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Chinoiserie 

   
 

Raise the Red Lantern!

   

 

  

 

Always the allure of the other, of what lies on the other side of the mountain.  Or within the Great Wall.  The Orient, mysterious and beckoning, has fascinated the West forever.  Tales of the Silk Road evoked images of a luxurious lifestyle, of sumptuous palaces and exquisite fabrics.  It's the same splendor that enticed Marco Polo and those who followed in his peripatetic footsteps. 

Beginning in the sixteenth century, Portuguese, Dutch, French, and British merchants vied for control of the lucrative trade with the East.  And there was the accompanying aesthetic delight in things Chinese - the perfect green glaze of an antique celadon vase, the lines of a Ming chair, the detail of miniature jade carvings, or the subtle perfection of the brushstrokes of a Chinese calligrapher.  From this passion arose the style known as chinoiserie.  The term chinoiserie refers to Western artistic traditions that incorporate designs, colors and artistic references from China, and also includes influences from Japan, Thailand, and other Asian countries.  Chinoiserie could be faithful in its reproduction, or reflect the arts of China in its asymmetry of form, in its whimsical depictions of an imaginary Orient. 

Chinoiserie became popular in the 17th century and reached its apogée by the mid 18th century.  In France, Watteau created delicate panels, Berain designed remarkable exotic tapestries, and Boucher painted sumptuous idylls, all in chinoiserie style.  Chinoiserie was incorporated into wallpaper, furniture, porcelain, clothes, and architecture.  Lavish Chinese-themed Costume Balls were thrown at Versailles and Louis XV commissioned rooms that were entirely covered with ornamental chinoiserie-styled paintings in the Chateau de Chantilly.  Chippendale designed lacquered tea tables and cabinets while Dutch potters and porcelain makers across Europe adopted Chinese designs.  Eventually chinoiserie merged with the equally ornate style known as Rococo.

In a sense, chinoiserie unabashedly expresses the idea that interior decoration is, after all, that strange place where fantasy and reality meet - in the creation of the space, the world, one inhabits.  Today, one could get a pair of Fu-dog bookends at CB2, snag one large statement piece at an estate sale, or just read all about it in Dawn Jacobson's Chinoiserie.   

 

Buy: Fu-dog Bookends, CB2 

Read: Chinoiserie, Dawn Jacobson 

Visit: Pearl River Mart, 477 Broadway in Soho

 

 


       
 

 
       
     

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