Key Chinoiserie Style Elements: Every Thing You Wanted To Know…
*The Exotic: China as a far away place featuring exotic characters, themes, legends, landscapes full of fanciful pavilions, fabulous creatures such as rare birds and fish, and unusual plants such as bamboo
*Dragons: the most exotic of all the above elements
*Architecture: the sweeping lines of pagoda roofs and Chinese architecture were incorporated into many objects especially furniture
*Oriental dress: the use of silks and embroidered items, people in Chinese clothes added to a fabric design, porcelain figures of such exotic subjects, jade, pearls, clothing in the 1930s
*Tea: afternoon tea drinking as a ‘British’ custom originated in China, period teawares etc.
*Techniques: lacquer, porcelain, embroidery, tôle, japanning etc.
*Interpretation: Few of the western products of Chinoiserie are entirely true to their Chinese roots. The success of Chinoiserie’s fashion is down to its ability to reconfigure itself and adapt to the tastes and requirements of the day. This might mean the introduction of different colour schemes, materials or motifs. It is not unusual to see a printed fabric incorporating Chinese, Japanese and Turkish elements. The approach is not to be “correct” but to evoke an atmosphere of the exotic and this was the power and charm of the aesthetic.
"Thus it is happened …we must all seek the barbarous gaudy goût of the Chinese; and fat headed Pagods and shaking Mandarins bear the prize from the greatest works of antiquity; and Apollo and Venus must give way to the fat idol with a sconce on his head." So wrote Mrs. Elizabeth Montagu (society hostess and bluestocking), describing in 1749 the rage for Chinoiserie decoration in England.
(Article reprinted courtesy of Antique & Interior Design Diary; photo courtesy of Harewood House)