18th Century Chinoiserie

When the Swedish-born Scottish architect Sir William Chambers retired from his trips to China after 1749, he brought with him a resurgence of Chinoiserie, or Chinese-esque design.  Popular in Europe since the 17th century when the East India companies began trading, Chinoiserie reached its zenith from 1750 to 1765, gracing boudoirs, textiles, and gardens alike.  

The still standing ten-storyed Pagoda at Kew Gardens, completed by Chambers in 1762, is a longstanding example of Europe’s interest in imitating the Chinese arts.   Not quite the  colorful splendor it was in its heyday, the pagoda originally boasted a roof of varnished iron plates with a dragon perched at each corner.  A total of 80 dragons carved of wood and gilded in gold once adorned the pagoda.  None remain today.

Pagoda, Kew Gardens, Present Day 

Pagoda, Kew Gardens, 1763 

The fashionable, overcome with the asian craze, decorated their homes with porcelain, silks, and laquerware, adding elements from Chinese fret on staircases, wallpaper, and floors to the marvelous commodes, vases and mirrors of the period.  Even everyday objects like sugar bowls were not spared the far east touch.  Much of this design, however, was derived from the artist’s internal repertoire, a definite reimagination of the east with a westerner’s unique flair for the Chinese manner.  Chinese euro-style, so to speak.

Sugar bowl with pagoda style lid, Victoria and Albert Museum

Carved Dragon Canopy Bed, Victoria and Albert Museum

As you may have noticed from above, Victoria and Albert Museum have a very nice collection.  Definitely worth checking out.

Want more?

For everything chinoiserie, including a modern spin with an incredibly cute presentation, visit Chinoiserie Chic.

Have expensive tastes and a budget to match?  De Gournay manufactures hand-painted Chinoiserie wallpaper reproductions from the 18th-19th century that are positively stunning.


2 thoughts on “18th Century Chinoiserie

  1. You can probably tell I’m making a little janunt of all your past posts.

    After years of pondering what art to put up in my sitting room (it’s a very large cream wall as nearly nine years after moving in I haven’t decided what to do with it yet), I’ve decided I want a triptych of hand-painted chinese wallpaper so I may indeed be popping along to De Gournay. One roll shouldn’t break the bank too much. Thanks for the tip.

    1. Yes, thanks for visiting! I just popped over to your site and I love it.

      If my husband were a little keener of Chinoiserie, I’d be tempted to shop De Gournay myself. A triptych would indeed be an affordable way to enjoy the wallpaper as I imagine the price to paper a whole room would be painful.

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