With this technique you can decorate various kinds of
surfaces, such as wood, paper, glass, ceramics ... with scraps of
paper (in fact the term découpage comes from the French découper, ie
crop), which are glued, isolated and then finished with oil or water
varnishes, shellac, wax ....
Historically, ancestor of modern découpage was the lacquered
furniture from 16th century, in particular the one from China. And
in fact, to make in a faster and cheaper way this kind of furniture,
the so-called technique of "counterfeit lacquer" has been developed
in Venice in the 17th century: the decorations were not hand made,
instead oriental prints were pasted on the furniture and then
covered with multiple layers of sandracca (a poor relation of resin
shellac) to "drown" and not to let you feel the thickness of the
paper. The use of this procedure was soon extended to France and
England. In the latter there was another development of these
techniques, with the Print Room. In these rooms the decoration moved
from the furniture to the walls, on which were pasted prints
depicting landscapes, of country or cities.
Also in England another style of decoration with cuttings has been
developed, which had a wide spread: the Victorian. Pictures of
flowers, bouquets, children, animals ... were cut and assembled in a
haphazard way, usually overlapping each other. Everything was then
covered, as in counterfeit lacquer, by many hands of paint.
References to this last technique are still one of the most popular
aspect of modern découpage.