1001 Rules for Collecting Antiques
Not by the hair of my chinny-chin-Chinoiserie!

Having looked specifically at Chinese Chippendale, let’s take a brief gander at the broader theme of “Chinoiserie”.  Modern Western interest in China began with the importation of Chinese ceramics by the Portugese in the 16th century.  In the early 1600s, two Portugese ships returning from China were captured by the Dutch.  The cargo of thousands of items of Chinese porcelain were auctioned off igniting a European mania for all things Chinese.  Both the King of England & the King of France were eager buyers at the auction.  Since then, the fashion for Chinese things has played a reoccurring role in Western Decorative Arts peaking in the middle 18th century with the Rococo.  No fashionable court residence during the Rococo was complete without its own “Chinese” Room.  Although Chinoiserie is rooted in Chinese artistic influences, it is closer to a Western reflection of an imaginary China.  During the Rococo, Western designers’ imaginations were allowed to run wild through the creative license offered by Chinoiserie.  They took what they needed from their limited exposure to Chinese forms found on imported cabinets, porcelain vessels & embroidery, & then made these Chinese influences their own.  As a Western style of interior design, Chinoiserie gives us an escape from European aesthetic expectations & traditions.  Chinoiserie’s fanciful imagery, asymmetry in format, & whimsical contrasts of scale continue to offer new tools for artists & designers to express themselves.

Pillement Chinoiserie Series

Engraving from a series of Chinoiserie by Jean-Baptiste Pillement from 1759.  Notice the fusion of European & Asian styles of drawing.