, some of the pigments used in the original block printing are no longer available."

The panels were sold to Keith McCoy of California on 10th July 1978.

My next step was to write to Mr Keith H. McCoy of Keith McCoy & Associates. Mr. McCoy was very helpful, giving me the following information. The panels he had purchased were:

4 Musicians for the dance of the Otahaiti maidens.
6&7 King of the Otahaiti on his throne, beneath two cocanut trees.
11 Zealander woman & child with goat.
14 Natives picking bananas.
17&18 Great Palm tree with figures.

 

These panels were in excellent condition when secured from Mr Toynbee-Clarke, and no restoration was required. I also learnt at this stage from Mr McCoy that the backing paper used by Mr Toynbee-Clarke, mentioned earlier was cloth (linen) backed lining paper.

Mr McCoy then sold them to Mary Philpotts (Philpotts, Obayash & Associates, Inc.) for installation in the new dining room at the Kona Village Resort, on the West Coast (known as the Kona Coast) on the big island of Hawaii. This is most appropriate as it is within a few miles of the spot where Captain Cook was slain by the Polynesians in 1779.

Mr McCoy goes on to say; "To the best of my knowledge, these were sealed in glass and hung on the wall as pictures, not glued to the wall as wallpaper. The dining room is the largest known building in the form of a Samoan Long House".

I have not as yet managed to contact Mary Philpotts. However, I did get in touch with the "Kona Village Resort". They were unable to send photographs of the panels insitu as the flash from the camera tends to reflect on the glass which covers the panels, but they did supply me with the following information which is printed on their Dining room menus:

"The five antique panels displayed in the Hale Moana dining room are believed to be the first of their kind. Called ‘Les Sauvages de la Mer Pacifique’, these were produced by the Joseph Dufour & Company wallpaper factory in Macon, France circa 1773 [this must be a misprint] and pictorially describe Captain Cook’s voyages to Tahiti, the Marquesas Islands, New Zealand and New Caledonia".

It then gives a brief description on how the wallpaper was manufactured and finishes with the following paragraph:

"The rare panels on display are probably the most brilliant example of panoramic wallpaper to be seen today. Rolled up and stored for more than a century in a Paris attic, these almost perfectly preserved piece were discovered by a California collector and acquired by Philpotts & Obayash, interior designers for Kona Village, in 1984".

I would like to think that the origins of these beautiful lengths of Dufour’s Les Sauvages wallpaper could be traced back to a Paris attic, but, as yet, I have not succeeded in doing so. This would indeed be a fairy tale end to an interesting foray into it’s history.

Arthur Adamson


Originally published in Cook's Log, page 1459, volume 20, number 4 (1997).

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