Chinoiserie, what is this popular style and where does it originate from?

Chinoiserie, what is this popular style and where does it originate from?

14-09-2020

Joanna Perry Mural Painter

Chinoiserie is the inventive fusion of Asian motifs and European sensibilities, and can be whimsical, graceful, and theatrical. A major design phenomenon in the 17th and 18th centuries, it continues to be one of the most enduring and fanciful decorative styles in interior design.

Chinoiserie was once the most coveted fashion of the aristocracy.

During the 17th and 18th centuries, Europeans became fascinated with Asian cultures and traditions. They loved to imitate or evoke Asian motifs in Western art, architecture, landscaping, furniture, and fashion. China seemed a mysterious, far-away place and the lack of first-hand experiences only added to the mystique.

Rising trade with China and East Asia during the 17th and 18th centuries brought an influx of Chinese and Indian goods into Europe aboard ships from the English, Dutch, French, and Swedish East India Companies.

Drinking tea was the height of fashion for ladies of good taste and required an appropriate chinoiserie mise en scène.

“Tea drinking was a fundamental part of polite society; much of the interest in both Chinese export wares and chinoiserie rose from the desire to create appropriate settings for the ritual of tea drinking”  Beevers

Aristocratic women were famous collectors of chinoiserie porcelain. Among them were Queen Mary, Queen Anne, Henrietta Howard, and the Duchess of Queensbury—all socially important women, whose homes served as examples of good taste and sociability.

 

The growing vogue for rare chinois artifacts inspired fanciful  imitations from skilled artisans all over Europe.  Oriental motifs both real and imagined, with pagodas, birds, monkeys, and figures in exotic costume, were worked into all manner of  fine and decorative arts: everything from garden teahouses to japanned tea boxes were created in a Europeanized oriental fashion. An original and new style was born- not just from the Chinese influence – but far more from the inspiration borne of it.

 

Fantastic interior design ensued.

Early in the 18th century,  the first hand-painted wallpapers were imported from China by the East India Company, and so were  sometimes called  “India papers.”  Produced in China exclusively for the western market, they featured exotic looking flora and fauna delicately painted in brilliant colors on paper silk.  You can see breath-taking examples of these early India paper murals in the Chinoiserie rooms of historic palaces at Hellbrunn, Salzburg, Austria; Oranienbaum,  Russia; Drottningholm, Sweden;  Sans Souci, Potsdam, Germany; and  Schloss Charlottenburg, Berlin.  At Nostell Priory in Yorkshire,  famed English designer Thomas Chippendale used floral wallpaper murals in rooms filled with faux bamboo chairs and  japanned cabinets.

 

Throughout  the 20th century designers  from Sister Parish to Tony Duquette used Chinoiserie to add opulence, colour, and grace to their designs.

Chinoiserie is a popular as it ever was, with contemporary muralists such as myself Joanna Perry Murals, now painting current styles of chinoiserie for clients, now adding a different spin on the traditional form, while top interior designers are incorporating more and more chinoiserie murals, furnishings, and accessories into their work in fresh new ways.

Email info@joannaperrymurals.co.uk to discuss your chinoiserie mural project.

www.joannaperrymurals.co.uk

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