Papier-mâché ia an ancient art originally developed in China to reinforce soldier's helmets. In Egypt it was the base for coffins and funerary masks, layered with gesso.
In the 1600s India and Japan used the technique to make armor and shields by overlapping paper like the scales of a fish.
Brief History of
Portuguese and Dutch traders brought objects from the East back to Europe, and papier-mâché became hugely popular in architecture, furniture, and items called Japonaiserie or Chinoiserie. A Louis XIV style sideboard, made in England around 1750 with dragons climbing up gold pivots, recently sold for $78,000.
In 1788, the Englishman Charles Ducrest patented his papier-mâché houses and vehicles. Allegedly, when the houses waiting at the docks to send to Australia were submerged in a flood, none were damaged.
In the late 1800s, Walter & Sons of Troy, N.Y. sold lightweight observatories and paper canoes. The canoe, which could be found in mail order catalogues, was a popular item. In Washington, old banknotes were pulped and molded into copies of historic landmarks.
1400s Persian pen and ink holders